Under Pummerin’s Tower

I have heard Pummerin three times, once at midnight on Christmas Eve, and twice on Corpus Christi. The first time, I was well away from Stephansdom, St. Stephan’s Cathedral in Vienna. The second time I stood, then walked, directly below the north tower, where Pummerin and the other bells hang.

Most church bells today are rung from beside, and are no longer free-swinging. This is in part because people no longer care to hear very loud bells every hour, and more often during church services or on feast days. It is also because of the structural stress on old buildings. Pummerin still swings freely, and it is loud, especially when you are right below its tower.

The south, Gothic tower after a storm. Author Photo.

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You Don’t Need the Whole Tree…

Medieval Europeans would have been flabbergasted by modern forestry practices. We cut down the entire tree, every time. People in the ancient world, Late Antiquity/ Dark Ages, and on until the early 1900s (in some places) tended to cut down whole trees on far fewer occasions. Instead they coppiced the trees, trimming the trunk down and letting it regrow. Or they pollarded, cutting off branches on a regular basis but not touching the lower trunk. They also took entire trees, but not as often as we do today.

A pollarded tree in southwest Poland.  Author photo.

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Book Review: PawPaw Hunting

Moore, Andrew. Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Lost Fruit. (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2017) Kindle Edition.

“Pickin’ up pawpaws/ put ’em in the basket…” That was about all I knew of pawpaws, a children’s song, other than the fact that they are a fruit and are not papaya. Andrew Moore’s entertaining book is an extended meditation and study on pawpaws, a tropical fruit that grows as far north as Ontario, Canada, a native fruit that people never heard of, and an object of mild obsession for people in the Midwest and Upper South. Continue reading

Watching the Monkey Dance

“The monkey dance” is Rory Miller’s term for the steps young men (and some women) go through leading up to a fight. Think bar fight, or two guys in high school being egged on by others. There’s a pattern of action-reaction that can lead to a serious fight if those involved, or their associates, don’t back down or defuse things. It is about dominance and rank in the social group.

I got to watch the end-result of that very early one weekend morning in Krakow, Poland. As in, five forty-five AM early. Or late, depending on when the bars closed. Continue reading

Shikhari 5 Alpha-Reader Call

Howdy! I need a few good readers to look over Shikhari Five (still working on a title) and flag problem spots, typoos, and Misspellings of Unusual Size.

For those wondering, yes, there will be one more Shikhari book. Two major plot threads couldn’t get resolved in this volume, not without turning it into a GRRM-worthy tome.

If you are interested in helping, please ping me at my e-mail address (available on the About page)


Managing vs. Leading

Having been sandbagged by weather in the past, Clan Red approaches long-distance air travel in stages. In this case, we flew to Dallas the night before the international flight, then spent the night at Dallas-Ft. Worth airport, before flying out the next day. This time we stayed at the Grand Hyatt, which happens to be in the international terminal used by Lufthansa. It is quiet, comfortable, and we don’t have to worry about lugging the luggage father than needed.

I got to watch a leader at work. It was impressive.

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Creepy Folk Songs

I memorized this when I was in grade school. Then Mom and Dad pulled Sib and I out of class for two weeks and we toured the battlefields of the American Civil War. Which may explain a great deal…

Many of the Child Ballads—the British and Irish songs and ballads collected by Francis James Child— are not happy. Ian and Sylvia sang a version that I also imprinted on.

Not the most cheerful of songs, are they? On the other hand, “Greenwood Sidie-o” and its variants makes a point – if a woman has sex outside of marriage, and gets rid of the evidence, she’s going to face a horrible fate. Which was true in society at the time.

You also should not leave your husband and child for a wild rover, despite the song “Raggle Taggle Gypsie-o.” “The House Carpenter” tells the rest of the tale, and is another that I grew up with. Some sources (Alan Lomax) have speculated that it was popular in Appalacia because it justified remaining faithful even after the men left to work elsewhere, sometimes never to return.

Vienna Once More

I’m rolling down the Danube, reentering familiar territory on the northern bank of the Danube. Now the language makes more sense, and the river that has run through so much of my travels returns to view once more, wide and brown-grey, rolling through time.

People have lived in the Alpine foreland just west of Vienna, the Vienna Woods, since the Paleolithic. The area had fish, wild plants, shelter, and was on the way to a lot of other places. The Danube flows between the Alps and the edge of the Bohemian Massif to the north, and is a natural highway. Eventually farming seeped into the area, and the people later called the Celts moved in. The site of Krems, upstream of Vienna, has been occupied steadily since the Neolithic.

A few hundred years after the La Tene people settled the region, Rome established a town at Vindobona (between modern Rotenturm Strasse and Marcus Aurelius Strasse), then the larger settlement of Caernuntum downstream. People remained in the area, the Germanic tribes, the Huns and Avars swept in and out, Slavs drifted through, and then Germanic people reasserted themselves on top of Rome’s presence. Continue reading