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    A Diversion – The Tales of Luna City

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 30th July 2015 (All posts by )

    The Daughter Unit and I were watching Northern Exposure this week, and I had an errant thought; what would a town like Cecily be like, if it were in South Texas? A charming and quirky place, full of slightly skewed, interesting people, with an eccentric history all it’s own. And before long, we had come up with Luna City, Texas, and a whole long cast of characters, drawn from people we know, or have met, and little towns that we have visited, or know about. Eventually, this will be another book. It seems to me at times like this, with news of horrific or distressing events arriving in wholesale lots … well, a bit of mental refuge might be in order. If such is not to your taste, or seems terribly frivolous … well, then skip over to the next post.)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions | 19 Comments »

    History Weekend – The Galveston Hurricane, 1900

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 25th July 2015 (All posts by )

    To further the current work in progress (which will feature the heroine being in Galveston during the hurricane of 1900), I am re-reading Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm– a gripping and almost novelistic account of the hurricane which struck the Texas Gulf coast city of Galveston on Saturday, September 8th, 1900. The Isaac of the title is Isaac Cline, the resident meteorologist in Galveston for the U.S. Weather Bureau – who paid a devastating price – the loss of his heavily pregnant wife when his house was swept away at the height of the storm – for miscalculations made; miscalculations made both by himself and by the Weather Bureau headquarters policies in far-distant Washington DC.

    That 1900 storm still stands as the single deadliest natural disaster ever to strike the United States, with a death toll equal of all later storms combined; at least 6,000 in Galveston alone – a quarter of the population at the time – and along the Texas coast. The storm surge went for miles inland, and may have carried away another 2,000, whose bodies were never found – and never reported missing, as there was no one left to do so. Galveston Island – a coastal sand-bar, little more than eight feet above sea level at its highest point – was a busy and strategic port. At the turn of the last century, it was the largest city in Texas; a center of commerce, transportation hub and port of entry for immigrants coming into the Southwest by sea. Galveston was connected to the mainland across a normally placid lagoon by three railway trestles. Although the rival port city of Indianola, farther west along the Gulf Coast had been wiped out by a pair of hurricanes fifteen and twenty-five years before, generally the citizens of Galveston were complacent, comfortable in the belief that any storm – and they had easily weathered many of them – was readily survivable. And after all – this was a new century, one marked by unparalleled technologic and scientific advances! So a sea-wall proposed by certain concerned citizens was never built; indeed, Isaac Cline had written an article for the local newspaper in 1891, arguing that such a wall was not necessary; it was impossible for a storm of sufficient destructive intensity to strike Galveston. And he, of course, was an expert.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History | 17 Comments »

    Aiming to Misbehave

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th July 2015 (All posts by )

    There’s things going on that I can’t really write about these days. This is a bit painful, much as I have become accustomed over the last twelve or thirteen years to blogging about things that concern me; things both personal and political and which I have always tossed out there in the ether for consideration. It’s a kind of ‘thinking aloud’ – writing a note, sealing it in a bottle and throwing it into the vast ocean of the blogosphere, whereupon someone may discover it, uncork the bottle, read it and say to themselves – “My, that is interesting!” Or relevant, insightful, et cetera. Which I can’t do any more as regards the family; in the wake of Dad’s death, Mom came to feel that certain of my musings and posts were an invasion of family privacy, and directly asked me not to blog about them – so I have not, in deference to her wishes. She is as well as can be expected, though … and the current situation is something that Pip and Sander are handling, as they are geographically the closest.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society | 34 Comments »

    Greek Idylls – Part 4

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 15th July 2015 (All posts by )

    (And the last of my reminiscence of living in Athens from 1983 to 1985)

    This is the conversation I had many times, on my days off while we were in Athens, when we would be sightseeing here and there, or taking the city bus downtown to the Zappion Gardens, and encounter a friendly and overwhelmingly curious local citizen who spoke English:
    “Ahhh, you are American!? How long are you visiting Greece?”
    “Yes. I’m not visiting, I’m assigned here; I’m in the Air Force.”
    “Ahh, then your husband is at the Elleniko base! You live in where? Glyphada? Sourmena?”
    “Umm. I am in the Air Force, and I live in Ano Glyphada.”
    “But your husband, he is in the Air Force, too?” (They usually got a little puzzled at this point.)
    “He is no longer my husband, or in the Air Force.” I would say, and they would usually change the subject at that point and ask about what I liked best about Greece. All but the dear elderly gentleman with his grandson, feeding the ducks at the Zappion Garden duck pond, who exclaimed, “But, Kyria, you must marry again at once! Your little daughter needs brothers!”

    Of all the places I lived or traveled in, Greeks got down to the most intensely personal stuff on shorter acquaintance than anyone, even small-town Southern Americans. I think it is because even the big city, most were just a short time removed from a village where everyone knew everything there was to know about everyone else, back to any number of generations. Home, with a capitol H was a whitewashed stone and tile-roofed little village out in the islands, or in the mountains, to which you went in the summer, for Easter and over long holiday weekends; one merely lived in the city.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    Year Zero

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 15th July 2015 (All posts by )

    “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.” – Heinrich Heine

    In the Middle East, where Islamic fundamentalists are tumbling down statues and ancient monuments, and destroying or disposing of every visible shred of pre-Islamic history, they are already burning people. Also drowning them, shooting them by the tens, dozens and fifties, decapitating them, and blowing them up with careful application of det-cord. Here in these United States the attention of enthusiasts for so-called “social justice” is also bent upon eradicating the past – to include those monuments dedicated to Confederate soldiers and heroes, streets named for them, and the very sight of the Confederate Battle Flag, even when used in a cheerfully rebellious television show mocking the sourpuss pretentions of a corrupt local authority. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, History | 16 Comments »

    Greek Idylls – Part 3

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 13th July 2015 (All posts by )

    (I meant to post another chapter of this yesterday – but spent all day at a book event in a mall, and came back exhausted and suffering from an allergic reaction to dust, possibly mold in the AC ducts, and exposure to a LOT of people)

    Christmas in Greece barely rates, in intensity it falls somewhere between Arbor Day or Valentines’ Day in the United States: A holiday for sure, but nothing much to make an enormous fuss over, and not for more than a day or two. But Greek Orthodox Easter, in Greece—now that is a major, major holiday. The devout enter into increasingly rigorous fasts during Lent, businesses and government offices close for a couple of weeks, everyone goes to their home village, an elaborate feast is prepared for Easter Sunday, the bakeries prepare a special circular pastry adorned with red-dyed eggs, everyone gets new clothes, spring is coming after a soggy, miserable winter never pictured in the tourist brochures. Oh, it’s a major holiday blowout, all right. From Thursday of Holy Week on, AFRTS-Radio conforms to local custom, of only airing increasingly somber music. By Good Friday and Saturday, we are down to gloomy classical music, while outside the base, the streets are nearly deserted, traffic down to a trickle and all the shops and storefronts with their iron shutters and grilles drawn down.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Europe, Personal Narrative, Photos | 9 Comments »

    Greek Idylls – Part Two

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th July 2015 (All posts by )

    “Miso kilo, parakhalo,” which means “Half a kilo, please” was the single most useful phrase I learned. Every neighborhood in Athens had its own farmer’s market on a certain day of the week: in Sourmena, it was on Saturday, in Glyphada on Thursday, but in Ano Glyphada, where we lived in a second-floor apartment set in Kyria Venetia’s garden of citrus and olive trees, our market was on Tuesday mornings. Very early in the day, around 5AM, a two-block stretch of road would blocked off, and the venders would set up their small tables, covered with faded canvas awnings, all along the sidewalks, each offering their own produce specialty: piles of seasonal fruit and vegetables, eggs, mounds of lemons and fresh-cut herbs.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Diversions, Personal Narrative, Recipes | 2 Comments »

    Greek Idylls – Part One

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 9th July 2015 (All posts by )

    My then pre-K aged daughter Blondie and I lived in Athens from March 1983 to September 1985. It was a follow-on assignment to Hellenikon Air Base (now closed) to a year that I spent at Sondrestrom, Greenland, forty miles north of the Arctic Circle. All during that year of separation, I had promised her that we would go to Athens together, and live in a house on a hill, with lemon and olive trees all around and a view of the sea, and we would be happy.
    We did, and we were, and these are the things I learned and remember.

    Athens is a large and mostly modern city, 7/8th of it built up since 1945, with smog to rival Los Angeles and sheer noise to equal New York. All the neat old historic buildings are buried among the modern construction like one of those party favor balls made of crepe, which you unwind to find various little toys hidden in the layers. The park in the heart of the city is the Zappeion garden, lush and green, with a pond of ducks and a tiny children’s’ library. The Zappeion is full of cats, at which we used to marvel, as they were all so fat and tame. One afternoon when my daughter and I were walking back to catch our bus to the suburbs, we kept noticing the cats slinking out of the bushes by the dozen, looking expectantly at us. A young couple came into the gardens by one of the gates from Vassilias Amelia Avenue, staggering under the weight of three or four plastic shopping bags in each hand, and the cats gathered purposefully. The young couple set down the bags, took out can openers and began opening cans of cat food. They did this every other day, or so: the young man was English and worked nearby. He and his girlfriend came to feed the cats every day or so, having taken it over from an elderly Greek lady some years before, and the local ASPCA chapter (composed mostly of other expat English) worked to trap and neuter as many as possible. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Personal Narrative, Photos, Recipes | 10 Comments »

    Trigger Warning

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd July 2015 (All posts by )

    If there are a couple of things which annoy me very intensely in the year 6 A.O. (Anno Obama) – besides petty rudeness and vandalism which are loudly proclaimed to be anti-LBGTYWTF, racist or anti-Islam and then later (often within days or hours) admitted to have been perpetrated by the so-called victim in hopes of tapping into that sweet, sweet overflowing spring of sympathy and righteous affirmation … really, my default position after reading the breathless headlines about one of these incidents is setting a mental over-under of how many days it will take for the ostensible victim to be proven comprehensively to be an attention-seeking drama queen.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Diversions, Human Behavior, Humor | 10 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work: History Became Legend, Legend Became Myth..

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 1st July 2015 (All posts by )

    And some things which should not have been forgotten….
    Have not been, because they are either funny or excellent cautionary tales. The Teflon Man, for instance: he bestrode the small world of military broadcasting, providing a rich legacy of horrible gaffes, cringe-inducing miscalculations and antics which reflected no credit whatever upon the unit to which he was attached. Spend more than a couple of years as an NCO in military broadcasting, and you will know everyone, or know of everyone, and the Teflon Man was a legend, like Bigfoot or Elvis, because nothing ever seemed to stick. He had more lives than Wylie Coyote, bouncing back time and time again from incidents that would have seen any other military broadcaster sent back to civilian life, working the overnight TV board shift for the last-rated station in Sheboygan or Bakersfield.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in 25 Stories About Work | 5 Comments »

    Rebel Blood

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th June 2015 (All posts by )

    You know, as an unreconstructed Unionist descended (on the maternal side) from a sternly Abolitionist Pennsylvania Quaker who (family legend has it) maintained his house as an alternate safe station on the Underground Railway and was thrown out of the local Quaker meeting for his unseemly enthusiasm for Mr. Lincoln’s war – my affection for the Confederate battle flag, AKA the Stars and Bars – is right down there between fried liver and onions and anaesthetized root canal work. Or at least it was until this morning, when the news broke upon us. It seems that our betters, in the shape of the so-called intellectual, media, political and business elite have decided that no, we ought not to fly any version of the Confederate flag, buy any version of it embossed on various souvenir tat – or even a model of the General Lee car from a dimwitted 1980s television series, The Dukes of Hazzard – a show I don’t think I ever watched, since a merciful deity in the shape of the Air Force Personnel Center saw that I was stationed overseas for most of the years that it was on the air. And no, I don’t think I ever watched an episode of it on AFRTS. My toleration for idiot plots is low.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, Diversions | 38 Comments »

    Making Blight at Tor

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st June 2015 (All posts by )

    So everyone thought that the last of the fallout from the Sad/Rabid Puppies and the expanded field of nominees for the Hugo award and finished falling and now it was safe to come out and gambol happily in the fields of science fiction and fantasy? The much revered semi-retired founder of Tor, Tom Doherty made a handsome and diplomatic statement, stressing the fact that in no way were the opinion of MS Irene Gallo, the creative director at Tor, as posted on her personal Facebook page early in May of this year, to be mistaken for being the opinion of the publishing firm itself. But the stuff is still falling, and it’s not rain.

    MS Gallo had opined on said personal Facebook page (but a page which appeared mainly to be for publicizing Tor projects) , when someone asked about what the Sad Puppies were all about: “There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, misogynist and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.” When massive attention to this unequivocal statement was paid by outraged science fiction and fantasy writers and readers who were in sympathy with the Sad Puppies, many such felt themselves to be slandered and insulted. MS Gallo did post one of those mealy-mouthed “I’m sorry if you were offended” non-apologetic apologies farther down in the original comment thread which together with Tom Doherty’s statement appeared at first to tamp down some of the fury.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Arts & Letters, Business, Conservatism, Current Events, Diversions | 9 Comments »

    History Friday Rerun: The Legend of Sally Skull

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th June 2015 (All posts by )

    (A repeat post from late 2012)

    It was said of Texas that it was a splendid place for men and dogs, but hell for women and horses. Every now and again though, there were women who embraced the adventure with the same verve and energy that their menfolk did; and one of them was a rancher, freight-boss and horse trader in the years before the Civil War. She is still popularly known as Sally Skull to local historians. There were many legends attached to her life, some of them even backed up by public records. Her full given name was actually Sarah Jane Newman Robinson Scull Doyle Wadkins Horsdorff. She married – or at least co-habited – five times. Apparently, she was more a woman than any one of her husbands could handle for long.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, History | 2 Comments »

    History Weekend: Stephens, Townsend, Greenwood, Murphy (Pt. 2)

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 13th June 2015 (All posts by )

    The Stephens-Townsend-Greenwood-Murphy wagons struck off the main trail in the middle of August, following the wheel tracks of a group led the previous year by another mountain man and explorer, the legendary Joseph Walker. Walker’s party had followed the Humboldt River, a sluggish trickle which petered out in reed-grown marsh well short of the mountains. They had been unable to find a pass leading up into the Sierra Nevada, had gone south, abandoning their wagons near Owens Lake, and reached California by going around the mountains entirely. It would not be possible to carry sufficient supplies in packs on the backs of humans and animals for a party which contained so many women, children and babies.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History | 3 Comments »

    Private Enterprise, Public Space

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Some time since (Oh, heck was it in 2005, ten years ago? So it was.) I mused on the concept of public space, both in the general sense – of a large city – and the smaller sense, of a neighborhood … that is, the place that we live in, have our gardens and our households, where we have neighbors who know us, where we jog, walk our dogs, take an interest – from the mild to the pain-in-the-neck over-interested and judgmental. If our homes are our castles, then the neighborhood is our demesne.
    And unless we are complete hermits, home-owners will take an interest in the demesne. I state that without fear of contradiction, and it does not matter if that demesne is in a strictly-gated upper-middle or upper-class community with real-live 24-hour security, a private and luxurious clubhouse with attached pool and attractively-landscaped park or a simple ungated, strictly crisscrossed-streets and cul-de-sacs development of modestly-priced starter houses without any HOA-managed extras like golf courses, swimming pools, fitness centers, jogging paths – indeed, anything beyond a little landscaping around the sign denoting the entrance to the development. This is where our homes are, and at the lower end of the economic scale of things, likely to have consumed a major portion of disposable income on the part of the householder. A good portion of our material treasure, in other words, is committed to those foundation, walls, roof and yard.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Civil Liberties, Current Events, Law Enforcement, North America, Real Estate | 7 Comments »

    Still Not Finished With Sad Puppies

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 8th June 2015 (All posts by )

    With some apologies because this is not a matter which particularly touches me, or the books that I write, I am moved to write about this imbroglio one more time, because it seems that it didn’t end with the official Hugo awards slate of nominees being finalized – with many good and well-written published works by a diverse range of authors being put forward. The Hugo nominations appear for quite a good few years to have been dominated by one particular publisher, Tor. And it seems that the higher levels of management at Tor did not take a diminishment of their power over the Hugo nominees at all gracefully. (This post at my book blog explains the ruckus with links, for those who may be in the dark.)

    A Ms. Irene Gallo, who apparently billed as a creative director at Tor, replied thusly on her Facebook page, when asked about what the Sad Puppies were: “There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, misogynist and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Blogging, Business, Civil Society, Conservatism, Diversions, Internet, Media | 18 Comments »

    History Weekend: Stephens, Townsend, Greenwood, Murphy

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 6th June 2015 (All posts by )

    (An early version of this essay began as a sorrowful rant about the lack of good adventure movies a number of summers ago. It turned into a multi-part blog post, and then into a novel about the first wagon-train party to get their wagons over the Sierra Nevada – in winter yet. They got lost, had to break up into separate groups, were caught by winter while still in the mountains, nearly ran out of food … but unlike the Donner Party of two years later, this party managed to hang together and negotiate the mountain obstacle without any loss of life. This is part one of two.)

    In comparison to the notorious and hard-luck Donner-Reed Party, hardly anyone has ever heard of a similar wagon-train company who crossed over almost the exact same trail two years previously. The party led by Elisha Stephens and John Townsend, and advised by the old mountain-man, Caleb Greenwood, walked much of the way between the Mississippi-Missouri and the Sacramento Rivers, across plain and desert, blazed a trail up the wilderness of a steep canyon, and finally hauled wagons up a sheer mountain cliff. Generally they remain a footnote in the history books, mostly noted for being the first to bring some of their wagons up the Truckee River canyon and over the Sierra Nevada into California. There was no tireless letter-writer or professional memoirist among them, no extensive first-hand accounts, although John Townsend, a medical doctor and Mason may have kept a diary.

    In the year 1844, only a bare handful of explorers, missionaries and fur trappers had ever seen for sure what lay beyond the jumping-off points at Council Bluffs, Independence, St. Joseph. There was southern trail to Santa Fe, and beyond that to the thinly-populated enclave of Spanish and then Mexican territories in California, and a northern track which followed along the Platte River and terminated in Oregon Territory. Lewis and Clarke, and William Ashley’s fur-trapping brigades – all had gone that way, by boat, horseback or on foot. Hearing of the rich lands in the Pacific Northwest, farmers and small tradesmen also began following the siren call. This was not a journey for the impoverished. Besides a wagon, and stock to pull it, the journey required a six-month food supply, tools, clothes, bedding and cooking gear. There might be space in the wagon for books, and other small treasures, for the wagons were small, and food took up most of the space. The draft animal of choice was not the horse, as many would think. Horses were expensive, and the road was too rough in the early days for even the toughest horse in dray harness. Mules made a good showing on the southern trail, but they were also expensive. Most emigrants could better afford ox teams; four to six pair to a wagon, guided by a driver who walked by the lead team and controlled them by verbal commands.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, North America, Society | 6 Comments »

    Phoenix Rising

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 31st May 2015 (All posts by )

    So a “Draw Mohammed” event staged Friday in front of the Phoenix mosque which was attended by the two semi-literate Muslims who tried to attack the “Draw Mohammed” in Garland, Texas, a few weeks ago drew a large and rowdy crowd of armed motorcycling enthusiasts in full biker regalia and light arms. No question at all that some of the gentlemen in involved are rude, crude, provocative and pretty un-politically correct (scroll down the pictures posted on this story for proof positive) … but dammit didn’t it look like they were having fun, in making a full-throated in-your-face defense of freedom of speech as defined in the first amendment. And one without the monstrously weasel-wording “but” inserted after the statement “Well, yes, I believe in free speech…” This was incredibly refreshing after the temporizing along those lines from the usual proud defenders of the freedom to speak, write, draw, broadcast and otherwise propagate potentially offensive material in the wake of the Garland contest and shoot-out.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Current Events, Diversions, Islam | 16 Comments »

    Muddy Waters

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 25th May 2015 (All posts by )

    Well, here we have another more than normally interesting Memorial Day weekend – first for a meet-up on Saturday in Austin with several of the other contributors to the Chicagoboyz blog. This would have been the first time that we would have met face- to-face; an experience that I have had several times before but with other blogging groups. The first time was when Robin Juhl organized a meet for a handful of San Antonio bloggers, back about the time that I was still working as a corporate drone. The first few minutes were a bit painful, because Robin was the only one who knew all of our blogs. Here I go with the bright social smile, and the chirpy question, “So, what do you blog about?” The meeting eventually got quite jolly – and so did the next one, a mil-blog convention some years later. I was on a panel with five other long-time mil-bloggers, and although we had never met face to face, we all knew each other’s blogs. With this meet-up it was even more relaxed, and the only awkwardness being that none of us knew what they others really looked like, so it was a matter of looking each other over in the foyer of Gordough’s on Lamar and venturing, “Are you …?”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Current Events | 12 Comments »

    The Crossroads of History

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 22nd May 2015 (All posts by )

    Almost four years ago I wrote about how the monuments and artifacts of ancient Egypt were possibly in peril from militant Islam – those grim and sternly bearded fanatics devoted to the principal that nothing rightfully exists before or outside of Islam. It was being suggested then that the Pyramids be covered up – certainly a considerable chore, but their fellow coreligionists energetically set about destroying the ancient Bamiyan Buddhas based on the same argument. So, one might have had good cause four years ago to worry about the relics of pre-Islamic Egypt – temples, monuments, ruined cities and tombs. How many thousands of years’ worth of relics, ornaments and paintings might be at risk? Fortunately for Egypt, it seems that soberer heads have prevailed for now: after all, someday they might want the tourists to come back again.

    It is written in Psalms, “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.” We die, kingdoms and empires pass in time, but the earth endures as well as those monuments and ruins left behind. Fragments of the past, of our mutual human history usually aren’t as thick on the ground as they are in Egypt, the Middle East, Greece and Italy; if not the cradle of Western civilization, then at the very least the kindergarten playground. So the rest of us have always felt a rather proprietary interest in those relics and places. These were places written of in the Bible, in the Greek and Roman classics, in a thousand epics, poems and legends – Jerusalem, Babylon, Ur of the Chaldees, Ninevah and Tyre, Athens and Sparta … and in travel accounts like Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad, and for me – Richard Halliburton’s Book of Marvels.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, History, Islam, Just Unbelievable, Middle East, Terrorism | 16 Comments »

    A Little Lizard Relief

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st May 2015 (All posts by )

    Just Chilling on the Rain Gage Holder - Studies in Suburban Wildlife

    Just Chilling on the Rain Gage Holder – Studies in Suburban Wildlife

    Posted in Photos | 6 Comments »

    It All Comes Down to Chickens

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 16th May 2015 (All posts by )

    The coop, completed and painted.

    The coop, completed and painted.

    Granny Jessie kept chickens during the Depression – quite a lot of them, if my childhood memories of the huge and by then crumbling and disused chicken-wire enclosure, the adjoining hutch and the nesting boxes are anything to go by. Some of her neighbors went on keeping backyard livestock well into the 1960s – we occasionally sampled goose eggs at Granny Jessie’s house where we could hear a donkey braying now and again. Mom had to help care for the chickens, as child and teenager – and wound up detesting them so much that this was the one back-yard DIY farm element that we never ventured into when we were growing up. Mom hated chickens, profoundly. It seems that keeping chickens is one of those fall-back things, when hard times loom.

    But my daughter and I were considering it over the last couple of years, along with all of our other ventures into suburban self-efficiency – the garden, the cheese-making, the home-brewing and canning, the deep-freeze stocked full, the pantry likewise. I put off doing anything about chickens until two things happened: we finally encountered the woman in our neighborhood who keeps a small flock of backyard chickens, and she took us to see her flock. She told us that it was not much trouble, really, and the eggs were amazingly flavorful. In comparison, supermarket eggs – even the expensive organic and supposedly free-range kind were insipid and tasteless.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, Entrepreneurship, North America, Personal Narrative, Society, Urban Issues | 29 Comments »

    History Friday: The Real Philip Nolan

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 15th May 2015 (All posts by )

    (I don’t think this essay was ever posted here – I can’t find it by searching the archives. Enjoy. It’s also part of a collection of essays on Texas history, available on Kindle.)

    Yes, there was a real Philip Nolan, and the writer Edward Everett Hale was apparently remorseful over borrowing his name for the main character in his famous patriotic short story, The Man Without A Country. The real Philip Nolan had a country – and an eye possibly on several others, which led to a number of wild and incredible adventures. The one of those countries was Texas, then a Spanish possession, a far provincial outpost of Mexico — Mexico being a major jewel in the crown of Spain’s overseas colonies. Like the fictional Philip Nolan – supposedly a friend of Aaron Burr and entangled in the latter’s possibly traitorous schemes, the real Philip Nolan also had a friend in high places. Like Burr, this friend was neck deep in all sorts of schemes, plots and double-deals. Unlike Burr, Nolan was also this friend’s trusted employee and agent.

    That highly placed and influential friend was one James Wilkinson, sometime soldier, once and again the most senior general in the Army of the infant United States – and paid agent of the Spanish crown – acidly described by a historian of the times as never having won a battle or lost a court-martial, and another as “the most consummate artist in treason that the nation ever possessed.” Wilkinson was an inveterate plotter and schemer, with a finger in all sorts of schemes, beginning as a young officer in the Revolutionary War to the time he died of old age in 1821. The part about “dying of old-age” is perfectly astounding, to anyone who has read of his close association with all sorts of shady dealings. It passes the miraculous, how the infant United States managed to survive the baleful presence of Wilkinson, lurking in the corridors of power. It might thus be argued that our founding fathers were a shrewd enough lot, to have prevented a piece of work like Wilkinson from doing more damage than he did. It would have argued even more for their general perspicuity, though, if he had been unceremoniously shot at dawn, or hung by the neck by any one of the three countries which did business with Wilkinson – and whom he cheerfully would have sold out to any one of those others who had offered a higher bid.
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    25 Stories About Work – The Unfortunate Incident In the Base Housing Area

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th May 2015 (All posts by )

    (A retelling from my extensive archives of a certain unfortunate incident, and the efforts involved in keeping a straight face when broadcasting about it on the local radio station.)

    As it so happens with so many unfortunate incidents, it came out without much warning, and piece by piece, the first harbinger being in the form of an emergency spot announcement brought around from the front office by our admin NCO. The radio and television station at Zaragoza AB was situated in two (later three) ancient Quonset huts. The radio and engineering sections occupied the largest, which was two of them run together at some long-ago date. (We were never able to get permission to run all three buildings together with an extension— the cost of building such would be more than the real estate value of the three buildings being combined, and so, of course, it couldn’t be done. My heartfelt plea to build extensions to the existing buildings which would take them within six inches or so of the other structures and let us fill in the gap with a self-help project was routinely and cruelly rejected. Base Civil Engineering can be so f**king heartless.)

    Sgt. Herrera found the radio staff in the record library: a small, windowless room almost entirely filled with tall shelves roughed out of plywood, and filled with 12-inch record discs in heavy white or manila shucks. A GSA metal utility office desk, and a couple of library card-file cabinets filled up the rest of the available space, which was adorned with outrageous and improbable news stories clipped from the finest and most unreliable tabloids, Far Side cartoons, and current hit charts from Billboard and Radio & Record. The morning guy was putting away the records that he had pulled for his show, the news guy was using the typewriter, and I was supervising it all, and prepping my playlist for the midday show.

    “The SPs want this on the air right away.” He handed the slip of paper to me. “The dogs are real dangerous.”
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    Posted in 25 Stories About Work, Humor, Miscellaneous | 5 Comments »

    Tired of it All

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 5th May 2015 (All posts by )

    So it seems that Baltimore (or maybe I should call it Balti-less) has decided to go all out, screw their civic courage to the sticking-point, and prosecute the police officers involved in the curious and to date unexplained death of Freddy Grey while in custody of those aforementioned officers for murder. Well, yay them, I suppose, although the fearless public prosecutor certainly may have overcharged in general and overcharged regarding the officers in charge, not to mention releasing the wrong personal details regarding two of those charged. Apparently, those details – age, middle initials, occupation, addresses, etc. are those of two completely different people with the same first and last name. This does not bode well, making a goof like this right off the bat.
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    Posted in Islam, Religion, Terrorism, The Press | 31 Comments »