The question of when to talk to your children, when you live in a repressive dictatorship was something I remember from reading James Michener’s essay into political reporting The Bridge at Andau; an account into the Hungarian Revolt of 1956 against the Soviet Union, published the following year. There came a time when parents of school-aged children, Michener wrote, had to open up to their children, if they were anti-Soviet dissidents, religious, or simply Hungary-first patriots. It was a fine line; either live a lie in front of your children regarding your own beliefs, and at worst, see them irretrievably buy into the whole Soviet system if you left it too late, or trusting that they were sufficiently mature, to be adept at concealing such dissident beliefs in front of their schoolfellows, Communist-indoctrinated teachers – and informers among them. How old did your children need to be, before they could dissemble in front of peers, teachers and spying informants among them? It was a matter of deep concern to Hungarian parents, as Michener related. (Parenthetically, as a teenager and young adult I had never been the least bit enchanted by the golden chimera of communism in any guise. Growing up, my parents knew too many people who had fled from Communist-dominated or threatened countries and had heart-rending stories to tell of their experiences in living in and fleeing Cuba, Russia, Eastern Europe, the far East. Reading Michener’s account of the Hungarian Revolt definitely drew a line under my antipathy towards all-powerful dictatorships of the so-called proletariat.)

So the Department of Homeland Security – a governmental entity which just by it’s very name, sends nasty chills down my back – has funded a program to train teachers, ostensibly in something called ‘media literacy’ but which in practice looks more like monitoring students and their families political and religious beliefs, directing them in the preferred set of progressive doctrines and encouraging kids to inform on their peers … or their families who dissent from such doctrines. (This linked post on Legal Insurrection goes into greater and unsettling detail.) I should think that parents of school-aged children would be looking at this so-called ‘media literacy’ with considerable alarm; it has even more dangerous implications than pushing gender-confusion and outright porn for the elementary-school set. Exactly how many other school systems are participating in this program?

This is all of a piece with authoritarian dictatorships across the political spectrum; get ahold of the youth through the education system, mold them into the new man/woman/whatever, encourage them to inform on their families and peers, and reward them with praise, honors, after the example of Pavlik Morozov, the Boy Hero of the Soviets. I wonder if membership in a new organized youth group is part of Homeland Security’s long-term plans for their properly-indoctrinated school-aged cadres. Perhaps the Department’s experts are considering cute uniforms for participating student participants; something with brown shirts and black shorts, or maybe a bright red neckerchief. Discuss as you wish – and is this program being utilized in your local school district?

03. February 2024 · Comments Off on DIE, Quiet Quitting, And the Exit of Competence · Categories: AARRRMY TRAINING SIR!!!, Ain't That America?, Home Front, My Head Hurts, Rant, That's Entertainment!

About the only comfort that I could take away from the initial election of B. Whose-Middle Name-Shall-Not-Be-Mentioned Obama was a small one – a hope that the election of a man of partial color and relatively cosmopolitan upbringing would at last bury the last lingering shreds of AmeriKKKa-Is-The-Most-Raaaaacist-Evah! Alas – it soon became very clear this was a sad, and forlorn hope. The new intellectually powered Diversity-Inclusion-Equity racism came roaring back like a movie serial killer in a twentieth remake of a Hollywood horror flick franchise. A decent regard for civil rights of black citizens has somehow metastasized into ‘DIE, whitey, DIE’ or at the very least, ‘no well-paying prestigious job for you, pale-male-and-stale.’ Never mind if the beneficiaries of these policies appear far less able to perform to the standards which the job requires … it seems to be the intentions that count. It’s no biggie if the bridge collapses, the aircraft collide on approach, the expensive movie bombs at the box office, or the press secretary babbles nonsense when asked a difficult question. The good intentions of DIE conquer all, even reality.

Is this a power-play on the part of the Democrat Party, the intellectual fashion o’ the moment on the part of our educational establishment, vicious class snobbery on the part of a managerial elite, nostalgic for the days of forelock-tugging peasantry who wouldn’t disobey the orders of their petty lords? A combination of all three? In any case, the would-be supreme powers appear to be going all out to demean, demoralize and economically beggar a confident property-owning, independent American middle and working class — a class of citizens which is mostly but not exclusively of European origin, and therefore mostly-sort-of-mainly white under the current popular description.

The results of ‘no job for you, whitey!’ is playing out in several wildly different areas with interestingly calamitous results, especially when it comes to lowering standards of competence in order to favor the chosen minority over those competent but disfavored by the principles of diversity/inclusion/equity. Ace of Spades linked to a post on a website called Film Threat, lamenting the difficulties of writers for TV shows; no cushy writing gigs on a diminishing number of shows unless the writer is anything but a white middle-aged heterosexual. Such experienced writers with a good (or even so-so) track record are being passed by, in favor of the trendy young gay, multiracial female (or identifying as such) – who have no experience and little apparent craft in actually telling a story and engaging more than a narrow audience segment. This would explain how domestic audiences for American TV and movies are crashing in such an extraordinary degree of late. Hollywood at large has established what amounts to a color bar; shafting the competent and experienced in favor of the not-so competent and relatively inexperienced … who then produce movies and TV which only a small portion of the available audience want to watch without a gun pointed at their head.

Another area where this is happening appears to be the military, especially in recruitment, now crashing to heretofore unexpected levels. It was conventional wisdom when I was active duty that generally black troops enlisted to get skills training and experience, mostly on the support part of the long spear. Whites and Hispanics enlisted or were commissioned, on the other hand, for the challenge and experience of being at the tip of the long pointy spear – fighter pilots, special forces, rangers, SEALS, whatever. Those guys (and most but not all were guys) came from a working-class, rural and/or southern background and the combat arms were what they wanted to be and to do. Now if they are still on active duty, they are being treated like moral lepers. Potential recruits from families with a long tradition of serving are snottily informed that they aren’t wanted in this splendid new and diverse military. So the rural working-class southern boys are bypassing the recruiting office, to the surprise of practically no one paying attention. Given the debacle of the Afghanistan withdrawal, any sensible parent or authoritative adult in the life of a potential recruit clearly sees that competent military leadership has left the building. I’m not the only veteran around these days, quietly discouraging any young person from considering a military career or a place in one of the academies.

The more heavily the thumb of the DIE advocates press down on the hiring/promotion scales, the faster the professionally competent will either quiet-quit, quit entirely, or not even be hired in the first place. Anyone not addled by diversity-inclusion-equity at the expense of competence can see this will accelerate the doom loop in the activities cited. Discuss as you wish, and if you have gruesome examples from personal experiences, or insights to share, please do.

It’s an acronym; what it means is “Deny-Accuse-Reverse-Victim-Offender” – and describes a common response of the accused party to charges of domestic abuse, along the lines of “I never laid a hand on her/him-But she/he is crazy/violent! – It’s her/his fault for making me so darned angry – I’m the innocent person here!”
This is indeed what we are seeing now with regard to the Nashville Covenant school murders, murders committed by a deranged and angry transgender, although one might be forgiven for thinking ‘deranged’ and ‘transgender’ to be a duplication of terms. Alas, that was just the worst of recent violent or near-violent incidents involving transgenders and transgender activists, who seem to be exploring new horizons in a quest to be the most deranged, unreasonable, demanding and generally bat-crap crazy in what might seem to be a contest among activists lately. (Is there a substantial cash prize on offer, for whoever can generate the most outrageous headlines? Inquiring minds really want to know.) Shrieking at and terrorizing collegiate swimmer Riley Gaines for objecting to biological males competing against females in athletic contests, threatening a school in Colorado with the same treatment as the Covenant School – fortunately, that threat was neutralized, at least with that school and that potential mass-murderer.

The white hot-fury of transgender anger on display of late is extremely disconcerting. I will concede that there were and are transgender citizens who went into the process after careful consideration, appeared to live or have lived relatively contented lives, who wanted nothing more than to vanish into an ordinary existence, and to have called no great attention to themselves since transitioning. But they were always a minute number, and up until the last couple of years, seemed to relish the obscurity that their new physical form brought them. They didn’t call attention to it, howling like banshees every couple of hours and over every conceivable issue. Or invading a state legislature, with bullhorns and shouted threats. Or ganging up either physically or online on everyone perceived as breathing mild dissentions or criticism of the whole Tranzi crusade.

The curious thing is once one is alerted to the DARVO concept, one begins seeing it everywhere in the headlines of late; in the matter of crime committed by urban youths of color, everything from attacks on passing strangers, gang shootouts with a certain careless attitude regarding the fate of innocent bystanders, and mass lootings of commercial enterprises. No, no – the fault is that of that amorphous concept; structural racism, institutional whiteness or whatever they want to call it in the public release to the press, after the blood has finished soaking into the ground. We didn’t do anything but respond to the viciousness of white/MAGA/conservative/Red State animus – it’s their fault for pushing us, we’re the innocent victims here!

Comment as you wish. And add further examples of DARVO in action, especially in the establishment news media.

I will note for the record that I spent all of last weekend participating in a <a href=”http://”>local folk-life celebration in a medium-sized city in Hill Country Texas – an event blissfully free of anything resembling contemporary wokeism. Small children, tame animals both farm-domestic and pet, patriotic flags, ethnic German folkways, and country music, a lot of demonstrations of ancient black-powder weaponry, and complete law-abidingness among the participants and guests. It was all so very reassuringly normal. Life goes on in the Shire, as it always has done, day to day.

The sudden recent fatwa declared by the great and good in the Biden Administration against the less-expensive gas ranges was … really rather curious – and for what purpose? Cooking (and heating) with gas is (or was) relatively cheap, energy-efficient, beloved of cooks for generations. It has the advantage that if you have an older stove, you can still cook with gas in a power outage. I lived for six years in Spain, where both the stove and the flash hot water heater were powered by propane bottles, and a power outage (which occurred regularly) was only a relatively mild inconvenience. I could cook a hot meal, and we could take hot showers. An all-electric home, such as the one I live in now is miserable, to the point of being unlivable, without consistent electric power, as my neighbors and I were swiftly reminded during the Great Texas Snowmagedden, two years ago. And from this story, linked on Instapundit, one can’t help wondering if the geniuses in Biden’s government are demonstrating trying again, with the so-called safety benefits of locking hot-water heater thermostats at 110-120. The ostensible reason given for these two quasi-campaigns is a tender concern for the ‘health and safety’ of the general public and the best of intentions, but the way to hell is paved with good intentions.

I have become convinced in the last few months that the real intent isn’t ‘health and safety’ at all – but the systematic immiseration of everyone but the comfortably ruling class elite. Oh, they didn’t really care much at all and haven’t for the last couple of decades, about the convenience and conditions for the ordinary citizens, except save when they were rolled out by their handlers to make a few remarks to housebroken establishment press representatives, especially at election time when they had to be seen to throw a bone or two in the direction of the electorate, or make the correct sympathetic noises after a natural disaster. It was necessary that they be seen to care … care deeply, just make a shallow pretense of deeply caring. They don’t care, and perhaps have never really cared, beyond making the proper noises in the established media – the credentialed elite in their glass-walled corner offices in the bicoastal ruling class enclaves, and their lushly-paneled and carpeted Congressional office.

But the brutal fact is … they don’t. They don’t give a couple of satisfactory bowel movements about the ordinary electorate, the regular, law-abiding middle and working class out in Flyover Country, the class that pays their modest taxes, runs the business that keep all afloat, volunteer for the military and everything else – and I believe the goal for the elite ruling class now has gone beyond indifference into active malice. They wish to see us impoverished, dirty, miserable, cold and starving, because that makes such obedient servants, of course. A powerless peasant class doesn’t make so many demands on their rulers – and that’s the point at which we may have arrived – not when election results can be called up and organized to give the satisfactory (to the ruling class) result. What need have they of voters then, when the results can be automatically jiggered to give the correct result?

They hate us, mostly because we don’t obediently fall in line, like medieval serfs, tugging our forelocks and saying, “Yes, Sir, Yes, My Lady, whatever you wish, My Lord.” It’s really kind of sad, that the ruling class of a nation should hate the ordinary population so. The Victorians were brutal in their class snobbery – but they didn’t at least hate the ordinary citizens and cheer for their continued immiseration and disenfranchisement.

Comment as you wish, and while we still can.

As my daughter has taken up a new career (one which she is thoroughly enjoying, now that she has a successful sale under her belt and another three or four potentially serious and committed buyers on the horizon in the coming new year) I have had, perforce, to take an interest in the market for houses, in this, a moderately prosperous Texas city. Well, moderately prosperous, in spite of all the (explicative deleted) that the current economy and the Biden administration can throw at us. By all evidence that my daughter has noted locally, (mostly in price reductions for a number of listings) the property bubble has well and truly burst, or is now in a mode of slow deflation. Conventional wisdom among realtors who have been in it for years, is that prices for houses are on a seven-year-long boom and bust cycle. We’re about to head into the ‘bust’ downslope. Anyone who does have the wherewithal – the bulging pocketbook to buy outright or a high-enough credit rating qualifying for a loan at favorable rates to buy a house in the next couple of years will have their pick of properties, at least in this part of Texas.

I have noted over more than two decades of living in it, is that my own neighborhood is quietly prosperous; a high percentage of homeowners and few rental properties. This is a good thing, most definitely not a class or racial issue. It should be obvious to all now that owners of a house, even if only a small one, will tend to take better care of the roof, walls, windows and HVAC system that they have invested in. I would guess that my neighborhood very closely reflects the national racial makeup; racially mixed in conformance with the overall national stats. (Not culturally mixed, though. Just about all my neighbors are house-proud, responsible and community minded.) My neighborhood is not one of the notoriously wealthiest neighborhoods in San Antonio; the houses are relatively small, in the 1,000-1.500 square foot range on small lots, not more than a 10th of an acre. Some of the larger houses in the older part are on lots a bit larger than that, but all in all, the subdivision is a comfortable fit for people with working-class jobs, convenient to the various military bases, shopping centers, highway access. These small, comfortable houses and manageable gardens are owned by a cross-section of retired military, ordinary retirees, new families, small families, single working women, and small business owners. Working bourgeoise; the kind that the New Woke World Order wants to squeeze out of existence, for our stubborn insistence on managing our own lives and economics without any interference from the new self-elected and lustful-for-power Ruling Class.

As an aside, I don’t think that will happen – all of us stubborn working bourgeoise reduced to rental serfdom, subject to the illogical whims of some ivory-tower and unaccountable bureaucracy. There are, as yet, too many ways for ordinary citizens to slip away from the grasping fingers of control.

An element that my daughter has noticed is that the smaller houses in solid neighborhoods like ours go like hotcakes. The 1,000-1,3000 sf home, two bed, one bath, or bath and a half – such small starter or retirement homes at a reasonable valuation are in great demand, demonstrated by how blazingly-fast they sell, once they are listed. Not all that surprising, actually, as that is the size that I could readily afford, house hunting at the end of my inglorious military career. Also about the size of what my own parents could afford and which we all lived in as a family of six: two or three bedrooms and a single bath for us all. But such smaller homes coming on the market are few and far between and looking at the new developments spring up around the parts of San Antonio that I frequent, the new builds seem to be at the upper end of that range or larger, even way, way much larger. What about the prospect of smaller homes, homes even under 1,000 square feet, tinier lots?

You might think that the current fashion for “tiny homes” should be appealing to developers, just as a matter of marketing, and the lower costs to build and thereafter maintain … but for some reason, it doesn’t. Builders go on merrily constructing bigger and bigger houses.  (Usually on smaller and smaller lots…) I have always wondered why. The usual explanation is that municipalities naturally want to collect the very most in property taxes – the larger and more lavishly-adorned the property the greater the tax assessed, and the existing homeowners in the area being considered invariably hear “Small affordable houses!” and begin screaming to their local political office-holder, “OMG-Poor people! It’s affordable housing for poor people! OMG! Keep away, keep them far, far away!” Still, one would think that smaller, more compact houses would make so much good sense to developers and builders. Maybe it is.

Along the outer ring highway in San Antonio, a large apartment complex has been going in for months – but at the back of the complex, bounded by a small back road which we routinely use as a short-cut, there is a range of smaller units going in. At first, when they began pouring the slabs for them, we wondered if they were to be garages – but no; from the layout, no way to get a vehicle safely in or out, When the walls began going up, we could see that – no, the back half of the complex will be small cottages, and small duplexes. Interesting. Well, not everyone likes to live in a third-floor walkup, hauling groceries up two flights of stairs, with the noise from neighbors through thin walls at all hours … better a small, self-contained little house, with a decent separation from the neighboring unit, or only the other half of the tiny duplex. We wonder if this is a harbinger of things to come; of builders seeing that there may be money to be made in catering to the ‘smaller house’ impulse. Where will the market let us all, in these trying times?

What say you? Discuss as you like.

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.

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.

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.

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

More »

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 …

16. November 2021 · Comments Off on Craft Market Weekend · Categories: Domestic, Home Front, Local, Texas, Working In A Salt Mine...

My daughter and I, accompanied by a selection of stock, Wee Jamie in his stroller, and a full assortment in a cooler bag of our lunches and his bottles on ice, spent all day last Saturday at a craft fair in Beautiful Downtown Bulverde, at the senior center there. Which is disconcertingly under the flight approach of a tiny airfield just down the road; at odd times all day, a small single-engine aircraft road overhead just above tree-top level, the shadow of it skating over the treetops and meadow. My daughter had a selection of her origami earrings, most of it stock created early last year. What with the advent of Wee Jamie, who will be six months old this month, and her interests in developing a career in real-estate, this is a hobby which she will have to set aside for a time. She also had a selection of wood-burned oversized Christmas ornaments, which all went to one purchaser who wanted them for an outdoor Christmas tree display, and a collection of small needle-felted seasonal ornaments which, alas, did not sell. We were kind of discouraged because of this. Maybe next year. We worry about what hell the retail economy will present to us, by next year. We had thought that shoppers at the craft fair would be interested in spending their money with local small crafters, what with all the ships stuck off-shore, loaded with crappy consumer goods from China for the holiday market season. We’ll see what happens with post-market sales – there is always a bump-up after a market event.

I had two bins of American Girl doll-clothes and costumes, which were much admired, but didn’t sell as well as they have in the past. At least I covered my half of the table fee and then a bit, which is always reassuring. Our only event the rest of the year will be for my books, at Miss Ruby’s Author Corral in Goliad, the first Saturday in December. My daughter is looking forward to taking Wee Jamie to see Santa, although posing for a picture in the saddle of a longhorn steer may be a little too much to expect of an infant who will be only seven months old when he has his encounter with the Guy In the Red Suit Who Drives a Team of Reindeer And Delivers Gifts to Good Children on Christmas Eve.

On the other hand, Wee Jamie was both much admired for his baby cuteness, and for his being absolutely good throughout. He napped in the stroller, didn’t fuss, consumed two bottles … and was so exhausted by effort of being cute for the entire day that he slept that night from about six PM until past nine on Sunday morning. Wee Jamie is coming along, in his development. I insist that there is nothing to worry about, in missing some of the development benchmarks or hitting them late, which is the pediatrician’s concern. It is my adamant belief that he is about a month behind the expectations because he is a boy, stubborn and reluctant to develop, and another month because he was delivered three weeks before full term, at barely five pounds and a bit. He smiles for my daughter and I, a smile which is all over his face, he is of late entranced with toys which rattle, make crunchy sounds, and musical notes, he has discovered and been entranced by his fingers and hands, and his reflection in one of the toy units. He rocks back and forth from side to side, when laid on my daughter’s bed. Turning over is nearly within his grasp, we think – and he can almost sit up unaided for almost a minute at a time. He also seems to enjoy watching videos, especially the series Shaun the Sheep. He sleeps mostly through the night, after his 5 PM bath, and the bottle which follows – which is a great relief to both of us.

18. November 2020 · Comments Off on And Now For Something Entirely Different… · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, General Nonsense, Home Front, Military, Stupidity, Veteran's Affairs

Another horrific gaffe in retail marketing –  one which falls into the category of “grotesquely bad retail marketing decisions which will become a cautionary lesson in future marketing textbooks.” This spectacular gaffe involves a retailer of fashion-trendy and very colorful women’s athletic clothing, Fabletics – a company which started online in 2013 offering a subscription plan – somewhat controversial since the subscription charges were not always transparent, and branched out into brick and mortar locations. One of the founders is Kate Hudson, daughter of Goldie Hawn, so there probably has been some advantages to a celebrity connection; easy to get that one-on-one with Oprah Winfrey, I presume. The company appears to this point to have been pretty savvy in a competitive field, marketing-wise, so all props to them. I’m not a customer of theirs in any case; the gym and the jogging track are not places where I go to show off my fashion sense. I’m old-school in that I prefer to work out in grey sweatpants and a baggy tee shirt.

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05. August 2019 · Comments Off on One Book To Rule Them All · Categories: Domestic, Home Front

A cookbook, that is – one cookbook to rule them all. A good few years ago, what with the popularity of so many food and cooking websites, we got in the habit of printing out recipes that sounded good, and if they did turn out really, really good – putting them in sheet protectors in a three-ring binder for easy referral. That binder is the every-day reference for putting together an evening meal, only as time went on – the book got terribly random and unwieldy, with the recipes inserted in any old order. There were also pages of recipes that had once looked interesting, but not enough to actually cook them, or that we tried once and went ‘meh’ or alternate recipes for a dish that we had a recipe for that we liked better … and the pages themselves got sticky from use, or being splashed, the binder began falling apart … and I swear that one of the cats (now exiled to the Magnificent Catio) was in the habit of spraying on the back of the binder …so, time to cull, re-print, re-arrange, put into fresh page protectors and a brand-spanking-new binder and also to create a duplicate book for the day when the Daughter Unit has her own domestic establishment.

So that has been the current project, now that Luna City #8 is fairly launched. I started with going through and pulling out all the recipes for chicken. A few of them I had to just copy into a fresh document, most of them I retrieved from the various websites where they had originated, and copy-pasted into a new document. Doing this let me change the size of the font – look, it’s a bear to have to fetch my reading glasses to read a 8 or 9 point font, while reducing the recipe itself to a single page – because flipping over three pages to follow the same recipe is … not helpful, especially when half of it might be taken up with pretty pictures. (No, I don’t need the pictures. Ingredients and instructions are sufficient, thank you very much.)

After a weekend of working at this project, I have gotten all the way through the chicken recipes, and all of the beef/pork/lamb/venison recipes, which I think must have made up more than half of the original binder. The remaining sections – for vegetarian, fish, and miscellaneous side dishes and sauces should go much faster. And that – along with another chapter of the Civil War novel – was my project for the week.
Oh, still waiting to hear from the garage
regarding my poor little car. Getting a replacement side light seems to be the main remaining challenge – it may very well have to come all the way from Japan by special order, although I would think that a little creative metal bending and plastic fabrication, such as Dad used to do in his garage for some of his automobile projects, would do the trick. It absolutely fries me that the idiot whose’ rotten driving caused the accident had no damage at all to his car – whereas I have now been without mine for a month and a half.

13. December 2018 · Comments Off on Inherited Trauma · Categories: Critters, Domestic, Home Front

Whilst I was perusing this story about the possibilities of trauma being a heritable thing, on my home office computer, my daughter came in to see what I was up to, and to lavish some small affection on our own bit of inherited trauma – that is, Mom’s cat, Isabelle. Isabelle was the last of those purebred apple-head Siamese cats which had been Mom and Dad’s. When their house had to be sold upon Mom becoming an invalid, my sister took the dogs to live with her (along with Mom) and Blondie and I inherited her two cats, one of whom has since passed away from advanced age. But Isabelle … sigh. Mom can’t remember how old she is exactly, since she was one of a long series of pure-bred apple-headed Siamese cats – and this iteration turned out to be as nutty as squirrel poop. Also mind-blowingly timid, unaffectionate, hostile even, unhygienically given to pee and crap where she slept (or where I slept, which was even more disgusting), and negative to the existing cats. We speculated that either Isabelle had been dropped on her head too damned many times as a kitten or was just as inbred as heck.
Anyway, upon completion of the Glorious Catio last spring, Isabelle – with her disgusting toilet habits and bad temperament firmly established – was one of those who moved in full time. There she spent her days and nights, fed and sheltered, amused by the garden outside, receiving some affection whenever we went out to sit – carefully, of course – and all was right with our world. (And it was nice to be able to clean something and have it stay clean for longer than ten minutes.)
Late in October, we rescued a dog from the streets in our neighborhood; a lively pug-chihuahua mix, whom no one recognized or claimed. We started calling him Fang – one has to call animals something, of course – and schemed to rehome Fang with an animal-loving couple of our acquaintance, a couple whose previous small dog had crossed over that rainbow bridge, and looked to us to find them another one, since my daughter and I seemed to have a secret super-power of animal-attracting. Fang seemed agreeable to cats but was (and still is) a consummate escape artist, and speedier than chain-lightening with a link snapped. We were afraid to keep him in the house, where he might tangle with our two small dogs, outside in the yard – too many gaps in the fence where he might escape. The Catio, with hardware mesh walls, brick floor and latched door, was the perfect temporary place. The cats, after all, had their ranks of shelves and perches, far above a small dog, who would perforce be limited to floor-level.
All went well for a couple of days. Our friends agreed to take Fang when no one claimed him, and my daughter went to run some errands, and I settled down to work at the computer. Until the sudden horrific ruckus broke out – howling, snarling, wailing – coming from the Catio. I rushed out there to see two cats on the highest shelves, watching with interest, and Isabelle with one hind leg up to the knee caught through the slats of one of the chairs, and twisting around, yet had her front claws and jaws firmly latched onto Fang’s rump. All too obvious what had happened; Fang had surprised Isabelle, asleep on the chair, she got her leg caught, and retaliated as cats will, with tooth and claw.
Fang, of course, did not like this situation, and commented loudly. Isabelle didn’t seem terribly pleased, either. I grabbed her scruff, eased her leg out from the chair, she let go of Fang and seemed to levitate across the Catio and hang onto the screen door for a moment before falling back to the ground. Fang, whimpering slightly, seemed relatively unhurt save for his dignity. But Isabelle was limping, badly enough to make a visit to the vet obligatory. My daughter thought she might have broken one of the long bones in her leg. So – applied some antibiotic to Fang’s rump, stowed Isabelle in a carrier, and off to the vet. (By coincidence, the one that I had brought Fang to, earlier in the day to have him checked for a chip.)
No, it emerged that Isabelle had not broken her leg – to the astonishment of the veterinarian, she had contrived to blow out the knee tendons in attempting to get her leg out from between the chair slats. The best and least expensive surgical solution he could suggest was to install a long pin through the leg bones to hold the knee rigid, and let the tendons heal. This we agreed to; for a cat we weren’t all that fond of, that to all appearances hitherto wasn’t all that fond of us, either – but Isabelle was Mom’s cat, and we felt obligated to take care of her to the best of our abilities because of that. We warned the veterinary staff of her disobliging and usually hostile nature and left her overnight for the surgery the following day.
When we went to collect her the following afternoon, the vet-tech enthused to us over how good and cooperative she had been, how affectionate she had been, even when the anesthesia wore off. My daughter and I are looking at each other and going, “OK … what have you really done with Mom’s cat, and where did you find this identical Siamese?”
We had to keep her restrained in a crate inside the house for a good few weeks – a crate just large enough for a towel-and-piddle-pad covered pillow, with a dish of food and a water dispenser. She took her daily antibiotic graciously, seemed to briefly retain her old habit of peeing and crapping where she slept, and then … didn’t. The concept of the litterbox seemed to have dawned on her. The surgical wound on her thigh healed over (she’ll go back to the vet after the holidays to have the long pin removed), and she curled up quite amenably in on of the pet beds that we have star-scattered across the household. From there, she moved into claiming the dog-bed at the foot of my bed, from Nemo and Connor (who prefer sleeping on the bed itself,) and to being actually human-affectionate. She sits on laps when offered, purrs affectionately, ‘talks’ to us in ‘Siamese-cat-yowl’ when we pet her.
Really, it’s quite astonishing, the transformation. I can only think that there must be something positive said for trauma. At least in the case of Isabelle.

(Note to all – the first three Luna City books are marked down for 99 cents on Kindle for the month of December only. Yes, as the pusher promised; the first couple of hits are free!)

13. December 2016 · Comments Off on One More Market … · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Home Front, Local, Luna

That is – one more holiday market to go, and then we can put up our feet and enjoy Christmas … well, save for perhaps regretting that we didn’t have time enough to hang out lights and ornaments on the bay tree for the amusement and edification of our neighbors. But on the other hand, we did get the Christmas fudge all done and distributed, save for the batch of Brandy Alexander which never solidified as it should have done … well, there’s always one batch that doesn’t go quite as satisfactorily as it should have, but with eight different kinds, it’s not that anyone would mind or even notice.

Blanco was cold and miserable; in the forties all day, with a sullen drizzle threatening in late afternoon. Still, there were people shopping, and we did pretty well, considering – but would have done better if the weather had been as pleasant as it was in Johnson City two weeks ago. But still – the cold! And this time we were in the pink pavilion, on grass, instead of in a place with a roof on three solid walls. I had long winter underwear on, and the brown woolen Edwardian suit, with gloves and a scarf, but my feet were near to freezing in thin leather lace-up boots. My daughter had a lovely insulated pair of winter boots, so her feet were fine, but the rest of her was miserably cold. Note to self – another pair of long winter underwear, and one of those little portable heaters that run on a propane gas bottle. The weather is expected to be milder for next weekend for the Cowboy Christmas Market in Boerne, though … but that brings up still another problem. The pink pavilion developed a bend in one of the support legs which makes putting it up and taking down even more difficult than usual. Not certain of how it happened, but the metal is quite definitely indented and broken. It was never the sturdiest of pavilions anyway, and now some of the other joins have developed bends or cracks at weak points. It was most definitely not designed for the hard use that it has gotten over the past two and a half years, so this next weekend, we have to rent one of the Boerne Market Days pavilions (plain tan and completely featureless) while we arrange to purchase a sturdier pavilion for the next market season. One of the other vendors in Johnson City had a very nice one, with much heavier top and sides; she bought it at Costco; a new one of similar design and features is on our list.

Today we went through some local favorite shops, picking up this and that with an eye to mailing gifts to family, and making our own Christmas the merrier. This included a stop at a Half-Price Book outlet, where neither of us found what we were looking for – stocking stuffers for cousins/nieces and nephews – but I found a pair of David Hackett Fischer’s accounts of two episodes in the American Revolution. The next of my historical novels is dimly to be seen, at a considerable distance – something set in that period. I thought earlier this year of what the next should be, after finally completing the Gold Rush adventure. I suppose the natural tendency would be towards continuing into the early 20th century, with the various characters from Adelsverein, from Quivera Trail and Sunset and Steel Rails. I’ve already hinted at some of those developments relative to the First World War … but I find myself curiously reluctant to go there – mostly because that was the time and place in which the optimism of the 19th century died, in mud and blood, tangled in barbed-wire. Right now – I don’t need tragedy and heart-breaking disillusion. I’d rather go back, to the start of our republic, close to the foundation of the American experience …

Besides – I have already hinted at a couple of different possible characters and plotlines: Race Vining had a relation named Peter, who served in Washington’s tiny, desperate army at Valley Forge – and Carl and Margaret Becker’s grandfather Heinrich was a Hessian deserter, who fell in love with an American woman … and perhaps the notion that the individual was the master of his own fate. Nothing more certain than that; the specifics of the plot will grow from research.
Besides – I have to write another Luna City chronicle, and another Lone Star Sons, first.

We spent the weekend after Thanksgiving in Johnson City, Texas, where they established the tradition of firing up for the Christmas holidays by covering the Blanco County courthouse with god-knows-how-many hundreds-of-thousands of lights, hanging in strands from the roof edge to the ground and noting the start of the holiday season in the Hill Country with a bang … a round of fireworks at about 7 PM Friday, as soon as it was well-dark. The firework show was lavish – and the three rows of vendor pavilions and the spectators in courthouse square were so close to it that little bits of spent ash from the fireworks sifted down on us. I hadn’t seen anything so splendid, or been so close – practically underneath it all – since a Fourth of July celebration at the Rio Cibolo Ranch in 2009.

The Blanco Courhouse - all lit up.

The Blanco Courhouse – all lit up.

The trunks of the pecan and oak trees star-scattered on the lawn around the courthouse were strung with lights, and the facades of many establishments around the courthouse square were also lavishly lit up. This whole ‘lighting for Christmas’ kicked off similar displays in other small communities and towns, but Johnson City is still the lead event. The crowds on Friday and Saturday evenings were substantial and in the proper mood for buying. My daughter and I made our expenses Friday evening, so sales on Saturday and Sunday were gravy. Our expenses were more than just the quite reasonable table/booth fee, since Johnson City is slightly more than an hour drive from home. We considered the drive to and from for three days running; two such trips at ten o’clock at night on a relatively unlighted country highway, with drunk drivers, speeding trucks, suicidal deer … and said, ‘oh, hell no.’

The nearest available affordable lodgings turned out to be at the Miller Creek RV Resort, which has three little cabins with a bathroom and functional kitchenette for rent. We booked one for two nights; the cabin porch presented a lovely view of the creek, which we were never to relish, as we were there only to sleep – long and deeply, following ten or twelve hours of active selling. The Miller’s Creek RV Park is a lovely little place, by the way; immaculately groomed and landscaped. It’s not one of those luxury destination RV resorts by any means, but a modest comfortable place, beautifully arranged – they even have a minuscule dog park, in addition to the usual facilities.

I think that the most reassuring part of our experience this last weekend wasn’t entirely due to the satisfactory sales – it was the experience itself. The people in this smallish Hill Country town came together to put on their yearly extravaganza. Volunteers from various local organizations giving it their all; families with children and polite teenagers, lined up in front of the cotton-candy vendor, right next to us. That vendor had the brilliant inspiration to sell his cotton-candy spun around a lighted plastic wand, which made the wad of candy look like clouds with a varicolored lightening-storm going on behind it. (Purchase the wand – get unlimited refills of cotton-candy!)

A look down the Market area.

A look down the Market area.

Any number of those polite teenagers came and bought origami earrings from my daughter, or inveigled their parents to buy them – indeed, there was one particularly engaging teenager who admired the earrings so much that my daughter sighed and gave her the particular pair that she favored, asking only that when Engaging Teenager had the money, to come back and pay for them. The very next night, Engaging Teenager returned with four crumpled dollar bills and four quarters. She confessed to wanting to be a writer and talked at length about what she liked in the way of books, how she kept being distracted by new ideas when writing, and how she was bound and determined to finish a story of hers for her grandmother’s Christmas present – because Gran had asked for just that thing. Engaging Teenager has the very same problem that I did, way back in the early days of my scribbling career; to whit – never being able to finish anything. We talked for a bit about that; reassuring and encouraging Engaging Teenager as an aspiring writer, though I suppose that we will never know if we did her any good. I did give her a copy of Lone Star Sons (autographed with a personal message, of course!), assuring Engaging Teenager that my one YA book venture might be a help in demonstrating the art of short adventure-writing. Such a nice kid – we hope that later teenagery won’t spoil her charm and spirit.

There was the procession of lighted automobiles, trucks, and tractors, some of them towing floats for the lighted parade on Saturday, the marching band and the senior citizen synchronized marching team with their lighted lawn-chairs … it was all very reassuring to me. Small-town America is still here, still confident, still ably conducting their own affairs, neighbor to neighbor – even when the neighbor is only a member of the peripatetic small-business gypsy-market. (I took pictures, using the ‘night’ function on the camera. Alas – none of those pictures came out very well at all.

The silver-gilt acorn earrings.

The silver-gilt acorn earrings.

Speaking of gypsy marketing; I bought my Christmas present indulgence for myself; a pair of vintage earrings from one of the other vendors. His family business specialized in vintage and estate jewelry, mostly silver and a large part reclaimed from a smelter in San Antonio. You know – those businesses who buy old silver and gold jewelry; it goes to be melted down. This enterprise has an agreement with the local smelter to let them come in, look over the takings and purchase at cost those items with artistic merit. But my Christmas present for myself wasn’t one of those so rescued; they were from an estate sale. Described as silver – I thought they had a gold wash – and reddish-brown jasper stones; this was a pair of acorn-shaped earrings. I liked them very much, especially as they go with the brown tweed Edwardian walking suit outfit. So – my present for myself.
Oh, and I wore a different vintage outfit every one of the three days. They worked very well for merchandising purposes – and yes, I will do this again. Many times.

18. October 2016 · Comments Off on Dust in the Wind · Categories: Ain't That America?, Air Force, General, Home Front, Military

I saw the hungry armies of the men who had no work
I saw the silver ship fly to her doom
I watched the world at war and witnessed brave men go berserk
And saw that death was both the bride and groom
I watched Bikini atoll turn from coral into dust
At Dealy Plaza worlds came to an end
And swirling winds of time blew as the Soviet went bust
And life is born in stars as some contend
The swirling winds have always blown around man’s aimless trials
And will continue blowing ‘til the stars
Wink out in just a few short eons as the goddess whiles
Away the time in counting kings and tsars
Who think that they control the winds that swirl around their heads
Believing they are mighty as the sword
Not knowing that in blink of eye they’re taken to their beds
The swirling winds of time are oft ignored
Until, like we, the winds becalm and we stand face to face
With zephyrs and Spring breezes at our back
Propelling us toward what it seems is finish of the race
The winds we have but time is what we lack –

Walt Erickson, the poet laureate of Belmont Club, on this particular discussion thread.

So, tempus fugit and all that … dust in the wind, as the pop group Kansas used to sing. That number always reminds me vividly of a certain time and place, a memory which is strictly personal and has no bearing on this post, really … save for reminding me in an oblique way, that as of this month twenty years past, I went on terminal leave from the USAF. As of the end of this year, I have been retired from the military for as many years as I was in it. I can’t claim that I have traveled as far in this last two decades as I did in the two before that … after all, when I went to my high school reunion in 1982, I won the award for having come the farthest to attend the reunion. That was the year I was stationed in Greenland at the time, and the reunion was coincident to my middle-of-tour leave. The two decades past included travel to California to visit family, to Brownsville on client business, to Washington DC/Arlington for a milblogger convention, to Houston once and innumerable road trips to the Hill Country on book business. Dust in the wind, my friends – dust in the wind.
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03. October 2016 · Comments Off on Chilling in Boerne · Categories: Ain't That America?, Home Front, Old West

So that was a fun Saturday, although exhausting as it always is to pack the Montero, drive a certain distance, unpack the Montero, find a good spot, transport the canopy, tables, the tubs of books and the tub of table dressing and giveaway materiel, and the two camp chairs to it, and set up, ready for business. Then – four to six hours of face-to-face direct sales, broken by a sandwich from the HEB deli (No, lunch is a chancy thing at these events. There may be a food truck or a concession handy with something that we’d want to eat and don’t mind paying for … or not. We have wised up. We bring HEB deli sandwiches, and an insulated bag of bottles of drinking water.)

This is the second year for the Boerne Book Festival – last year there were about twenty of us, spaced out in a back room in the main building. If records and memory serve, we did sell a handful of books, but mostly, us authors were reduced to looking at each other after a certain point in mid-afternoon. I did have a table across from a local historian, Jefferson Morgenthaler, who did a very good book about the German settlements in the Hill Country – a book that I absolutely recommend, as he covered the same territory in non-fiction the same ground that I did in fiction. He is one of those local authors that I knew of, but had not met until that point – so last year’s event was not a totally wasted effort.

Neither was this year’s; they set us up on the landscaped grounds of the library, under the trees where a winding paved path went down to an amphitheater which was the venue for a couple of scheduled events, starting with a children’s ballet company performance: the mini-dancers performed as various forms of sea-life to the music of Saint Saen’s “Carnival of the Animals”. This was the most-well attended segment of the presentations in the amphitheater, I will have to admit, although the later presentations/discussions did have an audience. One of the authors wrote zombie thrillers and was of sufficient celebrity as these things go to have the local Barnes & Noble store with a representative sample of his books.

There were about thirty-five authors present, plus Alan of the Texas Author’s Association, who had a booth filled with books by members of the association. One of them was Clay Mitchell, who was a client of Watercress Press. Alice and I had done some substantive and line editing for his book, Amid the Ashes and the Dust, which is a terrific and evocative read, set in East Texas. Another was John Keeling, who has started a western series about cattle ranchers in Texas; the first book is called Take ‘em North: The 2E Brand Begins. We had a brief chat about writing about the post-Civil War long-trail cattle drives; always go back to the primary sources, we agreed. Just about anything about that enterprise that you saw in a movie or a TV show during the Golden Age of the Western (say from 1930-1970)  is liable to be howlingly inaccurate.

Boerne is one of those towns just about commute-distance from north-side San Antonio; with a very distinct identity, and a well-established historical district. The ambiance is one of very substantial proto-yuppie prosperity. A couple of new developments on the outskirts of town have sprouted up in the last few years, and the various businesses in the historic downtown have – for as long as we’ve been visiting – been very, very upscale. It is, in a word – a prosperous place.

My daughter and I did venture by turns into the used-book store, which is an outgrowth of the Patrick Heath Public Library; a lovely building on the grounds, with a two-level terrace at the back, and a beautifully-arranged selection inside. Seriously – this is a library used-book outlet, which was as well-sorted and set out as any high-end retail book store. My daughter bought Alison Weir’s bio of Henry VIII and I found a copy of the Crabtree and Evelyn cookbook, which I bought for sentimental reasons. And yes – I can’t resist cookbooks of a certain sort. I really used to love that company when they had an outlet in North Star Mall, across the street from the office building where I had a job, some years ago. Sadly, the Crabtree & Evelyn outlet vanished, seemingly between one week and the next. Eventually, there was nothing left in that mall which I was interested in, on my lunch hour, save maybe the Williams-Sonoma outlet. It all became high-end designer clothing, makeup and jewelry. I commiserated with the volunteer cashier at the bookstore about that. She was leafing enviously through the cookbook during the time it took for me to go back to our tent and get my purse. ‘Hah!’ I said. ‘You had your chance!’

So – a very good and reassuring start to the last-quarter-of-the year selling season. One of the readers that we sold a set of the Luna City Chronicles to, stayed for a while to lament about how her widely-geographically-spread friends visualized Texas … in a most unflattering way, of course. My daughter has marveled at how her English FB friends seem to think that we all live in little desolate towns, where tumbleweeds roll through deserted unpaved streets, and everyone lives in tumbling-down shacks with outhouses out at the back and gunfights in the streets on a regular basis.

No, it’s not like that – not anything like that at all… But perhaps we want to keep that quiet, because then everyone would want to move here, and that would quite wreck the place. Say, did I mention how hot it is in Texas during the summer? It’s boiling hot, miserable-hot, fry-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot. For five whole months, and sometimes six! No, stay away, stay away!

Anyway, the Daughter-Unit and I are planning out the next market events on our schedule; Johnson City and Blanco are a go for their markets, and Saturday morning at the New Braunfels Sophienburg’s Christmas marked in November at the New Braunfels Civic Center. Dates to be posted as soon as confirmed.

31. August 2016 · Comments Off on News, Covered · Categories: Ain't That America?, Home Front, Media Matters Not, Politics

There have been any number of important stories covered by the nationally-based establishment media in the last decade or so – in the deathless phrase tweeted by Iowahawk, David Burge, “with a pillow, until they stop moving.” Through the internet and alternate media, a good many of those stories that would have stopped moving through judicious use of the media pillow in previous decades – have still managed to percolate from those alternate media sites into the national mass media conversation. Things like the Dan Rather/TANG faked memo, the Swift Boat Veterans going after John Kerry as the duty-shirking Eddie Haskell of the Swift Boat service and dozens of other incidents fought off the smothering pillow, the Chick-Fil-A boycott, and yes – eventually got discovered in the major media outlets. With considerable reluctance, one might add. The matter of black on white violent crime may be on the edge of being discovered by the mainstream media, much as the Hollywood producer in the Godfather movie discovered the head of a dead horse in his bed.

There are these issues, you see – about which the major national media outlets appear to have a strange, almost Victorian compact; a determination NOT to see them, even when ordinary citizens know about. Not only know about, but are deeply concerned – and have strong opinions. (I mentioned one of these issues some months ago – here.) The matter of illegal immigrants in the US is one of those radioactive issues that the media, the political and intellectual leadership in this country do not wish to touch. They wish for various reasons, including the fact that there are certain monetary and social benefits to tolerating an influx of illegal immigrants, that the issue be disappeared, bundled out of sight and off the front pages. But the issue adamantly refuses to stay disappeared – precisely because there are so many stories like this one; the horrific bus accident in Louisiana on IH-10 this last week, where it appeared that the driver of the bus was not only an illegal alien, but unlicensed as well.

It’s a regularly occurring thing, all across the West and southwest; automobile accidents involving uninsured and unlicensed drivers, often illegal residents. Sometimes alcohol is involved as well. Precise statistics are hard to find – especially since partisans on one side don’t wish to find them, and those on the other side may be prone to exaggerate for effect. But with so many ordinary Americans having had an on-the-road accident experience where the other party was unlicensed, fraudulently unlicensed, uninsured, illegal or any combination of the above … there must be a substantial number of them – together with their families, friends, co-workers and neighbors affected to a lesser degree. Then there are the million working Americans whose social security numbers have been stolen by illegals – a matter over which the IRS feels no particular urgency. A large part of Donald Trump’s popularity across flyover America is precisely because he does address issues like this. Perhaps this will break the major media’s reluctance to acknowledge such matters.
Or not. Your thoughts?

19. July 2016 · Comments Off on My Big Fat Hillary Problem · Categories: Ain't That America?, Home Front

So, it looks like Her Inevitableness is tottering on the way to her coronation, attended by throne-sniffing, lickspittle courtiers like Chris Matthews of MSNBC, who most notably got bent out of shape last night by Patricia Smith (the mother of former SEAL Sean Smith, killed in the 2012 mob attack on the US consular office in Benghazi) calling Her Inevitableness a liar. Such “lese majeste!” harrumphs the egregiously offended Mr. Matthews, whom I assume followed up this with a demand that those kids get off his lawn.
But I am not here to thump Chris Matthews, richly though he might deserve it; I am here to meditate upon my present big fat Hillary problem. I say ‘present’ because way back when she was the First Lady, and for a brief time when she was a former First Lady, and warming a chair in Congress as a remarkably lackluster politician – I didn’t really care one way or the other. Frankly, I would have had a lot more respect for the woman if she had dumped her horn-dogging hubby as soon as they moved out of the White House over his sexual games with interns – but then I am a woman who does not suffer being humiliated in front of a national audience. And then my problem with Hillary, Her Inevitableness really developed.

This problem of mine sprang from two sources, starting around the beginning of the 2008 election season. One – which I shared with my daughter, who was at college at the time – was that suddenly, it seemed as if everyone assumed that because she was a woman … and I was a woman (my daughter being a woman also, although that should go without saying) that OF COURSE we would support enthusiastically and vote for her. OF COURSE we would support the First Woman President EVAH! And the other was how totally, cynically, Third World it was that the spouse of a former president should even be seriously considered as a viable candidate for that office herself on the basis of … really, not much. Sorry – as I said then and say now; this is still not Argentina and she is still not Evita, although the increasing resemblance to the first is more than a little disheartening.

And between then and now is the ghastly disaster that was Benghazi; four dead, including the ambassador to Libya – a disaster for which Her Inevitableness bears a large part of the responsibility, as the Secretary of State. She left her people in the lurch, and then lied over their dead bodies afterwards. And then there is the matter of electronic security over her email account, while serving in that office. Military people have been all but crucified over careless handling of secure communications – and high rank has offered no protection or excuse. Likely every secret service in the world has read her emails by now; I can only hope that they might leak them to the rest of us, so that we can find out what the hell went wrong in Benghazi after all.

In sum, this adds incompetence to the towering edifice of cynical entitlement and corruption that is Hillary, and no, I will not vote for her. Through the support of tools like Chris Matthews and massive vote fraud, she might very well be elected, too. From that I extract a small shred of comfort, in that she will be at ground xero when all the various disasters launched by the administration in the last eight years come crashing down to earth.

Discuss, if you can bear the crushing depression of contemplating Her Inevitableness being sworn in to the highest office in the land.

08. July 2016 · Comments Off on OPSEC · Categories: Ain't That America?, Home Front, Military, My Head Hurts, Politics, Rant

That is one of those military acronyms which everyone who has ever been in the military for longer than – oh, I don’t know – a couple of years? A single hitch in one of the armed services? Whatever; what it means in plain English is “operations security” – and what that entails in the larger sense – drilled in by basic training, refresher training, briefings, a constant dribble of AFRTS spots cautioning the same in 30 second bites, and occasionally by the direct intervention of a supervisor administering a stern reminder – is that you keep your mouth shut about stuff and treat classified material with every care. Even stuff that seems minor, inconsequential, trivial, and is not in point of fact, actually classified. Because a whole lot of little pieces put together by an expert analyst could reveal a pretty big picture; a big and possibly life-threatening picture to someone, or hundreds, even thousands of someones.

I performed this analysis myself in a small way myself, during the build-up to the First Gulf War, through the medium of casually listening to a whole lot of reader spots emanating from our lead station, and some chatter from friends, to the effect that they couldn’t get a reserved room in the casual barracks at that base, all of a sudden. And sure enough – a radio reader spot to the effect that there was limited availability of rooms in a particular transient facility. Another reader, to the effect of restricting automobile traffic on a certain road at that base; checking a map of that base revealed that road was the one in front of that very transient facility. And finally – a notice to the effect that mowing the grass in that particular area was delayed until further notice. Put that together with knowing that transport aircraft were stopping over in large numbers on their way downrange … why, yes; the aircrews were being billeted there, to catch up on sleep before the last long haul to Saudi Arabia. Unclassified? Heck yes – it was on the radio, for gosh sake. Significant information for someone who might want to disrupt the transportation conveyor belt into the theater of conflict? Very possibly.

In the larger sense, OPSEC means paying attention, and especially paying attention to that which is classified information. My own clearance and that of other broadcasters never went any higher than Secret, possibly because we were broadcasters and the powers-that-be feared and probably with good reason (see above) that we would inadvertently blab all kinds of indiscreet stuff into a live microphone. Even at that lowly level, I dealt later on with classified information as the security NCO. The production facility at Hill AFB occasionally worked with materiel which was restricted from general use; yes, we had a secure safe, and now and again I had to serve as courier, collecting classified scripts, video footage and other stuff which I did not actually know what it was – as it was all secured in a sealed envelope – meeting the arriving carrier at the gate at SLC airport, and taking it to the unit and securing it in the safe. I didn’t deal with this materiel often enough to become blasé through familiarity, and I was never in the least bit of doubt that loosing, or compromising classified materiel would have severe adverse effects on my so-called career.

History is chock-full of instances where a break in security – the intercepted message, the boastful bragging to the wrong person, or an outright traitor – spelled disaster and death. History is likewise full of instances where a strategic or tactical secret was kept through heroic efforts on the part of individuals or organizations, an effort rewarded with success. Knowing that people may die, and in job-lots, if you are not careful does tend to concentrate ones’ attention to OPSEC. And this is why that practically every retired military person that I have talked to personally, or commented through social media in the last couple of days, is incandescently furious that Hilary Clinton – for reasons of her own carelessness or convenience – flung down and danced upon every procedure on the books for keeping classified information secure. There are people who have had careers wrecked, been charged, served time for just a hundredth part of the lack of care that she demonstrated in her time as Secretary of State.

But they were none of them Hilary Rodham Clinton. To compromise national security on a grand scale is obviously one of those privileges which rank hath.

12. April 2016 · Comments Off on The Heart of the Matter · Categories: Air Force, Domestic, Home Front, Local

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

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

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

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

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

I know that I have not been posting much lately – here or anywhere else lately; just the bare minimum of commenting on other people’s posts and other people’s blogs and websites, but I had a couple of projects for the Tiny Publishing Bidness to work on, and then the two major projects to finish, format and upload to various platforms. Yes, I decided to go all-out and finish two books in time for the Christmas marketing season this year. Amazingly, neither one was the one that I had declared at the beginning of the year that I would have all done and ready to launch by this time  … yes, the adventures of young Fredi Steinmetz in Gold Rush-era California is rolled back another year. Sigh. I still have to do an epic-truck-load of reading of contemporary accounts and skull out a plot sufficient and historically-accurate to fill the last half of the book; which so far in my head will include a stint in San Francisco the year of the epically well-organized Vigilante organization, encounters with various historic personages, to include William T. Sherman, Lotta Crabtree and her formidable mother, some murderous claim-jumpers and a young woman seeking justice – while disguised as a boy. So, yes I will get on to that presently. After all The Quivera Trail was held at a third completed while I worked on Daughter of Texas and Deep in the Heart, and it didn’t seem to do any harm in the long-run.

So – the Harvey Girl adventure, Sunset and Steel Rails is done and ready for release on the 19th, in print and in Kindle. Amazon is dragging their feet apparently, in expediting the ‘Look-Inside’ feature. It isn’t up at present, but it should be in the next couple of days. Not bad, for something that I only got inspired to start in February of this year.  But The Chronicles of Luna City is a light and amusing present-day trifle which my daughter and I only got started on at the end of July – and here it is November, and that book is done and nearly finalized as well.  Three months, and just 70,000 words (but with pictures!) which is short for me, as most of the other books run 125,000 and up. (Although Lone Star Sons pegged in at 65,000.) There was one of the professional pulp adventure fiction writers – whose name escapes me at the moment – who was said to have done a book a month at one point in his career. Don’t know what the total word count was on any of them, but he must have worked in a white-hot blaze of energy … and Luna City is a light and diverting trifle, requiring very little research. Well, except for looking up restaurant equipment, and the names of obscure British TV series of the 1980s, and making certain that there aren’t any real companies with the same names of companies that I have mentioned in Luna City. Movie production companies really go for the obscure, I have to say. Had to nix six or seven possible names because there is a real production company out in the world with the name of something I thought would work for a movie production company. Luna City is pure contemporary escapism, utterly devoid of any redeeming social value in the eyes of the established guardians of our high literary culture … which I believe a lot of us have a need of these days, given how particularly screwed up, violent, and depressing real life seems to be, lately. (Oh, Established Guardians of our High Literary Culture? Yoo-hoo … over here! Now, gaze lovingly upon my upraised middle finger!)

So, light blogging will commence, now that all the hard labor of writing, editing, formatting and polishing have been done. Did you miss me?

21. March 2015 · Comments Off on I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar … · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, Home Front, Media Matters Not, Military · Tags: , ,

… and then turn around and whine because some cis-male said something, or looked something, and I feel so … so threatened! Look, girls…ladies … possessor of a vagina or whatever you want to be addressed as this week in vernacular fashion; can you just please pick one attitude and stick to it? Frankly, this inconsistency is embarrassing the hell out of me (sixty-ish, small-f feminist in the long-ago dark days when there was genuine no-s*it gender inequality in education, job opportunities and pay-scales to complain about and campaign for redress thereof). This is also annoying to my daughter, the thirtyish Marine Corps veteran of two hitches. The Daughter Unit is actually is very close loosing patience entirely with those of the sisterhood who are doing this “Woman Powerful!-Woman Poor Downtrodden Perpetual Victim!” bait and switch game. So am I, actually, but I have thirty years experience in biting my tongue when it comes to the antics of the Establishment Professional Capital-F Feminist crowd.

See – it’s an either-or proposition. Either you are strong, capable, intelligent and have thick enough of a skin or at least a toleration and sufficient understanding of the world in general, and the male of our sex in particular to forge your way enthusiastically through the world, throwing off the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune, the occasional sex-based misunderstanding, the overheard crude joke, the inability of many of the males of our species to attend to details of housekeeping or good organizational order, and their juvenile enthusiasm for sexual congress under circumstances and with co-conspirators which – the less said of that the better. That is the attitude that my daughter and I personally favor; we take no stick, and when someone – male or female tries it, we hand it back face to face with generous interest. That’s what strong, capable and intelligent women do.

It’s either that or the conventions of womanhood which held sway in popular Victorian culture. That is – one who is too fine, too delicate and too gentle to endure exposure, even by the slightest suggestion to any of the above … like tweeting a picture of two guys overheard making a crude joke and setting off an internet meltdown which resulted in firings, internet shamings, death threats and everything but the burning of Atlanta. Seriously, what Ms Richards overheard and took exception to – essentially complaining to a wide audience that “Ohhh – those awful men were making me feel threatened! Make them stop!” was relatively mild when compared to some of the conversations I overheard (or sometimes participated in) while in the military. I can only imagine the degree of absolute meltdown if Ms Richards had heard some of them … and yes, both my daughter and I have often been the only woman, or one of a handful of women in a sea of men.

So, strong, capable and equal … or frail, sensitive and desperate for that fainting couch; pick one or the other and stick to it consistently. At the very least, don’t talk like one, and act like the other. It only confuses the guys and embarrasses the heck out of women like me.

(Crossposted at Chicagoboyz)

11. September 2014 · Comments Off on 9-11-2001+13 · Categories: Domestic, Fun With Islam, GWOT, Home Front · Tags:

This year is not one of those significant anniversaries – the year-marks that end in zero or mark a quarter or a half of a century, but for a couple of reasons, this one seems to weigh more heavily on me than any of the others, save possibly the one-year-after mark. It had only been a year after a perfectly shattering, unimaginable event, quite the equal to me of what Pearl Harbor had been to my parents. Without a whisper of warning – oh, if you had an abiding interest in the matter, or were a particularly imaginative secret squirrel, you might have seen it coming – a fissure the size of the Grand Canyon suddenly split the normal, day-to-day world, and after it, everything was different. On September 12, 2001, the world looked superficially just as it had two days before, save for maybe a few more American flags, and having to get to the airport hours before your flight, not to mention the gaping hole in the skyline of lower Manhattan. But it was the new normal, and kids in middle-school or starting high school have never known anything else. What I recall from ‘before’ is as remote and faraway to them as the Dust Bowl, or the splendors of the Edwardian era. That was then, this is now.

This is the now, with ISIS, or ISIL or whatever they wish to call themselves, recruiting volunteers across Europe and the Middle East, to establish a new Caliphate in the Middle East. What our armed forces bought in blood in Iraq has been essentially given away by this administration as carelessly as if it were a no-longer-fashionable shirt put into a plastic bag and dropped off at Goodwill. The southern border is made of wet tissue paper – and this administration has essentially contrived to swamp working-class communities with illegal aliens … who at the very least are innocent of the ability to speak English, and at worst are unrepentant gangsters. It can also be assumed that just about all of them are unvaccinated against diseases both common and uncommon which are also extremely communicative. Yes, well done.

Those same borders are also open to Islamic terrorists of the same stripe as those responsible for 9-11. It is likely only a matter of time before an atrocity every bit as horrific strikes a major American city … just as it is only a matter of time before certain of our inner city black underclass breaks out in city-killing riots. The present of Detroit may very well be the tomorrow of certain other cities. The working and middle-class flee, and if the city is glamorous enough, the rich and the very poor remain behind. If it isn’t glamorous enough, only the very poor remain. Many of our cities seem to be hanging by a thread – especially the older, old-industry ones. It is only a matter of time …

And so, we wait for the other shoe to fall. And it will fall – there is no doubt on that, just as there is no doubt regarding this current administration’s ability or willingness to rise to the occasion.

17. February 2014 · Comments Off on Weekend Summer, Weekday Winter · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, Home Front

Starting Anew

Bizarrely enough, that’s what it has seemed like around here for the last few weeks. Winter during the week, with temperatures in the twenties, summer on the weekends, with a high that just barely escapes the threshold for turning on the AC. While the British Isles seem to be considerably more soggy than usual (old joke – English roosters don’t crow, they gargle) and just about every part of the US but for the west coast and south Texas are snowed in, we are here able to contemplate spring planting. That, and taking the tender plants from the plastic greenhouse and hanging them out in the open air. My daughter’s hibiscus has gone back to it’s accustomed place, and I have two packets of seed potatoes ready for the big raised bed. The winter cold here – such as it was – did for most of the perennial vegetables which were on their third year anyway; pepper, okra and eggplant. The first weekend in March, though – off to various outlets to replace all of the above and tomato starts, too. Historically the final freeze of the year in these parts is March 15th. After that, it’s full steam ahead.

Having the overgrown photina cut down kick-started the garden projects this year, too. The front entryway is entirely re-vamped, and planted with a new rosebush, some interesting bulbs and seeds, and some ornamental garden bits. The narrow flower bed alongside the walkway to the front door will also be cleaned up and fixed with brick, pavers and gravel, with a few plants allowed in certain places. I trimmed away all the dead stuff from the three pots of gladioli – and the new green growth is already putting up little green fingers. I believe the plants know that hard winter is already over.
The various spider plants wintered over in the greenhouse without much harm, and return to their usual places … or close to some of their usual places, since the limbs of the mulberry were pruned back quite severely. The frost-nipped bushes in the back which grew to a great height and attracted swarms of butterflies and humming-birds have all been tidied up – and my daughter has been filling the bird-feeders again, to the great joy of the various wrens, sparrows and doves. This is also to the great joy of the cats, who sit on the windowsill, with their tails twitching, and impotently watch the birds through the glass.
We meant to begin planting things – the potatoes, onions, beans and lettuce, but the day got away from us, with sorting out the back porch. It had become a kind of dump, with the bicycle parked in the middle of it. I hated sitting on the glider with my back to the garden, so we switched around the glider and the gas barbeque, threw away a pretty hefty bunch of accumulated stuff – and there we are; a back porch that I can sit on once again, and look out at the garden.