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(I meant to have a historical piece about an early and most mysterious resident of San Francisco ready for posting today, but … good intentions and all that, plus we were struck by sudden inspiration for the next Luna City Chronicle … which has been selling nicely and has some nice reviews on Amazon. Yes, there will be at least several more Luna City volumes – especially since the first book ends on a cliff-hanger, we haven’t gotten around to more than a handful of Luna City citizens, and I am convinced more than ever now, that light and amusing trifles are necessary diversions in bleak times.)
Early on an August Sunday morning, Miss Leticia McAllister combed out her long grey hair, rolling and neatly pinning it into an old-fashioned hair-net, and surveyed her appearance in the dressing table mirror. The hat, gloves and scarf that she would wear against the chill – for the sanctuary of the First Methodist Church of Luna City was enthusiastically air-conditioned against the blistering heat of a Texas late summer – all lay in order on the dressing table, next to Miss Letty’s Sunday handbag, which held a fresh handkerchief, her house keys, and the envelope with her weekly offering. Hat, bag, scarf and all carefully matched, and coordinated beautifully with the colors of Miss Letty’s flowered and full-skirted summer dress.
I never had beauty or elegance, Miss Letty told her reflection, with clinical satisfaction – but I could manage chic by paying attention, and I had the brains enough to be charming. Alice was the one for elegance! Oh, my – did she turn heads! Hard to believe it has been seventy-one years to the day. Every man in Schilo’s Delicatessen on Commerce on VJ-Day – they all turned to look at her, as she came in the door. You could have heard a pin drop; I think most of them thought that a movie star had come to San Antonio, but she was really only the chief secretary to an insurance company manager, for all that she was only twenty-four. And he kept trying half-heartedly to seduce her, the wretched little Lothario. She wrote complaining about that to me, all the time that I was in England, and then in France. Alice had a hatpin, though – and she could use it, too.Read the rest of this entry »
He was an abrasive man, as his nickname suggests – and had very little of soothing diplomacy in him. A soft-spoken and conciliatory manner might have served him better over the long run through the duration of his tour as the American commander of Chinese troops in Burma during WWII, but considering the dire situation there in March of 1942, perhaps irascible and decisive better served the immediate situation. A 1904 graduate of the US Military Academy, General Joseph Warren Stilwell had a particular talent for languages – to include blistering invective, written and spoken Chinese, field tactics and the training of soldiers. He had come to Burma to take charge of reorganizing the nationalist Chinese military forces there … just the Allied defense of South-east Asia crumbled under a vigorous Japanese offensive. The invasion of Burma was intended to cut off the land route which supplied China, blockaded along the coast by the Japanese. War materiel for China reached there only by ship via the Burmese port of Rangoon and thence by truck, traveling 700 miles over the Burma Road. This ran from Lashio to Kunming and Yunnan; a perilous track hacked out by hand labor through jungle and over steep mountains several years earlier. Read the rest of this entry »
There’s actually a lot more going here than meets the eye. First, a structural model of the building is created. Buildings and bridges are overbuilt, such that the structure is capable of supporting considerably more load than it’s actually required to hold. This allows for minor failures to occur during the construction and life of the building without it collapsing. Once the model is built, they determine what support members may be removed without collapsing the structure, taking it from a safety factor of 1.5 (50% stronger than necessary) to 1 (just strong enough to stand). The analysis is carried out or overseen by structural engineers.
Next, charges are laid on some support members, like columns and beams, but not others. The idea is to leave parts of the building connected by steel girders to parts that will fall so they get pulled in that direction and fall on top of the pile. Gravity does the actual demolition, the charges just break the supports.
Finally, the charges are detonated in a careful sequence. First are a series of weakening charges that remove the 50% of support safety margin, then the building is collapsed from bottom to top and (usually) from the center outwards to the periphery, with the back and sides being pulled into the center debris pile.
It is that time of year again, isn’t it? To review the past year and look to the next, and make those personal resolutions and decisions; I’ve done a post on this subject several times in past years. I’ve made resolutions late in December or early in January and twelve months later, tallied them up. Usually the tallying up came out with a score overall of 75% achieved. Alas; the backyard is still not a bountiful truck garden and orchard of edibleness; nor are my books on any kind of best-seller list – nor even above five figures in the overall Amazon author rankings, a position which I reach intermittently and usually on the occasion of a new book being released or an Instapundit link. Read the rest of this entry »
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. Read the rest of this entry »
I was half-heartedly working on a post about zero interest rates but my heart wasn’t even half in it. So I picked up these kayak-rolling videos from my dealer.
Last year I attended a rolling class put on by the couple who produced the videos. They are fun people and outstanding instructors. They travel and give rolling clinics around the world. I recommend them highly if you are into this kind of thing, which not everyone is.
(An updated version of a post from some years ago, presented for your diversion. I confess that things to do with real life, the Tiny Publishing Bidness and my busy schedule of book-related events have been coming thick and fast. I have about three posts on various topics planned, half-written and nearly complete, but, alas — this will have to do for now.)
Among my regular chores as regards maintenance of the various sites that I own and administer is that of emptying out the spam queue – which, unless there is more than a couple of hundred entries in it – I feel obliged to do a quick pass-over just to make sure that no ones legitimate comment has been caught in the spam torrent. This does happen, on occasion. But the most marvelous part is that none of the automated comment spam has ever “leaked” into the blog portions of The Daily Brief, Celia Hayes Books & More, and the new addition to the Sgt. Mom family of websites, LunaCityTexas.com, thus depriving readers of a handy link with which to purchase or download a dizzying variety of pharmaceutical products, porn, online games of chance, fake designer products, and cell phone ring tones. (Alas, sometimes legitimate comments are caught in the spam queue.) Every once in a while, there is a spam which looks like a completely conventional and legitimate business; a spam with somewhat of an embarrassed look to it, as if not being able to figure out how it got into such disreputable company. But such are very rare – and since I do not click on the links, I have no way of knowing if they are indeed legitimate – or just generated by someone who is a little cleverer about disguising themselves. Read the rest of this entry »
(Explanation here.) We spent Thursday afternoon and all of Friday in the town of Giddings, Texas, for the 10th Annual Word Wrangler Festival. The organizers gathered together more than thirty writers, for a community bash at the library/community center, followed by bringing in busloads of school children to the library to meet the lot of us, talk about our books, and to encourage them to explore books … it was a lovely way to spend the day. And we were faintly boggled on the drive up to discover that yes, there is actually some deep pinewood forest in this part of Texas. (The woods on the opposite side of the highway were relatively un-scorched by the fire.
And we brought home take-out BBQ brisket, pork and chicken from the Giddings City Meat Market, which is supposed to be one of the top best BBQ places in the state,
(A diversion, in the form of an excerpt explaining the background and history of Luna City, especially one of the most prominent and long-established local extended family. This is forming up to be one of my next books, hopefully finished by the end of the year.)
The main farm-to-market county road, which skims past Luna City does not actually go into the heart of Luna, per se. The old McAllister house is there, of course, set back from the roadside in a lavish and well-tended garden set out in Victorian design – a lady tastefully withdrawing her immaculate skirt from the dirt of vulgar commerce and transportation. The house itself is set at a slight but perceptible angle from the roadway itself, which the cognoscenti know is proof that the house predates the road by any number of years. Miss Letty McAllister, whose family home this is – is now in her mid 90s, the oldest living inhabitant of Luna City, and the living repository of civic memory, public and private. It has been at least twenty years since Miss Letty has seen to maintaining the garden; one of the myriad Gonzalez-with-an-z family enterprises sees to that.
The sprawling and interrelated clans of Gonzales-with-an-s and the Gonzalez-with-a-z are acknowledged freely by all Luna-ites to be the oldest family in the area – their shifting residency within five or six miles of the place where the road between San Antonio and the coast crosses the river – where Luna City would come to be – predates the founding by at least a hundred and twenty years and possibly more. There are supposed to be records in the colonial archives in Madrid, Spain, of a royal grant to a Don Diego Manuel Hernando Ruiz y Gonzalez or Gonzales of a league and a labor of land in the area. In 1968, there was a careful archeological excavation made of the foundations of a small adobe brick building not far from the present-day main gate to the Wyler Lazy-W Ranch. The results were included in A Brief History of Luna City, since Dr. McAllister was privy to the reports of findings. It was judged to be a residence by the eminent archeologist from San Antonio who oversaw the dig – but a relatively comfortless and primitive one: two thick-walled rooms, sheltering humans in one and draft animals and goats in the other. Read the rest of this entry »
The 2015 Hugo awards were given out over last weekend, at Worldcon in Spokane, and the meltdown is ongoing. The commentary on this at the follow-up post at According to Hoyt has gone over 1,000 comments, a record that I haven’t seen on a blog since the heyday of a certain blog that is not mentioned any more (but whose name referenced small verdantly-colored prolate spheroids). I’ll admit, right from the get-go, that as a writer and blogger I have no real dog in this fight over the Hugo awards – not even the smallest of timid and depressed of puppies, but I did feel enough of an interest in it to post about it a couple of times. I merely observe with sympathy as an interested internet ‘friend’ and fan of some of those who are deeply involved, rather than a directly-involved author. I love Connie Willis’s books and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga, used to love Marion Zimmer Bradley – alas, my collection of her books is now boxed and moldering away in the garage . My science fiction and ‘con’ activity extends only as far as having an entire run of Blakes’ 7 taped on VHS from when it was broadcast on KUED in Salt Lake City in the 1990s, having gone to the Salt Lake City ‘con several times, and once to the Albuquerque ‘con’ when it happened to be on a weekend at the time I was TDY to Kirtland AFB for a senior NCO leadership class. I had a marvelous time, on all those occasions … but my personal writing concentration is on historical fiction, and to a lesser extent, socio/political blogging.
(A diversion for a Friday – a bit of my own and my daughter’s version of a Texas version of Lake Woebegon or Cecily; the chronicles of Luna City, the small Texas town that the railway bypassed in the 1880s, which has a hopeless high school football team but a splendid marching band … )
Oh, what is there to say about Mills Farm, the destination event-venue, country-themed retail emporium, petting zoo, specimen garden, and country amusement park just to the south of Luna City which has not been said a thousand times already in expensive full-page advertisements in glossy lifestyle and travel magazines, or in television spots that are enticing mini-movies all crammed into sixty seconds? Because Mills Farm is owned and run by a large corporation who also own and run many similar properties – all tailored to local idiom and conditions – star-scattered across the United States and Europe, the money and expertise is most definitely there.
(A diversion – the surprising high school football traditions in Luna City. This particular project is coming right along, and may yet be my next book. More chapters are posted at my book website, here.)
The marquee sign outside Luna City High School makes note of the fact that the school is home to the Mighty Fighting Moth Football Team – District Champions – 1967 – 1971 – 1974. That there is only a small space left to insert another champion year or two is clear indication that the Mighty Fighting Moths football coach, school administrators and team boosters have completed their journey through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and accepted the sure and certain knowledge that there will likely never be another district championship in their future with quiet fortitude. It’s not that the Moths lack heart and determination; players and boosters alike begin each football season in the spirit of game optimism, and in the hope that maybe this year the Karnesville Knights or the Falls City Beavers – which are the two regional football powerhouses and die-hard rivals – will not be able to defeat them 80+ to 6 with the casual absentmindedness of a man swatting a fly while thinking of something important. Texans live for high school football; it is simply the expected thing to do, and Luna-ites are heart and soul Texans, even those who came from somewhere else, like the Walcotts or the Steins, or Chris who bartends and manages the Ice House, Gas & Grocery.
(Yes, as a break from the glum seriousness of war, nuclear Iran, international terrorism and Planned Parenthood operating a chop shop for baby parts, it’s time for another adventure in Luna City, the small town in Texas where eccentricity does not just run in the streets – it stampedes through them in herds) Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Diversions, USA | Comments Off on A Diversion – Luna City: The End of the Road
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 »
“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 »
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 »
Recently I was on the “606” Trail and visited one of my favorite spots in Chicago – “Margie’s Candies“. Margie’s makes incredible ice cream sundaes that must be seen to be believed – and they come with an actual silver pitcher of hot fudge that you can pour on the ice cream yourself. Usually I would start with a photo of the restaurant but I wanted to make sure that the “money shot” is above the fold.
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 »