Vienna of Memory

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that the city of Vienna pops up rather often. I grew up listening to Mozart and other classical composers, so I sort of knew that Vienna = good music. Vienna was not my first overseas city.* That would be Melbourne, Australia, followed by Canberra and Sydney, then London, Zürich, and Luzern. But Vienna imprinted in a way none of the others ever did, and I have been back there, um, (wiggles fingers) five times, maybe six. I’d have to check. Dad Red has been there far more, because Vienna was/is a gateway into the former Soviet Union.  When things get especially irritating in the real world of here and now, I let my imagination roam east, to Vienna. Continue reading

Saturday Snippet

This is an excerpt from one of the chapters of the next plus one Cat novel. Rada has gone to Drakon IV for some peace and quiet. You’d think by now she’d know better . . .

“Fewmets!” Commander Rada Lord Ni Drako spun around and ran toward the sounds, teeth clenched against the pain spiking from her bad knee. She ducked a low branch, went around a clump of crimson-claw, and swung wide of the weeping spring. She slowed as soon as she caught a glimpse of Azdhagi in motion. Four on one, and the one was a female with an improvised pole arm of some kind. Oh hell no, not on my lands you don’t. Rada braced the naginata for a stabbing attack and charged, aiming for the back of the male closest to the young female. “Ni Drako hai!”

The blade slipped between his ribs. Rada slid it sideways and out, pulling free of the dying reptile. She spun the blade up, blocking a second male’s blow with the stout wooden pole, dodged and found herself between the remaining males and the female. The larger of the two came at Rada with a scythe, swinging high to behead her. Rada feint-blocked, ducked, and stabbed him in the throat just above the neck spines. He dropped the scythe and staggered, brown blood gushing.

Thunk, thunk! Rada spun in time to see the female delivering a third blow to her attacker’s head. Her small wooden pole cracked but he went down hard. The fourth male disappeared, probably fleeing into the forest. Rada planted the iron-shod end of the naginata into the rocky soil and leaned on it. The female tried to copy her but the pole broke. Continue reading

Conservation and Environmentalism Part 3

(Apologies if this rambles a bit. It was written after a grading marathon and done mostly from memory.)

By the late 1950s to early 1960s we see a divide within the conservation movement broadly defined, with the old-school wise use conservationists diverging from the neoRomantic wilderness and preservation advocates. They agreed that “nature” needed to be protected rather than squandered, and that governmental resources should be used for this protection because the areas of concern often crossed state lines. But a new sense of urgency and a push to lock-away habitats and landscapes from development and “exploitation” had developed after WWII, drawing on the old Romantic sense of the intrinsic value of “nature” and the role of wilderness in spiritual and moral development. A book about pesticide overuse caught a lot of readers’ attention just as the Wilderness Act created new roadless and trailless parks. And then the Cuyahoga River caught fire and the Bureau of Reclamation tried to build a dam within Grand Canyon National Monument, and the “environmental movement” was born. Continue reading

Conservation and Environmentalism Part 2

Conservation as practiced in the late 1800s-1914 or so was about “wise use.” This could be of something like timber, the concern for which led to the creation of the Forest Service and the importation of “scientific forestry” from Germany to the US in the 1890s-1900s, or game species. It is easy to forget that sport hunters founded the first well-funded conservation groups, and pushed for laws banning pot-hunting and large-scale commercial hunting. The question people asked was “what is the best use of the land, for the most benefits for the most people for the longest time?” In some places that meant restricting logging in order to keep trees so that the snowpack would melt more slowly and provide more water to the rivers year-round. In other places it meant cutting out the oldest, largest trees to allow for younger, fresher growth, and suppressing all fires in order to protect timber resources. BUT there were always a number of voices arguing for the protection of plants and animals and landscapes because they were plants, animals, and landscapes. This is the “beauty” aspect of what Samuel P. Hays called Beauty, Health, and Permanence. Continue reading

Conservation and Environmentalism Part 1

Blogger note: there are a number of books that go into detail about the history of the ideas of environmental management and the divergence between what is now called conservation and modern environmentalism. These posts are just skimming the topic, and I will have a reading list in the last post for those really interested in learning more]

We hear a great deal today (2016) about environmentalism, but not as much about conservation, unless it is of a specific thing, like water conservation, or certain specific applications (the Law of the Conservation of Energy). In some ways, conservation is the older of the two, but you can find the roots of environmentalism going back to the Romantic Movement of the early to mid 1800s. This post is going to cover the period before 1910 or so. Continue reading


For some reason, I just can’t seem to write a story without religion in it. I suspect it comes from two things. First, I’ve studied a lot of religious history so I’m not-quite primed to see it in cultures and events. Second, because of the trend in sci-fi from the 1950s-1980s to omit religion or to make it the bogey-man of corrupting superstition and social control. Religion forms a critical sub-plot in the Elizabeth novels and in the other Colplatschki books to varying degrees. Rada Ni Drako’s conversion to Christianity sets up some of the internal conflicts that explode in the next Cat novel and some of the external conflicts that play a role in the following book. Religious change and an end-times belief drive part of the plots of Renaissance and Hubris. So it should come as no surprise that religion pops up again in the currently-called Rajworld books. Continue reading


“Where have I heard that before?”

I was reading about the discovery of the Wolfcamp oil shale in the Permian Basin, and I freely admit, dancing a little in my chair. I’m a conservationist, not an environmentalist of the current style, and I have no problem with hydraulic fracturing properly done. And anything that cuts into the oil revenue for certain Bad People gets at least a little of my support. But where had I heard the term before? It was one of those little things that nag at you from time to time. Because I kept thinking “Wolfcampian” not Wolfcamp.

The entire eastern lobe is labeled Wolfcamp in most general media depictions.

The entire eastern lobe is labeled Wolfcamp in most general media depictions.

Continue reading