Looking back in the blog archives to December 2021, it seems that I didn’t sit down and map out goals for the new year, as I had been doing in late December in most years. The last set of new year professional and household goals I set for myself were all done and dusted in the following year, all but the one involving me being able to wear a size 10/12 pair of jeans again and finishing the Civil War novel – which is still only half-finished. Done in 2023, I absolutely promise. Over the next year, I am resolved on these several projects –

  1. As noted, finish That Fateful Lightning; a novel set in the Civil War. The first half, concerning the activities of Miss Minerva Templeton Vining in the Abolitionist movement in the 1840s and 1850s is more or less complete – it’s her experiences as a battlefield nurse during the war that I have been putting off. I’m not certain why – just that I will have to immerse myself in a fresh round of research and that readers of Civil War historical fiction will be going over it all with a fine-tooth comb.
  2. Finish the latest Jim Reade-Toby Shaw adventure collection; it will be titled Lone Star Blood and comprise five or six short adventures loosely based on the Lone Ranger legend … only set in the era of the Republic of Texas, historically accurate and less the stupid mask, the silver bullets, and the magnificent white horse. Like the above, it is half-complete.
  3. Complete Luna City #12. That, unlike items 1 & 2, isn’t even begun yet, although I do have some partially-formed notions of what the various story arcs will accomplish.

Moving on to goals for the household. I considered getting vinyl flooring installed in the rest of the house, but after talking it over with my daughter, decided to wait on that one until she has moved herself and Jamie into her own house, which will happen after she completes several profitable years in real estate. At least a quarter of the furniture will go with her, which will make it much easier for me. I did the den flooring myself, but that was a small room, and even so, exhausting. More realistic intentions are –

  1. Get the short length of privacy fence and a gate from the side of the garage to the gatepost at the corner of my next-door-neighbors’ property – this to enclose a small private patio by the front bedroom, a patio already accessed by a French door. This would increase security at the front of the house and provide a secure play area for Wee Jamie. It will also baffle the heck out of delivery drivers and door-to-door salespeople looking for the front door, but that’s a price I’m willing for them to pay.
  2. Get one of those inserts for the slider door which incorporates a pet door, so that the cats can go in and out of their own will. I’d also like to move at least one of the litter boxes to the catio and finally, to replace patio furniture which was basically destroyed by cats and a series of dogs. I used to love sitting out on the back porch when it was temperate, watching the sun go down, and the birds fussing around the bird feeders.
  3. For certain, now that the back yard is secure with a solid new fence – start with chickens again. Four for choice, as we had several years ago. We really did like having fresh eggs, and so did our neighbors.
  4. Get the dryer vent professionally cleaned, for once and all. We’ve done our best to clear out the lint with various consumer gadgets, but we suspect that the vent is at the point where it does needs a full top-to-bottom scouring.
  5. This may be an optional item – but see to having the chimney swept and inspected. We haven’t had a fire in it for years, and in the event of the next snowmagedden and subsequent power outage, it would be nice to be able to burn wood in the fireplace without taking down the entire house.

And that’s my set of goals for 2023. The mortgage on the house itself has just two more years to go, and once that is done, I can turn to paying off bills for the work done on the siding and the replacement windows.

19. December 2022 · Comments Off on It’s Beginning to Lot Like Christmas · Categories: Domestic

Well, this next weekend, is Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and I think we have just about everything squared away. The last of the gifts that I ordered after doing so very well at New Braunfels’ Heritage Society museum last weekend were delivered on Friday, wrapped and set under the tree, near the tree, hung from the stocking hangers (to escape a pee-blessing from one of the cats establishing possession) or in the Christmas stockings for the designated recipients. The care-packages of Texas foods to my brother and to my sister’s families were mailed on Monday. The tree is up and decorated, my daughter’s Christmas village is laid out … and I have spent the last four days making fudge – the gift that we have been giving to friends, neighbors, establishments that we do business with … it seems that we can afford to give this bounty this year, having stashed away certain essential ingredients. For a good few years, we cut bite-sized bits of fudge and put them into paper cups, packaged in tins from the Dollar Tree, which made a pretty presentation, but that has just turned out to be labor-intensive, messy, wasteful and eventually too expensive. We’ll go with two- or three-inch square chunks wrapped in saran wrap and labeled with what flavor that it is, and stacked in pastry boxes … less messy, that way.

(Note to self – must do a separate nut-free package especially for the partner at Brakeworks, where all the routine work on our cars has been done for at least two decades. Justin is allergic to tree nuts …)

One last batch of fudge, to replace the one batch which has turned out to be less than optimal – there is always that one batch which fails to solidify properly. We did something wrong in following directions, mistakenly didn’t simmer the basic sugar-butter-condensed milk/crème mixture long enough to congeal, added a critical ingredient at the wrong time … or as mostly turns out with one of the most temperamental fudges, the Chocolate Mint Bavarian, didn’t melt the milk chocolate in a microwave… or over a pot of simmering water. There’s always one batch which has to be thrown out as a flat failure. This we have come to accept.

And Saturday, we checked the last item of the list, driving up to Boerne so that Wee Jamie could have his picture taken with an obliging Santa. It took us a bit of time to have the Santa tracked down to his lair at J-Fork on the Main Street – we had thought to have lunch in Boerne, but all the places which served food which we might have relished were crowded … and eventually, we settled for some pastry at Richter’s, and resolved to pick up something to make supper out of at the meat market in Bergheim on our way home. That enterprise is now in the building which served as the general store, which was dim and cramped and had a bit of everything … but now is open under new management and is bright and airy. Honestly, I hope that they can keep it all going. The ground chuck that we bought for patty melts was fabulous., and Benjy the Dog is still working away at the length of cow leg-bone that we bought there for him.

07. December 2022 · Comments Off on Christmas is a’ Coming · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

… perhaps the goose is getting fat but given how much a frozen goose or even a duck costs at the local grocery (which does stock such exotic fowl in the freezer case) the body mass index of a frozen goose will forever remain a mystery to me. We’ll do Beef Wellington for Christmas dinner, having maxed out our toleration for turkey leftovers after Thanksgiving. I blame this on Mom, whose’ insanely developed sense of thrift led her to prepare a gargantuan turkey for Thanksgiving, and then part it out into a series of leftover meals for most of the following month; Hot turkey sandwiches, cold turkey sandwiches, turkey croquettes, turkey stir-fry, turkey a la king, turkey and noodles, turkey pot pie… ad infinite. Just when we had finished the turkey soup, brewed from the bones and scraps of the carcass, here came Christmas with another month of eternal turkey, strong to save. Still, turkey and the interminable trail of leftovers is more appetizing than the bugs that our international self-selected overlords would want us to eat for supper, because of the allegedly-imperiled environment … ahh, enough of those cynical thoughts.

It’s coming on to Christmas, and although certain commercial establishments have been laying on the Christmas stuff for at least a month or so (looking at you, Hobby Lobby) now that Thanksgiving is done and dusted, in my house we are looking forward to Christmas. We have a lighted tree and a boatload of decorations, and my daughter has collected several lots of ornamental Santas, nutcrackers, angels, lighted candles, and a small city of small ceramic houses. Out go the usual bookshelf and tabletop ornaments, and in come the Christmas things. And we haven’t even gotten around to putting up the Christmas tree and decorating it, yet.

Our Christmas season really begins with Christmas on the Square in Goliad. I looked back in my various archives, and it appears that we did that event for the first time in 2009, and returned every year since then, on the first Saturday in December to participate with my books in Miss Ruby’s Corral of Authors. Sometimes we were in a pavilion, sometimes in a covered porch, or most often, in a small shop front on the Square. This year is the very first time that I went alone, as my daughter had her real estate brokerage Christmas party that very evening. The drive to Goliad is two hours each way; too exhausting a day to then go out and party all evening. So I went by myself, with two tubs of books; the Corral was only mildly busy this year, although we have known worse; the year that it was 20 degrees, with a howling icy wind comes to mind. I was disappointed at only selling five books, but one of the other authors only sold a single book, and she had brought a huge inventory. Wierdly, four of my sales were for sets of Lone Star Sons and Lone Star Glory; my YA collections which re-tell the Lone Ranger, only historically accurate and ditching the mask and the silver bullets and all.

Then, after decorating the inside of the house; the mantle, the bookshelves, the doorway, and the big shelf in the den, and hanging lights along the eaves outside, the next element is the yearly fudge making. We make big batches of fudge to give away to friends, neighbors, trusted businesses, delivery drivers, and a large plate each for the fire stationhouse across the way, and the police substation – all that is a chore which takes up much of a week, what with making, packaging and delivery. We like to do about six or seven varieties; regular chocolate with nuts and cranberries, brown sugar pecan, a white chocolate with coconut, peanut butter with chocolate, and a creamsicle orange or berry, and a couple of other more conventional chocolate fudge varieties. We hit upon this as a seasonal gift for friends and neighbors after a visit some years ago to a candy shop in Fredericksburg, after which my daughter mused, ‘how hard could it be?’ and it was such a hit with the immediate neighbors that we went on doing it. It’s a chore, and an not-inconsiderable expense, although to our relief it looks as if it will be doable this year, anyway. We have a stash of chocolate and other ingredients, and Costco has bulk chocolate on offer. So we’re good for this year. And that’s were our Christmas stands, by fits and starts – what about yours?

28. November 2022 · Comments Off on The Tipping Point Cometh? Maybe? · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Health and Wellness, Media Matters Not, Stupidity

I speak of the tipping point, when toleration of what is euphemistically termed ‘gender-affirming medical care’ for minor children and teens (otherwise known as chemical and surgical mutilation) flips hard over from the trendy, laudable and even fashionable into the “Oh, Hell NO!” side, after so many years of being put out there as trendy, laudable, etc. by all super-tolerant, oh-so-progressive activists in the media, politics and the oh-so-superior intellectuals.

It all rather reminds me of the great satanic day-care ritual abuse panic of the mid-1980s, where a combination of guilt-stricken parents, manipulative “experts”, amoral prosecutors, buffaloed law enforcement and a news media panting for sensational headlines all combined in a great storm of panic … a panic which everyone eventually realized, with a sense of mild shame was wholly without grounds. But not before a lot of innocent people were railroaded, tried, found guilty and had their lives and livelihoods thoroughly wrecked. Only a very few news reporters stood against the panic. One of those few was a woman reporter for, of all things, New York’s uber-lefty tabloid, the Village Voice, who was following a local case, and basically saying, “Hello! How is this even remotely possible, the baroque and improbably ornate stories of abuse that these kids are reporting? Seriously – are you all out of your minds?!” (Yes, I read the Village Voice – the Stars and Stripes bookstore carried it, along with all the other periodicals. I liked Nat Hentoff’s column.)

It seems like the first wave is now breaking on the shore of reality: those twenty and thirty-somethings who feel they were rushed higgledy-piggledy into taking a cocktail of puberty-cancelling drugs and submitting to irreversible surgical procedures and have now lived to regret it – and have the courage now (born of desperation and disillusion) to speak up about their unhappiness over what they felt they were rushed into, against vicious social media abuse from the pro-trans crowd. Those human Guinea pigs are coming to the realization of the full irreversible horror of what was done to them, in the service of a warped gender ideology. Yes, they were kids, and yes, they were stupid and impulsive, in battening onto what they were told by authority-figures, to include teachers, the fashionable elite in the media (many brandishing their trans-kids like some kind of warped status symbol) and reaffirmed by their peers. Their peers were likewise stupid, impulsive, and gullible beyond belief, but that’s what teenagers are, and social media only makes peer pressure more intense. Their parents were bowled over by authority figures, perhaps even kept out of the loop entirely … or maybe even in the worse cases, were heart and soul for the trans process, which can be seen as a kind of venomous Munchausen-by-proxy.

And now those who regretted what they were enabled to do, are bringing legal suit, and speaking out. This would have been predicted by practically anyone with a pulse who paid appalled attention. Seriously, anyone who considered this for longer than two minutes knew that this would happen – and that the hapless victims of peer pressure, adolescent angst and a degree of body dysmorphia would come to regret it. It’s even a minor plot point in Kurt Schlichter’s latest dystopian adventure – a militia formed of vengeful adults, who were hustled into trans-surgery. They call themselves “The Mutilated” and as outlined in the novel … they are angry – savagely and murderously angry.
So – is the tipping point with regard to minor children and teens about to happen? Discuss.

21. November 2022 · Comments Off on The Pleasures of Yew-Toob · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Geekery, General, That's Entertainment!

Last fall, when my daughter and I both fell temporarily to the covid plague, one of my respites was sitting at my computer with Wee Jamie the Wonder Grandson in my lap, watching various videos on YouTube. We were not exactly sick … just not very well; easily tired, devoid of energy and interest in anything that lasted very long. Wee Jamie had a low-grad temperature for a day or so, and sniffles, so his health was never in any particular danger. Neither was ours, once some serious drugs had knocked out the covid-induced pneumonia … but the two of us, Wee Jamie and I came away from those weeks with a decided fondness for ten or a dozen YouTube series – some of the home renovation off-the-grid living, a couple of ‘build a shelter from raw materials and a few basic tools’ – look, hard work fascinates me, I could watch it for hours. (Our Restoration NationRed Poppy RanchTrent & AllieLesnoy_Craft … respectively, various locations in the south, somewhere in the inland northwest, in Utah, and somewhere in … maybe Russia? We also liked some of the model-building shows; one an Australian, the other a German, both of whom do the most amazing dioramas and small structures. (Luke Towan, and Samy-Modelblau. Oh, the things that you can make from thick cardboard, and a range of model-making supplies! And wire … and resin…)

But the ones that we liked the best, and from which I came away from with a severe case of power-tool envy were the various renovation/restoration channels; a variety of specialists doing amazing things in renovating, refinishing, and repairing old furniture, restoring seriously wrecked and rusted agricultural or domestic items, and restoring them to attractive functionality. It’s kind of soothing, watching rust being blasted away in a sand-blasting booth. I so wish now that I had been permitted to take wood and metal shop in junior high school – instead of cooking and sewing. I already knew how to cook and sew … but this was when shop classes were strictly reserved for the boys, and the home-making sills were likewise reserved for girls. (You know – back before the Noachian flood. Although Dad did his best to teach my brothers and sister and I, outside of school)

The thing that does get me is that these various specialists really ran the gamut of nationalities – and that some of them never even appeared as more than their hands, doing the work. Veradona Restoration is Czech, AT Restoration, as near as I can figure out, is based in Estonia, one of the Baltic States. LADB is French, and so mysterious that all one ever sees of the experts featured is their hands. I think that there are three of them – one young, one middle-aged, one old, just to judge from close-ups of the hands doing the detail work – woodwork, metal fabrication, rust removal. They have a charming ginger cat-familiar hanging about the incredibly-well equipped workshop; Avril, who appears in most episodes.

Then there is Epic Upcycling, featuring a stone-faced Canadian carpenter-genius, who builds the most ornate and substantial furniture out of old pallets and miscellaneous scrap. Seriously, never give this man an acre of old shipping containers, I think he would build a whole fantastically-original city, or at least a suburb out of them. The pieces of furniture are fantastic – complicated, ornate … and he builds his own metal hinges, handles, locks and stuff. My thought is that of course, the designs are that ornate because the wood he builds them out of is basically waste product, of which (from the occasional glimpses of his wood stash) he may have cornered the available market in used pallets. What he could do with fine wood would rival anything built for Versailles. Or any other 17th, 18th or 19th century palace.

Ah, the pleasures of watching knowledgeable craftsmen and women at work … although I am pretty certain that all the disasters are off-camera or edited out.

So the voters go to the polls tomorrow – well, those who haven’t done early voting or mailed in their ballot – and possibly by Wednesday, we will know the results from those places which have it together in tallying up the ballots. (It might take days and weeks longer, for results from places that don’t have all their ducks neatly lined up). I see two possible outcomes, both grounds for considerable foreboding.

Number one: Organized, systematic, blatant ballot fraud on the part of Democrat party operatives in precincts and cities most particularly open to it; fraud that is so naked, open and in-your-face that it can’t be hidden, disguised or explained away – fraud which allows the Democrats to claim an overwhelming victory, aided and abetted by a tame national media.

That, of course, will outrage Republicans and moderates, possibly to the point of not accepting the claimed Democrat victory. A victory won through masses of manufactured, fraudulent ballots reduces this country to the condition of a banana republic, and arbitrary rule by a party elite singularly uninterested in anything but perpetuating their own power and control. I do believe that most trending red states who have put steps in place to prevent massive voting fraud will see state and local elections that are honestly and openly won; citizens will be able to accept the results there. It’s the federal government that will most likely lose any credibility with at least half, and maybe more of the citizenry.

Number two: the Republican red wave is so overwhelming as to knock any Democrat attempts to gain by vote fraud. In which case, the existing federal powers-that-be will be … extremely unhappy, to put it mildly. The national media establishment will be screaming bloody murder, of course; even more loudly and insultingly than they are already. Perhaps the Democrat establishment and the Biden administration (or whoever is pulling Biden’s strings) will attempt to declare election invalid, cancel and throw the whole election overboard and/or refused to seat those newly-elected to federal office – or worse. The media and the Democrat establishment are already setting the stage for declaring a Republican victory “problematic.”

Some further predictions:
No matter how the election results shake out, the national news media will go off-the-chart barking at the moon insane.

Elon Musk will be having more fun reorganizing Twitter than most normal human beings are allowed to have.

It will not be strictly necessary for Democrat Party authority figures to order the official organs to inflict violence upon those they perceive as inimical to the Ruling Party – all that they need to is exclaim, in the manner of Henry II, “Will no one rid me of that troublesome priest!?” – and the deranged, unbalanced and violently-inclined will take it as permission.

Jay Manifold has also done a post looking at aspects of this weeks’ election and possible outcomes and aftermath. I am operating at a more intuitive level, but my conclusions align with his. The next few weeks and months will be ugly, and the various parties who take politics and power very seriously will react … and very likely with violence. Mike K’s very cogent comment on my last post, regarding the demonization of conservative opinion and those who hold such, and the “Nazi” slur so freely thrown about, also deserves consideration.
Buckle in – it’s going to be a very bumpy ride.

I am thinking that Professor Emily “Litella” Oster (hat tip to NeoNeocon) did not expect so furious a reaction as she has gotten, by writing this particular article in The Atlantic Magazine. After having done her stalwart best for the Covid Crusade for more than two years – demonizing those who refused to get the vaccination or wear masks everywhere, or see our children locked out of school, or who suggested that ivermectin or chloroquine might alleviate the symptoms – Professor Oster now is suggesting that … really, it was all just a silly misunderstanding, she and her pals just got carried away but they meant well and didn’t know anything for certain, and why can’t we all just all forgive and forget?

To which the instantaneous and outraged reply is – not just no, but hell no. Hell no, with a napalm-degree flaming side order of very personal reasons why not. The comments on various blogs which have discussed the original article are so lit that they might as well be one of those tornadoes of fire which sometimes happen when a forest fire gets so large that it creates its’ own weather. Professor Oster, apparently living secure in her pleasant little academic and media bubble, appears to have had no notion of the damage to so many ordinary people outside of it – and damage felt on a painfully personal level. Commenters related stories of friends, spouses, neighbors suffering and dying from conditions that they couldn’t get a diagnosis of and/or treatment for – because they couldn’t get the time of day or an appointment with a doctor or clinic. Elderly parents and kin died alone, baffled and frightened, sequestered in nursing homes or hospitals, they died when their lungs were blown out on respirators, their subsequent funerals being lonely affairs. Vacations, family celebrations, weddings, high school and college graduations, celebrations and community events of every size and degree were put on hold, cancelled, reduced, and isolated. School-aged children lost two years of their schooling and social lives, a situation only alleviated by those active and determined parents who took the situation in hand and began home schooling. The deaf and hard of hearing lost a means of communication, since they couldn’t read the lips of people talking to them – and that was not even the cruelest of what Professor Oster and her friends in the establishment media did.

That was to deliberately and willfully collude in scaring the bejesus out of that large portion of the public who believed what they saw on TV, over a virus that essentially was no more a danger to a healthy young person than the ordinary seasonal flu bug. Scared people do not react rationally – a concept proved to us over and over during the last two years. Politicians, employers, public administrators, neighbors and relatives reacted, many of them badly and hysterically. Lockdowns, vaccine mandates, required masking, a wrecked economy, social isolation … a whole farrago of fail, over a virus which wouldn’t have been a hiccup in any other flu season. Ordinary people lost friends, parents, relatives, unborn and barely-born children, jobs and participation in their communities. Small business owners lost their little enterprise as well as their dreams. Employees and members of the military were forced, as a condition of continued employment, to accept vaccination and boosters against Covid with an experimental vaccine which down the line, may prove to have been more dangerous to health than Covid. Many people also lost whatever residual trust they had for so-called experts, the mass media, and the medical establishment.

And you helped and cheered on all that, Professor Oster, with every evidence of keen enjoyment – must have been the most exciting time of your life; such a feeling of purpose with a slight frisson of danger. But people were hurt, Professor Oster – hurt in inconceivable ways, and suggesting now that, gee – it was all just a misunderstanding and now we all just need to put it behind us … well, that’s just adding insult to the years-long injury.

The local public radio station here – in concert with all the other public radio stations across this blessed land of ours – is having their fall pledge drive this week. And I am defiantly not pledging to support. I am willfully and maliciously denying my dollars, in spite of their blandishments and incessant unrelenting guilt trips. This, in spite of the fact that I worked part-time for the classical music side of that enterprise some decades past, before all the part-time announcers were let go. I thought for weeks that it was only me, that my announcing work was unsat. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been surprised if that was the reason, as I had gone very rote and mechanical over announcing the name of the piece of music up next, the composer and performing orchestra or soloist, and throwing in a bit of relevant information about the piece. No, it wasn’t me, as I later found out; they left all the other part-time shift announcers go – the girl who worked during the week at an animal shelter, the woman who was a mainstay of the local little theater group, the guy who was a full-time writer for various little local publications. All of us were served notice; a kind of Friday Night employment massacre.

It was a positive relief not to have to drive across San Antonio in a wonky car, in time to make it to the Saturday afternoon shift, although I did miss sometimes … well, no, I don’t miss anything. Except for the paycheck for shift of work that I could have done in my sleep, a tour of duty in a high-rise building with a magnificent view – that bit was nice. As it eventually turned out, though, I could get along very well without it. The station came into a bomb of money, and wanted to go into covering local news, rather than paying live bodies to play classical recordings at night and over the weekends. They preferred to take the classical feed from Minnesota Public Radio. I guess that it worked out cheaper in the long run.

When did my serious disenchantment begin to flower? Probably sometime after 9-11, and that was with the Morning Edition – All Things Considered side of the NPR house. I just didn’t feel it anymore. Prairie Home Companion, as hosted by Garrison Keillor, just got more and more out of tune with genuine fly-over-country Americans as it went on. Garrison Keillor became more vicious, hateful, and obnoxious, which was really a pity, as he had put on a good act there, for decades – of affection for small-town America. All that went by the board – I bailed from Prairie Home Companion and never went back. I think that I stopped listening to public news radio a couple of months into Barack Obama’s turn in the White House. The slobbering full-frontal worship of the Wonder Black Prince of Chicago was just too much to bear. The final nail in the coffin of my affection for NPR came with the rise and subsequent deliberate media murder of the Tea Party. Our local chapter was formed of as earnest, well-educated, engaged and publicly responsible as a group of citizens as could be found anywhere – and yet the national media, to include NPR routinely sneered at and slandered Tea Party organizations as gatherings of stupid, uneducated, bigoted hicks.

My affection for the classical music side of our local public radio has also thinned out considerably over the last year, as those who programmed the daily feed of classical selections went all out for gay pride, women’s history and black history months with effusive commentary and frequent selections of certain composers. It seems now that black history month has lasted for a whole year, and with announcers pounding incessantly on the merits of composers like Florence Price, Samuel Coleridge Taylor, the Chevalier St. George, and William Grant Still. Since Florence Price was black and also a woman, I swear we got a double ration of Dances in the Canebrakes. Look, all the above were perfectly acceptable as composers of listenable classical music, but constantly replaying their compositions at the expense of the whole realm of other classical composers and musicians? Persistent wokery reaches it’s slimy tentacles into every single refuge that there is over the last few years. Comment as you wish.

30. July 2022 · Comments Off on Something Accomplished · Categories: Domestic

Actually, several things accomplished this week against some odds, like that of minding Wee Jamie the Wonder Grandson while my daughter did real estate stuff. I whanged out another chapter of a project I am doing for a client, got another good chunk of work done for another client, and had a meet with yet a third client and her hired illustrator, which all went well. That first project will of necessity, take a little longer to complete, but the second and third projects will be done in a week, and by the end of August, respectively.

The one other big thing accomplished was something which I had been vaguely dreading – getting the registration renewed for my car, which has been lingering in the garage for months on end, ever since I finished paying for the restoration of the hood, since it came loose and whanged up against the windshield last October. As I was tooling along the Wurzbach Parkway at a sedate 55 miles per hour at the time, this was a rather startling event, and insurance didn’t cover it. So – out of pocket for the necessary repair, and almost as soon as I got the car back, then we had the tall stack of recycled fence materiel for the back fence rebuild blocking the garage, and of course in all that time without being driven, the battery ran low …

Anyway, even though I ran the trickle charger to the battery overnight, I was still worried that the car wouldn’t start at once, or that once I turned the engine off, it wouldn’t start again … and that even if it did, and I got all the way to the place where we prefer to have oil changes and safety inspections done, that the spreading crack in the windshield where the hood banged against it last year would be counted against passing the inspection, so that I would have to save up to get the entire windshield replaced before I could renew registration and drive the car legally again; a hassle and an expense at this point that I just do not need. I coped by not thinking about it, until I really had to think about it.

Fortunately, the car started up, as per usual, although the gas tank needle hovered just above bone dry; another project for another day – filling up the tank all the way. The car gets amazing milage. I drove all the way to Houston and part of the way back before needing to gas up again, and if it weren’t for the fact that the AC system in it also needs to be topped up again (and the moon roof leaks in heavy rain), it would be in more regular use day to day, rather than the Montero.

And more fortunately, to my way of thinking, my car passed inspection – really, I have seen cars on the road with more trashed windshields, although I don’t really know if they were legal at that point – and we got home, and I successfully renewed for another year. Like Mr. T. of the A-Team, I really like it when a plan comes together …

13. July 2022 · Comments Off on Heatwave · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, European Disunion, Technology, World

Yes, there is a heatwave going on in Northern Europe this week – or at least, to them it’s a heatwave. To those of us who live in Texas, it’s just a normal summer, with temperatures in the 90s and reaching three digits. Supercilious Europeans, Brits and Canadians, and lunkheaded Americans like perennial tween know-it-all Taylor Lorenz are forever chiding us about our excessive air conditioning in homes, government buildings and offices, little recking that basically, most of the United States is on the same latitude as the Mediterranean and North Africa – and without efficient air conditioning, large swathes of the southern states would just plain old be unlivable – and no, in the South it’s not a dry heat, but a soggy and humid exercise in physical torment. So I do feel for those suffering Europeans and Brits, I really do. My brother and sister and I spent the summer of 1976 in Britain, which turned out to have been one of the hottest on record, rather like the heatwave this year. We – accustomed to So-Cal summers didn’t at first really grok how unaccustomed the British public was to this kind of summer heat, what with the grass in the parks dying for want of water.

Us: Don’t they, ummm, water the grass regularly? We came from a place where lawn-watering was essential – no, it usually wasn’t necessary in Britain, where the rain fell regularly like clockwork, as it would later on in that summer, when the weather got back to something like normal for that part of the world. It was so hot that we were actually served ice in the soft drinks. Smart-ass younger brother to waitress in a Brighton fast-food place called The Great American Hamburger, regarding a lonely ice cube swimming in a glass of Coke: Gee, aren’t you afraid you’ll be struck by lightning, putting ice in the drinks? Teenage waitress, deadpan: Yes, I live in terror of it. Exchange in another pub, between two elderly habitues over pints. #1: Guess I had better drink this before it evaporates. #2: Arrrrr … then t’would rain beer… It remained a mild puzzlement to us, why everyone was going round with their parched tongues hanging out and turning all shades of pink sunburn, while clad in wrinkled and slightly out of fashion summer clothes. It seemed like quite a normal summer, for us.
For myself, I have only lived in two places which were endurable in the summer, but for existence of window units and/or central air. One of them is Texas, the other was Seoul, ROK, which compounded the misery by being bitter cold in the winter, with storms that blew in, straight off Siberia. Seriously, Willis Carrier ought to be sanctified, for his work in making life bearable in large chunks of this dirtball.

Granted – there are also large parts of the dirtball which are normally perfectly comfortable for humans in the summer – most times. California, where I grew up, was one of them; temperate, cooled off at night, lived in houses with large shady trees all the way around, and windows situated to catch whatever cooler breeze was going. Athens, Greece was the same way; although it did get hot in the blazing sunshine, my apartment there had tall windows, high ceilings, and take advantage of a refreshing ocean breeze. Sit in the shade, caressed by a wandering breeze – all hunky-dory. In a place where the local architecture makes allowances, with tall windows, shady verandas, and easy airflow, a warm summer is endurable. For a year in Sacramento, I could get by with fans, blowing in the cooler night air, and closing up the windows and drawing the curtains. Ogden, Utah was a slightly different kettle of fish – it was hot in the summer, but dry enough that a swamp cooler did the trick. Northern Japan was almost exactly the opposite: relatively mild. High seventies in summer, which would have been endurable, but for 100% saturation. A glass of ice water would sweat a puddle of water around it, almost equal to the contents of the glass, imperfectly-dried clothing developed mold spots, and two minutes out of a cold shower, one was dripping with sweat. Only one summer in Spain, where I spent six of them, was truly awful, for heat.
I do truly hope that the experience of this summer will make Euros and Brits a bit more understanding of American need for air conditioning, although likely they will forget, as soon as the heatwave passes. As for Taylor Lorenz – I dare her to go without AC, first. Double-dog dare, as an example to us all.
Discuss as you wish, and can be amusing.

08. July 2022 · Comments Off on A Nice Haul · Categories: Domestic

The first thing we saw when heading out to walk the dogs and Wee Jamie this morning – well, after the big trash-hauling trucks from City Public Services all staged to pick up the bulk tree trimmings – was an orange sign for an estate sale up the road, address unspecified. We took a zig from the regular route into the extension to the neighborhood and found the estate sale. My daughter took Wee Jamie with his stroller, and I held the dogs on their leashes, across the street in the shade and waited for fifteen minutes while she cased the sale. One of the items for sale – for which they were taking bids was a 1960 Studebaker Lark, in very good condition. (The auction for that car will close tomorrow, I think, and with luck they will get north of $15,000 for it.)

One of the neighbors whom we encounter frequently on walks lives across the street from the estate sale and filled us in on the retired couple whose estate it was; a retired military chaplain with an invalid wife. The husband was the main caretaker for his wife, until he had several heart attacks last year, as well as breaking a hip. The wife contracted Covid through visiting her husband in the hospital and passed away – so the family found a smaller place (most likely assisted-living from what I gathered) for the chaplain and moved out his most valuable stuff last week. The house, Studebaker and the remaining furniture and bits and bobs were all being sold. I overheard several of their neighbors and friends talking about this; they seem both to have been very well-liked. The house and yard were immaculate. The items on sale were in excellent taste and condition, and priced very reasonably, which doesn’t always happen. (The items and furniture that the family kept must have been quality indeed, if what was left to be sold was judged superfluous to needs.)

My daughter spotted some attractive bits of Wedgewood and some Danish Christmas plates, a small cut-crystal brooch, some bits of art and Christmas ornaments – very obviously, the chaplain and wife had been stationed in Germany; Japan too. As for me, with the rest of my month carefully budgeted out – I was determined to resist temptation, which lasted until I laid eyes on a matched pair of Blanc du Chine lamps, with an insanely reasonable price on a piece of masking tape stuck on the shades. I have loved the look of the classic mid-century Blanc du Chine ever since I was stationed at Misawa in the late 1970s, and they had dozens of them in various sizes and shapes, for sale in the BX annex. Alas, as a baby airman on basic pay, I could only afford the smallest, and least expensive of the lot – a mere 8-inch-tall boudoir lamp which has followed faithfully in my household goods ever since. A couple of years ago, I found a larger Blanc di Chine lamp at another neighborhood estate sale, without a harp and shade, the wiring so decayed that I had to take it all apart, hand-wash and install a new socket and rewire it entirely. (The former owners had been hoarders, and the inside of the house was indescribably cluttered. The people running that sale said they had filled three dumpsters before they got to the sellable goods.)

So, home with a matched pair of lovely ginger-jar Blanc du Chine lamps and some miscellaneous other stuff – and because it is now our rule after the experience of that estate sale at the hoarder’s house – if stuff comes into the house, an equal quantity of stuff must go out, to Goodwill, if nowhere else. My daughter loaded up the back of the Montero with the two table lamps which are now judged excess, and a box of other stuff. All the Blanc du Chine lamps live in the master suite – I would be heartbroken indeed, if the cats or the dog managed to break any of them, since it appears they are even more expensive now, then when I first drooled over them in the BX annex at Misawa AB.

20. June 2022 · Comments Off on The Hill To Die On · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, My Head Hurts, World

I swear, I have never been able to understand how the loud and proud Capital-F official feminists made the ready availability of abortion the hill (for the pre-born fetal humans, mostly) to die on. Yes, I’ve pondered this in blogposts many a time. The 19th century suffragettes certainly were what we would now cast as pro-life, and so was a modern iteration, IIRC. (I used to get their newsletter.) Why that one single aspect, out of all the others which would have a bearing on the lives of females; extended maternal leave and benefits, quality childcare … practically any other concern other than that of abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy could be a rallying ground for those affecting an intense interest in matters of a particularly female orientation. This, when birth control in so many forms (and for male and female alike) is readily and economically available. This is not the 19th century anymore, not even the first half of the 20th,. Truly, it is a mystery why this particular cause and no other animates the radical fem-fringe. I can only surmise that many of the radical and early feminists had abortions, felt horrifically guilty about it all and wished to drag other women into that particular hell with them as a matter of solidarity.

I am myself old enough to have known other women – my peers, mostly – who did for a variety of reasons, decide to take that route. I understood that they had reasons they felt were valid and I sympathized without approval. A woman who is pregnant and for whatever reasons, emphatically does not want to be – has a problem, a problem for which all the solutions are painful. I did not judge then – but did feel the weight of their decision to go with whatever they felt to be the least painful. No matter how you slice it, with abortion, you are cutting off a potential life – a viable heartbeat, little fingers and toes, a tiny face with eyelashes and a decided character, even in the womb. So I have always approved of an supported those various enterprises which reached out a helping hand to the inconveniently-pregnant; anyone or any office which offered medical help, moral and actual support and encouragement to a woman who was inconveniently pregnant. That was putting good intentions where they mattered; into actions which would offer an alternative to abortion.
Now, it seems that such crisis pregnancy centers and assistance to uncertain mothers and fathers is a bridge too far for the radical pro-abortion advocates, and one of the more radical fringes of such have declared open war on such centers. Vandalism, destruction of offices, threats of violence, an order to cease operations or else … and it is my judgement that even if such threats are carried out … it will not have the desired effect, as much as the Jane’s Revenge activists may hope. So – My Body My Choice: Just Make the Choice That We Have Autocratically Decided That You Should Make. (Too long to fit on a protest sign or a bumper-sticker, though. But that’s what Jane’s Revenge is essentially saying.)
This is one of those stark moral issues for the pro-life advocates and volunteers, and not one which will be backed down from. Saving the lives of the unborn children, and redeeming the lives of their mothers, one by one – is a moral cause, just as the cause of the abolition of slavery was for active abolitionists was in the America of the 1840s and 50s. It was an issue upon which no compromise could be made, a stand from which no threat would dissuade committed abolitionists of that period.
Comment as you wish, on what might happen next, in this regard.

19. June 2022 · Comments Off on Cozy Little Home · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, General, Local

This must be my month for noticing cozy and modest little homes appearing in media – last week it was a quaint little cabin in the mountains redone by Melissa Gilbert and her husband as their personal refuge. This week it is a shed on a small ranch property near Fayetteville. The owners inherited the property from grandparents. While sensibly saving up what they need to reno the main house, they spend a year and a mere $16,000 on fitting out a shed as a tiny temporary home for themselves and two young daughters. The shed itself dated from the 1980s and appeared structurally sound – it had even been insulated, but lacked plumbing and electricity, and was just a single room inside, approximately 280 square feet. So they set to work, doing the labor themselves; partitioning off the space inside to one living room and kitchen, with a bathroom and bedroom at the back. They built on a generous porch which added about a third more living space, replaced the windows, put in an air conditioning system – and have been living in it happily for more than a year.

I’d guess that most of that $16,000 went for the plumbing, electric and HVAC, the new vinyl windows, and the kitchen cabinets. Most of the other construction materials were sourced from the ranch itself, gained from tearing down an even more decrepit old barn and reusing the wood beams, planks, and the front door, which hardly needed any more work than replacing the glass panel in it. It was a lovely demonstration of what one can do on a small project, with the help of friends, and making use of what materials come to hand. I do hope that they will also document progress on renovating the main house; at any rate, when that second and larger reno job is done, the family will have a lovely little guest house.

I honestly wish that more builders were interested in building developments of small – say 800 square foot or less houses, of the two bedrooms, one bath sort. Those small starter houses might sell for a much more reasonable, affordable price. But there are all sorts of economic and political pressures not to do so, mostly associated with economic costs and civic authorities not wanting to allow any development which might soon descend to slumhood, never mind that home owners tend to be rather more careful of their property than renters.

27. May 2022 · Comments Off on A Farrago of Fail · Categories: Domestic, Good God, Local

It was hard enough to wrap the mind around the shortage of infant formula, and how a recall and recall-caused shortage which began months ago, only blew up in our National Establishment Media, and by extension, the current administration in the last week or so. I suppose that if you aren’t living in a household with a baby present, it was easy enough to miss out on the whole tense business of – will there be formula on the shelves – how many cans can we get – and what on earth do we do if we run out? It didn’t help that sanctimonious cows like Bette Midler and divers others began smugly suggesting that mothers breast-feed, once the matter bubbled to the surface of the national conscience. Why thank you for that heaping helping of the screamingly obvious – it had somehow managed to escape our notice. Now that the National Establishment Media is belatedly interested in the matter, we discover that the contamination in question which kicked off closure of the manufacturing location likely originated elsewhere than the factory. We also discover that the FDA dragged their feet on approval to re-open. Huh. Imagine that. A low priority for the inspectors, or a deliberate attempt to add just that much more of a ration of misery to our lives, now that gas is over $4 a gallon in Texas where it comes straight from the cow, and higher yet in other less fortunate localities.

A friend of Sarah Hoyt’s was of the opinion that things like the formula shortage and the high gas prices (which down the road will affect the costs of everything that has to be transported) were deliberately generated to just nudge the public a little, make us uncomfortable and agreeable to whatever those administrative geniuses had planned – you know, smaller houses, electric vehicles, not owning anything and existing as happy little serf-proles obedient to our betters. But the administrative geniuses mis-calculated. They are just coming to the horrified realization that all their planned little nudges are spinning wildly out of control. They can’t even begin to figure out how to reel it all back in, or how we will react to the catastrophe they have generated. Where will this all be by next year, when we have burned through last years’ harvest and gas is $10 a gallon or more? They don’t know, and likely that scares them out of their minds.

Speaking of a farrago of fail, the Uvalde school shooting … I can’t quite decide what is more awful; the posturing over the bodies of dead fourth-grade kids by vile opportunists like Beto O’Rourke (better known now as Beta O’Dorke) or the carelessness on the part of civil and ISD authorities which let it all happen in the first place. With the caveat that Uvalde is not a town which I know as well as Fredericksburg, Goliad, Gonzalez, Giddings or New Braunfels – I know for darned certain that after other school shootings, and the bloody massacre at the church in Sutherland Springs several years ago – there was absolutely no basis for believing that a school shooting couldn’t possibly happen in a small town, like Uvalde. We’ve done school events in Giddings several times; and yes, we had to sign in with picture ID, shown to school administrators sitting behind a Plexiglas panel, and escorted through a secure door into the corridor leading to the classroom where we were to do a talk about creative writing. That a teenage nut-case with serious anger issues and excessively expensive weaponry could waltz into an elementary school through an unlocked back door, and then do his worst while the local PD sat around outside … At the very least, the Uvalde PD officers are not going to be very popular with their neighbors for the foreseeable future.
Also – I believe that it will come out that the Uvalde killer was a well-known problem child, and that he likely had an extensive juvenile record as a hell-raiser. So, when are we going to do something about common-sense nut-case control? Or here’s a thought … since the death toll of innocents in Uvalde was on par with a normal AKA violent weekend in a place like Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit or Baltimore … let’s talk about confiscating the weaponry from the inner-city gang-bang element. Or is that just politically unspeakable?
Discuss as you wish.

27. May 2022 · Comments Off on Home Comforts · Categories: Domestic, Home Front

I was mildly amused to read this story, of how Melissa Gilbert, once the kid TV star of Little House on the Prairie has retreated with her current husband to an old hunting cabin in the Catskills, to live, as they say, the simple life. It certainly looks simple enough – a modest small house in the country, which she described as dilapidated and run down until she and the husband began renovating. While interesting that she pleads the joys of the simple life, away from Hollywood and still has been featured in several stories in the Daily Mail over the last few days, I do have to admit that pictures of the place and the interior do make a strong case for her current simple and modest lifestyle. The interiors look cozy, cluttered with vintage-looking and modest knickknacks which must mean something sentimental to Ms. Gilbert and husband. The furniture looks like the random odd bits that one can pick up at a country auction, inherit from family and friends, find on the curb, or buy at a good thrift store. It’s not to my taste, which is a little more spare, and oriented towards Craftsman/Shaker/country cottage – but it’s as far from the expensively designed House Beautiful/Architectural Digest kind of interior as can be imagined; the enormous spaces, sparely staged with furniture that looks to have never been used, bookshelves with few or no books on them, sterile spaces of walls hung with expensive statement pieces selected by a set designer – as impersonal as a five-star luxury hotel suite. Ms. Gilbert’s new digs actually look like a real home, where real people live – not a movie set, or a empty home made up to look good for quick sale in a booming real estate market.

17. May 2022 · Comments Off on Ready to Ride · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Eat, Drink and be Merry, World

In the apocalyptic visions of St. John, the third of the four Apocalyptic Horsemen is Famine, the other four being Pestilence, War and Death. Death is always with us, one way or another, and we’ve had pestilence, AKA the Commie Crud for the last two years and counting, and War, in the shape of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine … so why not Famine, just to round out the set? The four horsemen usually go hand in hand anyway. Famine is almost a guarantee, as the Ukraine was a major wheat exporter, and now it seems that chemical fertilizers will be in short supply as well. David Foster has already posted a story about this, and other commenters have chimed in regarding the woes of the supply chain and the potential for famine in places and nations which had been able to move past such misfortunes, because of technological advances … advances now in danger.

The political and economic disaster in Sri Lanka resulted from their president’s ukase that agriculture must go 100 percent all-organic. Which anyone paying attention at all could have and probably did predict would lead to crop failure and poverty for those classes lowest on the economic ladder. This bad example does not bode very well for the fans of organic and sustainable farming here in the United States, but they are probably now on record as insisting that it just wasn’t done right. The power elite in Sri Lanka are in hiding, as justifiably outraged mobs of citizens chase them down in the streets and push their expensive cars into rivers. Not much of this is being shown on our own media, as near as I can see – probably because the media powers-that-be and are in bed (literally) with our own power elite – don’t want to give any of the rest of us ordinary citizens ideas about doing the same.

The feeling that I am getting, reading posts like this, at Bayou Renaissance Man, is that although we in the US won’t see for real Biblical famine, we will for certain see empty shelves at the supermarkets, like we have in a spotty and erratic fashion all during the last year: we have seen empty shelf space for things like dried pasta, for canned hominy, frozen French fries and dozens of other items which formerly would have been available consistently, week to week. It’s not just baby formula being unavailable; just that has been the most notable grocery item unavailable or in such short supply as to have to be rationed. It’s a certainty now that foodstuffs will get more expensive in the near and foreseeable future, if they even are still available. So – tighten the belt as far as grocery-shopping goes, stock up on shelf-stable items and lower your expectations when it comes to menus. And plant a garden, if at all possible.

What are you doing, or suggest that we do, in the event of the third horseman going for a good long ride across the continental US? Discuss as you wish.

13. May 2022 · Comments Off on HVAC Woes · Categories: Domestic

It has been almost a year since the day after Wee Jamie was born, a day that I spent at home because the AC ceiling unit had overflowed the drip pan, saturating and collapsing part of the den ceiling. The trusty local company which installed the whole HVAC system in the first place almost ten years ago had to reinstall a new evaporator coil as the existing one was ruined, a new line connecting the outside condenser, compressor and fan, the coolant line had been dinged somehow during the siding install, and a drain to the nearest outside flower bed. At that time, a year ago, they suggested making a full sweep and replacing everything, including the outside condenser, etc., but I winced at the cost and opted for the minimal fix. And the darned outside condenser/compressor/fan gave out entirely over the Mother’s Day weekend, in the face of an expected heat wave. Sigh. You’d think that something like an HVAC system maintained by the installing company could have lasted longer than a decade, but this is Texas; great for men and dogs but hell on women, horses and, apparently, HVAC systems. We had no HVAC drama for the whole year until last weekend. (The condensation drain used to get plugged pretty regularly, until it was re-routed – to our exasperation, and that of the techs, who used to have to show up every couple of months.)

The good thing is that my credit rating is recovered to the point where I can get favorable terms for a better-quality system – quieter, smaller, and more efficient … plus they promised to fix an ongoing problem with the front bedroom, which has always been either hotter or cooler than the rest of the house. The other good thing is that I had finally paid off two loans for previous work, which gave my budget some (fleeting) elasticity. The third good thing is that we got several hefty discounts – one for having been loyal customers for a decade, another for referring a good friend who bought a system from the company based on our good word, still another for senior citizen (hah!) and veteran, and a fourth hefty rebate from the energy company. It is my profound hope that with the new system – and taking into consideration the new siding and the windows – that I really will see a substantially lower energy bill this summer. The bill for April was the pits; we only ran the air conditioning for half the time, or two days out of three, but the kilowatt hours consumed were nearly as much as the hottest month around here, which is August. Possibly the condenser/compressor/fan failing had a lot to do with this. I hope so. They topped up the blown-in insulation, which ought to help with the bills.

Another very promising thing is that the outside unit is about a third the size of the previous one. It mounts to the side of the house, rather than on the ground on a small pad, which keeps it above the dirt and all, and allows a bit more of my yard to be used, without that big hulking square thing taking up precious garden real estate.

And the final bit of good fortune? About a year ago, I scored a deLonghi portable AC unit for the price of a customer review, knowing that we might have a need of it someday. It didn’t have enough oomph to keep the house cool, but it did chill one 15 x 11-foot room quite nicely, It turned out well that we had that portable, for there was a problem with the new smart system, in that it didn’t actually work, at first. As my daughter remarked, ‘never mind about a smart system that doesn’t work, what about a moron system that does?!’ We’ve been miserable all week, waiting first for the installation, and then for the last in a series of expert techs on Friday to sort out why the brand new out-of-the-box modules – apparently some connection came unconnected in transit from the factory, such a rare occurrence that the regular install technicians didn’t expect to see, and the factory support functions are in another time zone entirely, so someone working on our unit in the late afternoon or early evening was SOL when it came to expert human tech support. Praise be, the installation supervisor arrived first thing this morning, and went over the inside and outside units, reprogrammed the whole system, and for the first time in a week, it’s comfortably cool in the house.

And the contractor who promised to do the back fence actually arrived first thing this morning – so although my bank account will be cleaned out for the next week to pay for work done – the back fence and gate is under construction even as I write. At long last; we’ve been waiting on that since early in March!

My grandson, the child of my only child, will be a year old next week, and if there is a more loveable, adored and indulged baby-almost-toddler around, I would like to meet him or her. (See, I’m not a biologist but I can tell the difference. My father, who was a biologist trained us all well in that sciencey sort of thing.)

He is close to weighing twenty pounds, and when standing on his flat, tender little baby feet – and he wants most urgently to stand – the top of his head comes to my daughter’s mid-thigh. When he was delivered three weeks early by emergency c-section, I was a bit concerned because his arms and legs were so thin, the flesh on them rather flaccid. He was just large enough and scored high enough on the APGAR test that he wasn’t consigned to NICU (neo-natal intensive care) and so could home with us two days later. In the year since, Jamie has firmly plumped out, with little dimples on the back of his hands where his knuckles are, and dear little indented rings around his wrists, elbows, and knees. He will lose that baby fat when he begins to walk, though. My daughter remained roughly the same approximate size and weight from the age of 18 months to four years – she just lengthened out, grew lean and tall.

He is going to be tall, when he is grown to man’s estate and shall be very proud and great. He has a head of feathery light-brown hair; sometimes we see blond highlights in it, sometimes rather more auburn, and it curls very slightly back of his ears. He has rather strongly marked eyebrows and ridiculously long eyelashes, but the color of his eyes themselves is hard to judge – blue-green, blue-green-hazel? It depends on the day and the lighting. His nose gives promise of eventually being rather a beak, but as to the mouth, everyone says that he has lips like mine and my daughters. Otherwise, not very much of a family resemblance at all; a gamine face, which likely will change when he is an adult. He is not one of those children who keeps basically the same face for their life, like Granny Jessie or my brother JP, both of whom are recognizable from earliest childhood through to middle or advanced age. He smiles now, openly and at practically everyone, and of late has begun to giggle and laugh.

Wee Jamie is not one of those timid, hard-to-approach small children. When we take him shopping, he is ready to smile at anyone who smiles at him, although he has been known to stare at some strangers with direct and unsettling intensity. Otherwise, a very placid, confident, and happy baby, who rarely cries full-on, unless in pain (rare) or fright (rarer still. His godmother speculates that it is likely he is that way because my daughter and I readily comfort him and attend to his needs. One year, under our belts – now for the next twenty…

09. May 2022 · Comments Off on After Words · Categories: Domestic, History, Old West, Texas, Working In A Salt Mine...

A writer friend put a promo link to one of my books on one of the major news aggregator sites last week, with the refreshing result that sales of the book skyrocketed – this was my first historical, To Truckee’s Trail, and the one which was almost the most fun and the fastest to write. I was a bit downcast when I finished it, because it meant that I was done with the story and had to say goodbye to all the characters, especially the one or two which had been created for the story out of whole cloth. Truckee must have been such a fast write for me because the whole plot was already there: the first wagon train party to make it over the mountains into California with their wagons, and not having lost a single person to the emergency of being stuck in the deep winter snow with slowly diminishing food supplies. The participants in that great adventure were all real, historic people, with the exception of the little boy Eddie Patterson, and the noble mastiff Dog; it was more a matter of teasing out what little could be deduced about what they had been like, and then and fleshing them out to become real, breathing, sympathetic characters. There had only been one diarist among that party, and that diary was later lost, and only one member of the party left a memoir later on … so I had a little bit to work with and was sorry when it was all done. I couldn’t write a sequel – the story was whole and perfect the way it was, and in any case two of the central characters, John and Liz only lived for a few years after – I still think that is why the story of the Stephens-Townsend-Greenwood-Murphy wagon train party was so little known, otherwise. John Townsend would have been an important and influential person in California, historically, and how he helped lead the party to safety from the jaws of icy death in the mountains would have been part of it.

There were three interesting connections between the Stephens-Townsend Party, and the tragic Donner-Reed Party, aside from the circumstance of both being trapped in nearly the same place in the pass over the Sierra Nevada. The first was that elements of the Donner-Reed survivors took shelter in the same little cabin by Truckee Lake which Moses Schallenberger, Allen Montgomery and Joseph Foster had built to winter over, hoping to guard the wagons which their party had to leave behind for lack of oxen to pull them. The second was that Martin Murphy’s youngest son, John, later courted and married Virginia Reed, who is usually cast as one of the heroines of the tragedy. And finally, the old mountain man and trail-guide, Caleb Greenwood, was a volunteer – in spite of his great age – in one of the organized relief efforts to rescue the survivors of the party. I did consider, when I came around to writing the Gold Rush adventure of Fredi Steinmetz in California a decade later, of having him meet briefly with Moses Schallenberger, and John and Liz’s little son, or maybe even some of the Murphy family just to complete the circle – but the plot just didn’t allow for that.

Other “after words” to my books – it was suggested that following Willi Richter’s life and adventures with the Comanche in the late 1860s, and his return to his birth family ten years later would make a ripping good yarn. But that would make necessary a really deep dive into Comanche history, life and culture, and I just didn’t feel it. Another reader suggested maybe exploring the anti-German lurch on the part of the general public around the time of World War 1, but I just didn’t feel that, either. So much came crashing down in that war and immediately afterwards – empires, optimism about the future and society generally – I just couldn’t feel that, either. Although I did reference in passing in My Dear Cousin, that Steinmetz’s family legally changed their name, because of the anti-German animus of the time; which is why Fredi and Sophia’s granddaughter went by the surname of Stoneman.

I wonder if I should have added a bit more to that book, mapping out how the post-war world treated the two cousins and their husbands. The couple that I based part of Peg and Tommy’s lives in Malaya on, eventually had to leave their rubber plantation for their own safety because of the Communist insurgency. They had children by that time, and the constant threat against all of their lives – threats carried out to the point where they had to fortify their main residence – forced them to leave. I rather think that Peg and Tommy, with the children that they had after Tom and Olivia (and they would have had more children) would have eventually relocated to Australia and rebuilt a secure life there.

For Vennie and Burt, I have a feeling that they would have had a rockier road. I couldn’t see Vennie settling down to be the perfect wife of an up and coming academic at a moderately snooty west coast private college. I think that they would have separated – but not divorced — after a couple of years. I could picture Vennie going back into nursing, serving as a military nurse in Korea. She had a rather overdeveloped sense of duty. And eventually, Burt would have taken up another position, somewhere in the intermountain West, and he and Vennie would reconcile, perhaps adopt a couple of war orphaned Korean children, before having a couple of their own. So that’s how that ‘after word’ might have gone – but I don’t believe I’ll be writing it out – the story was complete as it was.

Now, to finish the Civil War novel, which is half-done, and leaving Miss Minnie Vining as an established lecturer on feminist and abolitionist causes … a writer’s work is never done.

19. April 2022 · Comments Off on The Birth of Educational Wokeism – A Personal Story · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Fun and Games, General Nonsense, Literary Good Stuff

I’m almost certain that I witnessed the seeds of teacher-training wokism yea these four decades ago when I was wrapping up the class hours necessary for a degree in English, an age before it became screamingly obvious that a BA in English didn’t guarantee that the recipient of it was conversant with proper grammar, spelling, the literary output of the greats from Chaucer to Wilde, or blessed with the ability (even if only acquired through imitation) to write in a clear and pleasing style.
With my usual efficiency and persistence, I had managed to complete every single required class for that golden degree by three and a half years into the enterprise, leaving me with just a requirement for so many class credits subject unspecified for my final semester toiling in the groves of academy as they presented at Cal State University Northridge. (A state uni with practically no notable characteristics or reputation then, or now. It was your standard state university, providing in a workmanlike fashion, higher education to a mixed bag of students – freshly minted high-school alums, foreign students, working adults and returning senior citizens.)

So, I looked at the catalog offerings for the spring of 1976 and decided that I would indulge myself intellectually and just sign up for any elective that looked interesting in the catalog. This put me in a class in Roman Art & Architecture, and another in Japanese Art &Architecture, both of which proved to be totally fascinating, challenging, and eventually useful – the Japanese one, especially, as it turned out to be a graduate-level one aimed at art majors, and did I have to seriously hit the books in order to pass! The Roman A&A final included a final exam involving drawing an accurate map of classical Rome from memory, naming the seven hills, including the lines of major avenues and aqueducts, and marking the location of about twenty major landmarks. This turned out to be useful when I passed through Rome as a tourist in 1985 …

It was the third ‘what the heck that sounds interesting’ elective which was the class that I found memorable and for not a good reason. I began to hate it, root and branch, topic and professor … a smug and smarmy male who reminds me in memory of the irritating Arnold Rimmer from Red Dwarf. The subject of the class was “Children’s Literature” and upon reading it in the catalog, I thought – hey, interesting subject, a study of classic kid-lit from the early days, a survey of the bigs in kid-lit; a little Frances Hodgson Burnett, some of this and that … what made writing and reading for the underage set appealing over the decades …
I had been raised on classic kid-lit. Mom was rigorous in that respect. I had all of them, either read to us, or on the shelves to read for ourselves. Everything: Child’s Garden of VersesLittle House on the Prairie and all in the series, Little Women and the sequels, Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan, the Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy, the Jungle Books, Winnie the Pooh and dozens more. I thought I would be in a class exploring what made those books and others such enchanting and enduring reads. What made them so special that they were still being read by and to children for decades or even centuries after having been written … and in that I was crushingly disappointed. More than that – outraged, although never sufficiently to rend the lector from limb to limb and encourage my fellow students to piss on the bloody remains. I did want that BA degree, you see. I already had plans, post-graduation.

As it turned out and which I should have noted before enrolling in it, the class was one of those required/elective for those aiming for a teaching credential in the state of California. And it was dire … I figured that out within the first couple of lectures. First, when the lector/professor figuratively urinated all over Child’s Garden of Verses, condemning it for being stupid bad poetry with an ump-de-ump rhyme. Yes, the poetry in Garden is fairly simple – Shakespearean sonnets it isn’t – and yet I (and others) can still recite verse after verse from memory. Then when the lecturer took a number-two dump on Wind in the Willows, picking out one chapter – The Piper At the Gates of Dawn – for an extra specially contemptuous sneering as saccharine, sentimental and trite. For myself, I had always loved Wind in the Willows, and believed that chapter to be charming, lyrical, and beautifully descriptive.

So, the lector/professor was an obnoxious philistine; I am certain there were skid-row bums and burned-out hippies with better literary judgement. Just to put the rancid frosting on this rancid cake of a course, he … umm … exposed the class to a bit of kid-lit that he thought was just the thing for your average middle-school reader. I have mercifully forgotten the title and author, although at this date I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a book that he had written. The hero and narrator was a teen boy whose family went from Nantucket Island in time for the 1893 Oklahoma land rush, set up a homestead there, and then by some misfortune that I don’t recall, the father died, they flaked out of the homestead claim, and the boy and his mother went all the way back to Nantucket – sadder and wiser, or so the narrative had it. A highlight of the book was the boy acquiring a girlfriend who had been a captive of the Indians (tribe unspecified, or at any rate, I don’t remember) and it was implied had been sexually initiated by the experience. She gave him a hand-job, described in a conversation between the two of them. Ugh.

That was the point when I decided that it was a darned good thing that I didn’t want to be a grade schoolteacher, if this kind of materiel was what one had make a show of lauding, while spurning the great body of enduring stories and poetry. I wonder how many other rational people made the same decision – and that’s why our schools are deeply mired in predatory wokeism. Comment as you wish. And no, I never wanted to teach school anyway, but if I had, I am certain this one class would have kicked any such desire out of me. I’ll just write good stories for kids, and read the good stuff to Wee Jamie.

13. April 2022 · Comments Off on Our Culture, What There Is of It · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, General, History, Old West, Texas

This last weekend, I actually went out of my house/neighborhood and did something different. Something interesting and out in the real world, or something that resembled the real world, out there, beyond the keyboard and computer screen. I had a table for my books at a cultural event, the Folkfest in New Braunfels. Historically, New Braunfels was one of the German Verein-founded towns in the Texas Hill Country, one of those that I have written about in my historical series; the main reason that I was invited to the bash under the oak trees at the Heritage Society’s campus on the northern edge of town. The Adelsverein Trilogy touches on the circumstances and reason why more than eight thousand German immigrants ended up on the wild and unsettled Texas frontier in the 1840s. A consortium of German noblemen and princes hoped to make a tidy profit – and to do a good deed for their struggling countrymen – by taking up an entrepreneur grant in the independent Republic of Texas. They were honest in their hope to make the venture advantageous economically for them, which distinguishes them from many other ostensibly charitable enterprises of late. That the Adelsverein went broke within two years had more to do with the princely gentlemen overselling their program to eager potential immigrants and badly underestimating the costs in transporting them to Texas. That it resulted in a godly number of able, educated, independent-minded and patriotic new citizens turned out to be a bonus. It also resulted in Kendal, Gillespie and Comal counties being almost completely German-speaking for better than a hundred years, which explained the prevalence of dirndls and lederhosen worn with cowboy boots at the Folkfest.

The Heritage Society has moved a number of buildings of historical note onto the property; a dog-trot cabin, carpenter’s shop, a windmill, one-room schoolhouse. blacksmith shop and others. For the Folkfest, these buildings are inhabited by docents and volunteers, augmented by historical reenactors in tents and pavilions, eager to exhibit their skills and gear. The flintlock and black powder shooters shot their long rifles regularly during the two days, as did the cannon crew with their antique artillery piece. There was live music under the trees – a Celtic band, a children’s choir singing German folksongs, a clogging dance troupe, an array of country-western singers – and a children’s costume parade on Saturday, carrying on the tradition of a May Day parade established by the teacher of the first school in New Braunfels in the 1850s. A pair of charro performers demonstrated rope tricks and fancy riding skills in a temporary rink, the owner of a genuine 1913 Ford Model-T gave rides around the circuit of the grounds, and the owners of an authentic cowboy chuckwagon demonstrated making biscuits and cooking over a fire with iron Dutch ovens. In other years at Folkfest I have seen lace-makers showing off their skills, and carpenters demonstrating how to use templates and hand-tools to shape chair spindles and legs. Last year, the hayride was in a wagon pulled by a pair of horses, this year merely a trailer lined with hay-bales pulled by a tractor. But there was a good crowd, over this last weekend; families and couples having fun, listening to the music while sitting at the tables by the beer garden, under the great oak tree in the center of the grounds by the beer garden. There wasn’t a single mask in sight, and no social distancing that I could see. It all reminded me that not everything is awful and catastrophic – and that many of us are holding on tight to our history and our traditions.

 

07. April 2022 · Comments Off on Erasing Women · Categories: AARRRMY TRAINING SIR!!!, Domestic, Politics, Rant

Well, it’s really kind of sad – that erasing biological XX-chromosome no-kidding 100 percent female women seems the ultimate endpoint of early 21st century popular prog-thought, as mad and illogical as that might seem as an ambition, or rather an idée fixe. The ancient jape of a fox hunt described as ‘the unspeakable in hot pursuit of the inedible’ comes to mind, only this is the deranged in pursuit of the unachievable. As little as I think of the long-time and loud professional Feminists-with-a-capital-F (or LT&LPF(F) as I call them), and their tendency to view all men as potential rapist and abusers, I would have expected them to be assiduous in protesting for the actual physical safety of biological women in women-only spaces like restrooms, locker rooms, battered woman shelters, hospital wards and prisons. Alas, they would seem to have fixated on the availability of reproductive health or as the rest of us call it, abortion, as the great fight for the LT&LPF(F); the hill upon which they wish to see fetal humans die. I mean; what the hell, LT&LPF(F) – you look away from the physical safety of real, no-kidding vulnerable women … and focus on the rights, ways and means of killing fetal humans. Good job, sisters. (Not.)

I previously would have assumed that the LT&LPF(F) would have looked askance at biological male athletes declaring themselves to identify as female … and walking away with first or second place in track, swim and wrestling meets. That pretense strikes me a particularly egregious; honestly, while I am not a biologist as my mother and father were, my memory of childhood roughhousing with my brother and his friends is quite vivid. The last time when I could hold my own in a physical contest with any of them was at the age of twelve or thirteen, just before puberty hit all of us. That certain born-male athletes have hit on the scheme of claiming to be a woman in order to score wins is a scam. It’s low, dishonest and a cheat. I’m amazed that such can look at themselves in a mirror, without shame and embarrassment at going so low for a win and a medal.

Sexual dimorphism, as Daddy lectured us on nature walks, is a real thing: as it applies to humans, males of our own human species tend to be taller, heavier, and better muscled, and clustered at the extremes of the Bell curve as far as intelligence goes. Females tend to be smaller, lighter, with a higher percentage of body fat, cluster at the middle of the intelligence Bell curve, and be a little better at fine muscle skills. That, and we can have babies; growing them within our own bodies for nine months and nurturing them for many months afterwards, whereas males can really only get them started, which takes a matter of energetic minutes at the most basic level.
We all of us, male and female alike, have our own skills and strengths – and honestly, I have always appreciated those strengths, as well as liking men, generally. (Men are cool, they focus on the immediate, they fix things, build things, and fight for what they value, all qualities which I have always found terribly attractive.) So why now are progressives wedded to the notion of deleting biological women? Is it just the latest and most attractive trend among progressives? Or do they really-o-truly-o hate and envy the female, as some of the early radical professional feminists (who hated men, unreservedly) used to claim.
Discuss as you wish.

13. January 2022 · Comments Off on The Way We Watch Now · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Media Matters Not

The Hollywood-based entertainment industry appears to have written off most of America in Flyoverlandia (according to this post) as hopelessly unwoke, racist and dumber than dirt, in their untiring efforts to embody the soul of Woke in their various offerings. Apparently, they believe in an audience just waiting uncritically out here; An audience intellectually gape-mouthed like baby birds just waiting to swallow uncritically whatever gets dropped into them. In pursuit of that goal, according to the same article, they have made their own professional hellscape, what with the growing fear that one wrong word, tweet or visual will make them the unemployable target of their peers, in the grand scramble for achieving ultimate wokery by scapegoating each other. Couldn’t happen to a nicer lot of vicious, vacuous, jerks, hypocrites, and pedophiles … even as the audience for movies released in theaters drops through the floor, and the most-watched continuing streaming video drama is one which has done so practically unnoticed by the mainstream news and entertainment media. More »

15. December 2021 · Comments Off on On the Edge · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Eat, Drink and be Merry, Home Front, Local

My daughter and I have just finished making the various kinds of fudge that we distribute to neighbors, friends, and various workers and employees of places that we do business with. We hit upon this seasonal gift a good few years ago, after a visit to a very nice shop in Fredericksburg in the Hill Country, which featured infinite varieties of fudge. Those that we tasted were excellent, and my daughter was inspired to replicate the variety. We had previously done cookies and other home-made treats, but when it came around the next year and neighbors began asking us, with wistful hope, “Are you going to make fudge again, this year? We really liked it …” we realized that we were onto a winning strategy for holiday gifting.

The assortment – packaged in little tins from the Dollar Tree

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The word literally translates from Spanish as “child-buyers” – as defined by Wikipedia in one of their less politically unstained entries: “a concept coined by Victor Hugo in his novel The Man Who Laughs. It refers to various groups in folklore who were said to change the physical appearance of human beings by manipulating growing children, in a similar way to the horticultural method of bonsai – that is, deliberate mutilation … stunting children’s growth by physical restraint, muzzling their faces to deform them, slitting their eyes, dislocating their joints, and malforming their bones.” The mutilated or stunted children were then provided as dwarves to amuse a noble court, or as performers in traveling circus sideshows. A historical truth, folklore repeated to frighten children into good behavior, or just a melodramatic literary creation? Who knows for certain? More »

After our adventures a couple of weeks ago in sorting out the garage deep freezer, my daughter and I decided that we ought to tackle the pantry – which we had done a year or so ago and disposed of most of the badly out-of-date food and condiment items at that time. We did so again today, but fortunately this time the oldest item found was some ranch dressing mix from 2013. The few other items disposed of were of a much more recent vintage. There were two reasons for this project; the first being that we simply had to find the little jar of turkey brine mix that we bought last year after Thanksgiving. We had bought a jar of the same brand after Thanksgiving, 2019, and used it for the turkey breast last year, and it was absolutely splendid! Yes, we shop the marked-down shelves, after the holidays. Got a problem with that? (The way prices are going up on various items, this is something that all of us had better get accustomed to doing.) And, no, I don’t believe the quality degrades after sitting a year – it’s mostly salt, sugar, and an interesting blend of spices and dried fruit.

The other reason was that I had two lots of new air-tight pantry containers – various sizes, all to store the various flours, pastas, rice, grains, and beans in. The pantry was crammed to overflowing, with much of the contents in round glass jars in various sizes, which didn’t make economical use of space, and square containers with the contents marked, which would possibly make better use of the telephone-booth-sized pantry … (‘Mom? What IS this?’ ‘Either bulger wheat or wheat berries…’) (‘Why do we have three different bags or jars of jasmine rice/bean thread noodles/cornmeal?’ ‘Because we couldn’t find them the last time we were looking and just bought more…’) I understand that this happens with ill-organized garages. Can’t find the hammer – go and buy another, which is how people finish up with half a dozen hammers, or adjustable wrenches…

It turns out that we have a ton more of dried and canned beans, canned tomatoes, and various oriental noodle items than we thought we did. Our resolve to carefully store and label the darned things is renewed. And putting all the various dried staples into square containers and labeling them as to the contents turns out to have saved considerable space in the pantry, as well as making certain items much more visible, even if this project took up most of the day. Which should save time in searching for them, the next time we need a can of coconut milk, a bit of tomato paste …

We’re brining a turkey breast we bought some weeks ago, and putting together a nice small family Thanksgiving feast, turkey, mashed potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts, wheat bread and sausage stuffing, gravy and the usual pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce – all carefully calculated so that we don’t have too much in the way of leftovers … when I was growing up, we’d be eating turkey leftovers in various guises for most of the three weeks after Thanksgiving … and just when we polished off the last of it … there came the Christmas turkey and another month of leftovers.

For Christmas dinner, we’re planning on doing Boeuf en Croûte. The beef roast is in the freezer – we bought it a few weeks ago. May as well, while we can still afford it …

20. November 2021 · Comments Off on Christmas Hamper Past · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Eat, Drink and be Merry, Memoir

I was reminded of one of my personal great moments in customer service when I ran across this article in the Daily Mail. Honestly, I think that the provision of expensive gift hampers for the holidays is one of those in which British merchants have it all over American, but then they had a long, long, long head start on us. More »