July ’19 State of the Author


OK, now that that’s out of my system… Decidedly Familiar is wrapping up at the moment. I have a cover, so I’m letting the last story mellow before I go through and edit everything.

Fountains of Mercy, the last Colplatschki book, and the first chronologically, is in edits and cover, and should be done soon.

Hopling and Pouchling: Shikari Book Five is in edits and cover, and will release in September, I hope. Continue reading


Southern Paella

Paella (“pie-ee-ya”) is a Spanish dish based on rice and peas. Usually it has seafood and sausage, unless it has seafood and ham, although some versions have seafood and seafood. It always has seafood unless it doesn’t, in which case I consider it something that can taste wonderful but is not paella. Rice, peas, and meat are required, and it is cooked in a giant pan that looks a bit like someone ran over a wok with a steam-roller.

The classic. This is a screen-shot of Laura Vitale’s home-made recipe. Click the image to go to the video for the dish.

Sib-in-law has been experimenting with one-dish meals this summer, and came up with a simpler, stovetop Southern version of the classic.

Continue reading

Tabor in Europe

The name comes from the Books of Joshua and Judges (among other places) and refers to a mountain and the lowlands around it that are located in the Galilee region. Given the history of the location in Bohemia, it fits that Tabor (Biblical) was the site of a great battle between Barak and Deborah’s Israelites and the Cannanite Army of Jabin (commanded by Siseria, famous for his splitting headache).

Tábor, Bohemia. You can see some of the fortifications. Might be a cropped image from HERE.

Evidence of pre-historic use of the site is sketchy. You see, this hill has no surface water. When early kings of Bohemia and local notables first fortified the site, water was hauled up from a river, or caught in cisterns. As a result, this was not a great location, and so the place was just called “the hill with a fort on it.” Continue reading

Southern Instruments

So, let’s move on to look at some pipe organs from Central Europe. These are all from south of Frankfurt, more or less.

This is from the Church of Peter and Paul in Krakow, Poland. Yes, it is a rather modern instrument. The Poles did a lot of repairing and upgrading after 1989. And a fair amount in 1979, as much as the Communist government would permit, when the Polish Pope came to visit.

Continue reading

North German Instruments

Back in 2008 or 2009, I took an organists tour of Switzerland, Alceis, and Germany. We averaged two or three instruments per day, and everyone who so chose got to play on each instrument. The exception was Wittenberg, because they were having roof problems. Sib-in-law had to sign a very long waiver that said, in essence, if something falls onto your head while you are playing, you won’t sue us. This was before I had a digital camera, so I didn’t take pictures.

(Digression) One thing that surprises people is how small true, unmodified Bach organs are. The churches were also small, and constructed with acoustics for instruments and human voices. They can still shake your bones with sound, but your ears won’t hurt. (End of digression.)

Since then, I’ve been able to visit and sometimes hear instruments, but not play them.

What we see in the following photos is the casework. It is very difficult to get up and look at the “guts” of an instrument, because it is cramped, elevated, and delicate. The casework holds both decorative and sounding pipes, and supports the decorations around the pipes. Modern casework tends to be plain to the point of severe. However, I’m going to focus on Baroque, Rococo, and reconstructions of older styles. Organs are a sort of “gesamtkunstwerk,” meaning that the pipes, loft, accessories like a zimbelstern and chimes, and case are part of an entire work.

We’ll start with an organ from Luneberg, Germany, south and east of Hamburg.

It is a relatively small instrument for the space, but the caswork is excellent. You’ll notice that the organ is comparatively “flat,” in a straight-across loft. Most organs are built flat, or with the central pipes forward of the sides. That’s not always true:

Cathedral organ in Rostock, Germany.

Because of restoration in progress, I could not back up far enough to get my usual organ photo. What you see at the bottom of the photo is the roof of the prince’s box. You have to crane your neck to see the organ itself, waaaay up there, and curved “backwards” as compared to most instruments. It doesn’t seem to affect the sound as heard from the floor of the church, but I suspect that there are some interesting dead spots unless additional pipes have been added at remote positions.

Looking “up the skirt” so to speak of the organ in the Cathedral in Rostock. The prince’s box is directly below the organ, making me wonder if he heard anything at all or just felt the vibrations.

You can see some of the scaffolding on the right side of the photo.

What you don’t like to see when you ease into a church to get pictures and just look around:

St. Michaels, Olomouc, Moravia, Czech Republic. They are restoring the ceiling and upper walls.

You can’t get there from here, or there, or over there, either. SIGH.

OK, back to organs. This is in the lightly-baroqued church of St. Thomas (now Protestant) in Tribsee.

The case and organ are reconstructions. The neo-gothic case is very simple, but sensitive to the gothic “bones” of the church. Flat mounting, because this is a relatively small instrument. That’s good, because the space is small and very resonant. It is possible to over-organ a space, believe me. It is a relatively light sounding instrument with a modest “bottom” of pedal stops. The church was originally Cistercian, then re-done in a tasteful Baroque, turned Lutheran, and restored to the gothic with some Baroque elements left.

This last one is not North German, but southern and eastern. However, note something very unusual:

Organ behind the altar? Huh?

This is from the Market Church (Church of the Holy Ghost) east of Goslar in Clausthal-Zellerfeld. The church was reconfigured for Protestant worship after reconstruction in 1634-42, then returned to Catholicism later. The organ dates to 1642, and has 41 registers. It is the only church I’ve seen in Central Europe where the organ is behind the high altar. This is also the largest hall church in Central Europe. (The organist had a very large pair of placards describing the problems with the instrument and begging for funds. It is a historic instrument with some original elements.)

Organs and Organ Music

This part is a repeat from 2015. Tomorrow I will post some of the pictures I’ve taken and talk about specific instruments.

The pipe organ is the “queen of instruments.” And the name comes not just from the fact that the instruments can be temperamental and demanding of their player, as well as each having a separate personality and sound, depending on the style of the instrument, the place where it is installed, and the time when it was built. Although associated with Christian houses of worship, organs can be found in department stores and concert halls. In fact, most of the largest instruments are in department stores and concert halls. The smallest instruments can be found tucked away in corners of museums and in private homes. Playing them requires technical skill and a knowledge of history, which makes them great instruments for odd people. Especially if you don’t like to be seen performing in public (or imprinted on a certain scene in Disney’s movie of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.)
Continue reading

Fruit Soup Season Once More

MomRed requested that I stop by the peach place on my way back from the meeting of the North Texas Shooting and Writing Club. She has been wanting fruit soup, and the grocery store peaches are not quite ready for prime time.

Monroe’s Peach Ranch has a fruit stand on US-287, just where the Caprock breaks into the Low Rolling Plains. They have other kinds of produce, depending on what is ripe, but peaches are their big seller. It just so happened that they were re-loading the peach boxes when I arrived on Friday afternoon, so I had a good selection of nice, just ripe peaches. I got two boxes, each with about six peaches, for twelve dollars. That works out to about three dollars a pound. Yes, it is higher than what we’ll get later in the season. Continue reading

The Wages of Weights

Well, my back hasn’t bothered me as much and I can lift a very heavy carry-on up into and out of the overhead bin without help. I guess that’s progress…

I’ve been doing some form of resistance exercise, aka lifting weights, for twenty years now, with occasional interruptions for Life, injury, and travel. Part of it was to increase my G-tolerance when I was doing aerobatics and hauling airplanes in and out of hangars. Then I decided that I did not want to lose what little height I have, something all too common with women over a Certain Age in my family.

Last year I finally admitted that I really needed to start focusing more on my core – abdomen, back, lats – in part to see if I could fend off another round of back problems/sciatica. I knew Peter and Dorothy had enjoyed considerable success using the Starting Strength program developed by an orthopedic specialist and a weight lifter, so I got those books, and also looked at some other targeted exercises. Continue reading