Ode to the Card Catalog

Those of you ripe enough in years and wisdom to have used a card catalog, a real one, raise your hands, please. That’s what I thought. Those of you too young to have had the pleasure – I’m not being sarcastic – of the original card catalog won’t miss the institution, but some of us feel the loss rather keenly. There are some things the card system did better than all the electronic cataloguing software packages I’ve worked with thus far.

Olde School search system. From an article entitled “The Card Catalog is officially dead.”

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A Charlemagne what?!?

Look carefully at the picture below:

Charlemagne, A. Dürer, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg

Keep that image in mind.

Back in June, my folks and I stopped at an Autohof on one of the Autobahns. These are combination restaurants, convenience stores, coffee-shops, sometimes gas stations, news-stands, play-grounds, and always, places to use the restrooms. Continue reading

Looking at Streams: When Poetry Hits Engineering

A re-print, since Rosgen classification got mentioned yesterday…

A lovely stream dances and sparkles down the side of a mountain meadow. Sunlight glints off the wet rocks in the cold water, and in a few still, tree-shadowed pools, the flash of a shadow hints at the presence of trout. A few water striders scoot over the surface. Farther downstream, the little brook slows and spreads gaining the title of River and picking up a little silt, no longer cold and diamond clear but a touch muddy, especially after rain. It winds slowly, starting to meander across the plateau that sits between the mountains to the west and the broken, mesa-capped plains to the east.

Or I could say that the stream went from a Rosgen Aa2+ in a Type II valley to an A/II and then a G4/VIII.

Which description is better? It depends: are you a poet or an engineer? Because both paragraphs mean the same thing. Continue reading

Riffle, Pool, Riffle, Water bottle, Pool…

Um, yeah, so I was doing stream classification on a gutter the other morning. Why? Because I was. For reasons known only to water and whoever laid this section of gutter, there’s a fifty foot or so section that has a very nice riffle-pool sequence much like an ideal stream reach, complete with knickpoint and thalweg.


OK. Rewind a bit. When hydrology-types describe streams, creeks, brooks, rivers, bayous to each other, we use some in-field jargon and a numerical classification system developed by a gent named Dave Rosgen (who studied under Luna Leopold, the son of Aldo Leopold.). Streams [bodies of flowing water of any size] have certain characteristics no matter what the stream looks like. There are shallow areas with obstructions called riffles, deeper areas where the water flows more smoothly called pools, and a center of the active channel called the thalweg. Places where bedrock controls erosion (often marked by a waterfall of some kind) are knickpoints. Continue reading

Friday Excerpt: Imperial Magic

The book is fighting me. Ewoud Gaalnar Rhonarida is a challenging character to write.

Why did he have to work the crane? Ewoud panted, legs aching. That’s why they’d brought apprentices. Probably because Maarsdam frowned on something Ewoud had done, and so was punishing him. “Stop!” Ewoud and the three other men slowed their steps, grabbing the beams of the crane wheel for balance as the enormous machine slowed and stopped. Bits of sunlight darted through a few gaps in the roof and walls, but the heavy wood muffled the sounds of unloading. Ewoud heard wood creak and took a tighter grip as men outside the crane grunted with effort, pushing the beam that turned the crane. The four inside reversed directions. Ewoud wiped sweat off his face and tried to pant more quietly. “Forward!” He started walking, driving the wheel with his feet. It was too bad they couldn’t use water power for the cranes like they did for mills.

Ewoud and the others staggered out of the crane some time later. The sun had moved and was within three hand-spans of the western horizon. “Over here,” Meester Hajo called. Tears of pain burned Ewoud’s eyes as he teetered over to the wagons. “Lucky you, you get to ride this afternoon. We’re leaving to get outside the walls by sundown. Get in.” Ewoud started to ask if he could have some water, then changed his mind and clambered into the wagon. Instead of great-haulers, something that looked like giant schaef but with heavier legs and stubby horns pulled the wagons. The beasts had short-clipped white hair, like the wild schaef of the wastes and mountains. Did they smell as bad wet as schaef did? Ewoud decided that he’d rather not find out. Continue reading

Re-name and Remove: Cleaning up the Past

So by now most of you have heard about the American Library Association re-naming one of their major awards. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/06/25/laura-ingalls-wilders-name-stripped-from-childrens-book-award-over-little-house-depictions-of-native-americans/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.1e0b9922e0c0

The attitudes of the 1860s through 1880s are not proper and must be expunged from the record, along with people who wrote about them. Never mind that one of the last major attacks by Native Americans—several hundred settlers killed—against Euro-Americans was in Minnesota in 1862.

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Retail, Recovery, and Familiars

Lelia staggers back to work, and Morgana wears out an old joke…

Arthur was not pleased when Lelia dragged in on Saturday. “I trust you don’t plan on getting day-old poultry in the future.”

“No sir! I though I’d cooked it well enough and got it into the ‘fridge fast enough, but something was really off.” She set Tay’s carrier on the floor and he scrambled out, then dove behind something for cover. “It didn’t smell funny or look funny, but I’ll never do that again, I promise.”

“Good. Because I was running much too hard yesterday. The good news is the late-summer slump appears to be easing, although there’s still the school-start crash to get through.” Arthur pointed to the work area. “Go unload the latest delivery, please, while I finish totaling out from yesterday evening.”

Lelia still wasn’t feeling especially chipper, but she worked as hard as she dared. Supper last night and breakfast that morning seemed to be staying put, but her mind kept going back to the second-hand memories from the stone and making her brain queasy, if that made sense. No, it doesn’t make sense, Lelia snarled when she stopped to drink some cold water and refill the little fridge. But I don’t have words to describe how it feels. And I want it gone. She knew what would make it go away, and knew where to get the drugs and booze. No. She made herself stop, breathe deeply and slowly, and relaxed her shoulders, then her back. She set the water aside and stretched back and forth, then side to side, counting breaths  as she did. The craving faded, enough that she could ignore it. “Unpack. That’s your jo—Oh dear.” Continue reading