Forest and Steppe and History

I tended to avoid Russian history until recently. Like the region it covers, the field is vast, with a tangled historiography and (until a brief archive window opened, then snapped shut) a paucity of really good, recent books in English. And most books tended to focus on 1) the Revolution, 2) the Great Patriotic War (aka WWII) or 3) what little about the Soviet Union was available to western writers. Good books about pre 1917 Russia were rather sparse if you were not a specialist. But I read enough to sense that historians of Russia had a similar Sonderweg discussion to historians of modern Germany. Why wasn’t Russia/ the USSR like Western Europe? Continue reading


Unseen Lands, Imagined Landscapes

How do you envision places you have not yet seen? Not imaginary worlds, but say you are reading a history of a place unfamiliar to you, and there are no photographs. Or the illustrations show only the town and not the surroundings. How do you envision the surrounding area, and why?

It ain't flat! © 2014 Hecktic Travels | (

It ain’t flat! © 2014 Hecktic Travels | (×649.jpg)

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The Cat at Christmas


Is Commander Na Gael in her right mind? Or at least, in what passes for her right mind, allowing for Rachel’s normal state?  Sgt. Wolfgang Weber and Major Sandra Monroe have their doubts.


So does Rachel. Until a creature as old as Britain itself intervenes.

Ring out, wild (Blue) Bells

(With a minor apology to Alfred Lord Tennyson.)

Blue Bell ice cream is back!!!!!! So what if there is snow on the ground (we got 5″ yesterday), it is not yet above freezing, and there’s two cartons of Braums ice cream in the freezer already. That’s not the point. This is Blue Bell, the (un)official ice cream of Texas.

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House Measles?!?

I love Christmas lights, most of them. The blue LEDs mess with my vision and can be a touch overwhelming in large masses. And I am a firm believer that you can have too much of a good thing. People in the Texas Panhandle take a keen delight in decorating their houses for Christmas (and cars, but that’s a different story) and I am happy to walk around the neighborhoods and appreciate their time and effort. We decorate Redquarters, usually in multi-colored stripes. Which my sibling and I used to mess with, changing the timers so some faded in and out, some flashed, and some flickered on and off up and down the length of the strings of lights. The people across the street must have wondered if they needed to see a neurologist. Continue reading