Role Models?

Do you need role models that are just like you? Can a girl imagine being a pilot or astronaut without having women astronauts visible? What about journalists and historians, national leaders and brain surgeons? Can an African-American child dream of becoming a fighter pilot if they never get to see African-American fighter pilots? Are such role models necessary, or am I just exceedingly odd? I ask because I don’t recall seeing any female pilots live and in person until I became one and discovered that if you go to airports, you are far more likely to encounter them (although pilots are not that common and women pilots are less common. Women mechanics are scarce as hen’s teeth, and having worked on planes, I can guess why.) I read about women who flew planes, mostly way back when (Amelia Earhart and company). Continue reading

Dust in the Night

The storms rolled through to the south, turning the southern sky a deep blue-black that heralded heavy weather for someone. The wind out of the south carried a hint of moisture, but not much. By six in the evening, you could see paler grey clouds cutting across the sky to the north, darkening to the east, and virga veils starting to drift down. In the west, a large gap of clear or cirrus draped sky warned that no one should get their hopes up. The evening walkers stayed close to home, just in case, and every few minutes, a gust of wind bearing a tantalizing hint of rain-wet and damp dirt smell crossed the city. Drier puffs always followed. The virga failed to touch ground. The dry line staggered back and forth before draping itself on a frustrating diagonal northeast to southwest across the Panhandle. Continue reading

Rebuilding- From What?

One common theme of End Of the World As We Know It (EOTWAWKI) novels, and an always interesting discussion topic, is how do you rebuild society after [insert disaster here]? What minimum technological level do you need in order to pick up the pieces of the 20th century and get things running again? I think we tend to both over and under-estimate what is necessary. I say this because I was cleaning out my closet and found the overhaul manual for a Pratt and Whitney Double-Wasp engine.

A few, small, moving parts. Nothing too complicated.

A few, small, moving parts. Nothing too complicated.

The R-2800 was a relatively common WWII high performance engine, found in the Hellcat, Bearcat, Tigercat, B-26 Marauder and a “few” other planes. I have not tangled with one yet, but I grabbed the manual and a lot of other overhaul and repair books when a technical college was being converted to a liberal-arts junior college. Yes, I dove the dumpster. No, I have no idea when I will ever need these things, they are shedding bits of paper and faux-leather, and weigh a ton. But you never know . . .

The R-2800 is a complicated machine in itself. Even simple four or five cylinder air-cooled, carbaurated engines are complicated, because they are finicky. You have to get the rods and cam shaft balanced and in the proper round. The pistons and piston rings must fit just so, with a tiny amount of space (like, hundredths of an inch), ditto the valves and their guides. Just look at one cylinder and you can see how much machining is required to get all the parts made, then to make them fit as snugly as they have to. And these are not as touchy or complicated as later engines. And working on a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine? Eh, they squeezed so much into such a small space that you can never get to what needs fixin’. Because the easy to reach things never break. Murphy and all that. And it was perfected in 1942.

Think about that. No computer design, no computer models to use to test materials. The plans were drawn by hand, the parts machined by hand, measured with hand tools, adjusted by hand with the aid of pneumatic power tools (sometimes.) The math was done with a slide rule. Computers would have been nice but were and are not necessary. Electricity? Necessary for refining the aluminium and for running the compressors that created the high-pressure air for some tools, but again, there are ways around that.

But think about the tools that made the parts, and the tools that made the tools. That’s where things get complicated, the proverbial 90% of the iceberg underwater. You can’t wave your hand and create lock-washers, safety wire, piston rings, 140 octane (!) aviation gasoline, and other things. That’s where the EOTWAWKI stuff tends to fall flat for me. I know the industrial history and some background, and you need tools to make tools to make stuff. I have no idea how to run an industrial lathe, or to smelt metals and cast a cylinder head. I know the theory, and I’ve seen old films of it being done. But me? Nope. I have a book understanding of how Victorian-era belt-driven machinery and steam engines work, but I have no idea how to put them together or run them.

Can you recreate an oil refinery from scratch, or even a way to make lamp oil (kerosine)? Do you know a machinist who could make a cylinder, or camshaft, or that R-2800? That’s the kind of knowledge and tools a lot of authors and others seem to miss in many of the zombie/Carrington Event/EMP/unspecified disaster books and shows. Granted, if we need Hellcats and B-17s and B-25s again, we’ve got a passel of other problems to sort out as well.

Amor de me Alma

I’ve gotten to sing this, and it kicked my inspiration button hard.

The original text is from a poem written by Garcilaso de la Vega, Sonnet V, starting with the 9th line:


“Escrito está en mi alma vuestro gesto,

y cuanto yo escribir de vos deseo;

vos sola lo escribisteis, yo lo leo tan solo,

que aun de vos me guardo en esto.

En esto estoy y estaré siempre puesto;

que aunque no cabe en mí cuanto en vos veo,

de tanto bien lo que no entiendo creo,

tomando ya la fe por presupuesto.

Yo no nací sino para quereros;

mi alma os ha cortado a su medida;

por hábito del alma mismo os quiero.

Cuando tengo confieso yo deberos;

por vos nací, por vos tengo la vida,

por vos he de morir, y por vos muero.”

I could hear Joschka reciting it. It fits his character in several different ways. It was written in the 1530s by a soldier/courtier/poet, which sort-of describes Joschka (although he’d deny it vehemently). Except that wouldn’t quite work in the story, and so Rada picks it up. Where? Well, you’ll have to wait and find out.

I Need a Predator

. . . or a shotgun permit. For some reason the municipal leaders frown on people cleaning out cedar trees infested with starlings and grackles inside the city limits by using a 12 ga. Look, if the Most High had not intended for us to use birdshot, we would not have birdshot.

The other evening I went for a stroll just at sundown. It was a lovely evening, with a soft, striped sunset sky and gentle winds. A few birds chirped here and there, and all was well with my soul. Until I got to the next block, and a cacophony of cackles and caws erupted, spreading as I walked. Grackles and starlings streaked overhead, going from one pine or cedar to another, drowning out everything short of a lawn mower as they screamed at each other. Ugh. Continue reading

New Release and Sale!!

Renaissance: A Novel of Azdhag Survival is now live and at a starter’s discount of $2.99


Hubris, the prequel, is on Kindle Countdown for $.99 through the 17th of April.Hubris_Cover_1500x2400

Some days, a reptile just wants a good beer.

How hard can it be to keep a colony planet in the Empire? Well, it wouldn’t be as challenging if it weren’t for dragging along the Prince Imperial and confronting the King-Emperor’s possibly-insane brother.

Poor Tartai. He just wants to cut logs, have a good beer, and keep his family fed and housed. Alas, his father, the late Lord Tarkeela, is still remembered by the Powers That Be. Tartai wants nothing to do with the Court. The King Emperor has other plans, as Drakon IV and the Empire threaten to come apart at the seams two generations after the genetic disaster that led to the Great Relocation.

Welcome to the Jungle

Someone needs to tell the plants that the last freeze is not usually until after April 15.

This here is what we call irrational exuberance.

This here is what we call irrational exuberance.

Ebb Tide Rising!

Ebb Tide Rising!

Musterd-n-Ketchup anyone?

Musterd-n-Ketchup anyone?

So one side of Redquarters requires a face shield, gauntlets, chainsaw chaps, aw heck, just get a set of Master Chief’s armor from HALO and some ties so we can pull back some of the rambler (just out of the picture) and Leidie Rose’s overflow.

A more modest specimin

A more modest specimen

You know what I’m going to be doing after the concerts next week. As Goethe put it “Roslein sagt, “Ich steche dich, das du ewig denkst an mich.” Roslein, Roslein, Rolsein rot, Roslein auf der Heiden.”*

Transl: The rosebud said, “I’ll stab you so that you will always remember me,” Rosebud, rosebud, rosebud red, Rosebud from the moor-land.


Is History Hard?

Yes and no. The trick is to take hard history and make it look effortless, so readers or students think, “Well of course that’s how it was. Why didn’t I see that earlier? It’s so simple.”

The class I teach is a foundations of history class. The students are building the foundation and scaffolding for understanding the past, setting up a framework to hang other things on. This is difficult. Names, dates, and places don’t flow when you are hearing them for the first time. It doesn’t help that there is also a lot of social history and special-interest history crammed in with the major names-places-dates, and the students don’t know how to pick out what is most important, yet. They will, some of them. Some people never grok history, which I think is a tragic shame, but then I’m math challenged, and the calculus teacher looks at me as a poor benighted ‘eathen who could do it if she just tried harder. Ditto the college-level chemistry teacher. Continue reading

As the Pages Turn

It’s easy. You just stand there, and when the time is right, you reach over, turn the page in the music book, and then stand for a while more, then repeat as needed until the song ends. No problems, right?

Sorry, had to catch my breath after laughing.

I was leaving the church two weeks ago late on a weekday afternoon when one of the older ladies, a retired first-grade teacher, stopped me. “What are you doing here? There is no religion class meeting today, no choir rehearsal . . ?”

“I was practicing with Mr. McConnell* for his recital. I’m turning pages.”

An arched eyebrow. “That is not too difficult.” With the implication that rehearsing such a thing was a little odd. Continue reading