A Bit of a Dilemma

I’m feeling rather grumbly just now because several developers are putting large swaths of tract housing, more retail space, and other buildings around western and southern Amarillo. This irks me because 1) anyone who insists on building houses in a playa bottom should be thumped with the consequences stick until they see reason, 2) I prefer hawks and mockingbirds to the kind of development shown in the fancy drawings on the news, 3) I’d rather see infilling and all that downtown development that was SUPPOSED to have happened 15-20 years ago and that far too much tax money has been, in my opinion, squandered on not doing, and 4) I firmly believe that the property owners have every right to do with their land what they see fit, so long as it does not endanger anyone else. You can see where #4 causes my problem. Continue reading



“Just how many [thing] do you need, anyway?”

“One more.”

I see heads nodding and a few wry, and possibly rueful grins. My father does woodwork and cabinet making. He has more planes than Boeing. He has more saws than Carter makes liver pills.*

Found in fine apothacarys (and medical museums).

Found in fine apothecaries (and medical museums).

Between Dad’s woodworking tools and my sheet metal and engine stuff, we are in decent shape if we need to rebuild something smaller than a house. And a friend of the family who lives pretty close has a drill press and other heavy-duty stuff. With all the requisite bits and pieces, and is probably in the market for one more. Because you always need one more. Dad even has a plane that’s 18″ long that he got from someone who had bought a lot of tools at an estate auction and didn’t know what to do with this behemoth. You use it for doors and long planks and some framing, or so one of the catalogues says. Truing it was a bit of a trick, but it now has its own slot in the shelf and an extra-large protective sock to keep out moisture.

I can’t really wag a finger. I have my own N+1. Petticoats and jackets. How many petticoats does one woman need, even if she does wear quasi-Victorian clothes twice or three times a week? One more, that’s all. You can’t wear white with cream. Some are fuller, some are fancier, there’s a flannel version that is wonderfully warm and acts as a crinoline almost. And they wear out at the waist. You can mend and patch them to an extent, but only so far, and then you need another. So I’ve got one for several purposes, and spares. But I just need one more. Really, I can stop after one more.

For some reason jackets and sweaters also tend to fall under this rule, probably because my winter clothing style is European Country House, sort of, which means moleskin and some tweeds. And tweeds come in different colors, and cuts, and oh, this new one is a nice brown that I don’t have yet and it has the standing collar I like and the black means it could go with . . . Yeah. No. Maybe if I were a tenured chair of a department north of Nebraska. But not here and now.

And all of us need N+1 books. With the advent of the e-reader and e-books, the old stopping point has disappeared. Shelf space? We don’ need no steenking shelf space! Well, OK, some of us do. I have and do teach out of e-books, but flipping “pages” is still a pain in the patoot. Some things just really have to be in print for maximum utility. [glances at tome on Thirty Years War, on top of tome about climate in 1600s by Parker]

But I’ll stop after I get one more.

*Ask your grandparents if you don’t know this phrase.

Now What?

Monday afternoon, or rather evening, I wrapped up the draft of the first RajWorld book. It clocks in at around 80K words, and will probably grow a bit after it sits, cools, and I come back to see what works and what needs fleshing out. So as I write this on Tuesday, I’m brain numb. What comes next? Continue reading

“Gated Communities of the Mind”

I’m not certain where I first heard or read the phrase, possibly in reference to Jared Diamond’s book Collapse, or in a nod to certain political and social trends. But it is one of those descriptive bits that easily invokes a neatly packaged idea that makes great sound-bite fodder. The implication, at least if the hearer/reader is familiar with gated communities and the sort of people who live in them in North America, is of a group of people with a lavish way of life who are separated by choice and by wealth from the rest of the world, safe behind their walls and (In Diamond’s case) thus ignorant of the disaster their behavior has created. Now, not having read that particular book because I could see his end-argument coming by the second page of the introduction, I don’t know if Diamond explains how the classical Maya (roughly AD 300-900 CE) could have known the consequences of their actions and deliberately taken the necessary steps to prevent ecological trouble without destroying their civilization in the process. One suspects the Maya lacked the observational tracking tools necessary to do that, but I digress. The phrase is evocative. Continue reading

Signs of Change

A stout cold-front, two actually, pushed through Saturday and Sunday. The first one kicked off storms . . . just east of town. The other scoured out what moisture remained with 35 mph north winds. But that meant that because it is now dark in the evenings, and it was cool, I could go walking after I finished the last major scene in the Rajworld draft (in which one of two nasties gets his due). Continue reading

Fair in the Air

The smell of fried, and of animals. Rows and rows of home-canned goods and cupcakes and Pumpkins of Unusual Size. Flashing lights on spinning rides, and excited voices trying to persuade you to buy a new gadget, or upgrade your storm windows, or to plant native plants, to wear more cotton, and to find Jesus (preferably at their place.)

Yes, it’s fair season!

Pro-tip (especially if you have kids): Eat a little, ride the whirling things, then eat the fried stuff.

Pro-tip (especially if you have kids): Eat a little, ride the whirling things, then eat the fried stuff.

Continue reading

Big German, Little German: or Learning to Look from Vienna

So, was the Holy Roman Empire a burden, an anachronism, a mess that kept Germans from unifying sooner and in the end diverted them away from real democracy into autocracy, or was it a functional administrative and cultural organization that served a useful purpose until it was dissolved in 1806 before Napoleon could claim the title? It depends. Are you looking south from Berlin or northwest from Vienna? or are you sneering from Enlightenment France at the “neither holy, or Roman, nor an empire?” Continue reading

Chick-Pea Curry on Sweet Potatoes

This is another recipe that I followed precisely once, and then started riffing with. I’m still riffing.


2 sweet potatoes, roasted or baked, cut half-in-two lengthwise*

1 can of chickpeas (or cooked from dried chickpeas)**

1/2 red onion***

1 red pepper

1 can diced tomatoes

1 tsp ginger

1 T curry powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup lite coconut milk (I used regular)

6 oz baby spinach (one bag) Continue reading

On the Marches . . .

One of the fun bits of creating the world of the first eight Colplatschki books was digging into titles of nobility and their meaning. Americans don’t do titles. We so don’t do titles that “sir” can refer to a heroic person worthy of great respect or the young man who carried the groceries to the car. Dukes, counts, margraves, pfalzgraf, none of those mean much unless 1) you are a jazz fan or 2) you have a Pfalzgraf brand of china in your house. Nor do we generally refer to places as “marches,” in the sense of frontier or a semi-dangerous border. If I say “the Mark Brandenburg,” most people would assume I am referring to either a well-known guy named Mark Brandenburg, or that something redirected my train of thought and “the” shouldn’t be in front of the name. Actually I’m referring to the area near modern Berlin, using the medieval and early modern description. A March (or in German, mark) referred to the border, just as titles of rank referred to military or administrative duties, like the Margrave (Markgraf), the border lord/count. Continue reading