Making a Bonfire of a Cloud

You never know with sunsets. The ones that look as if they might turn into magic fade into grey and darkness with nary a hint of color, and the nights you think it’s not worth opening the blinds? Crimson and gold seep in through the gaps, taunting you for your forecasting folly.

So I set out with mild hopes and the need for exercise. After some indecision, I headed west, in part so I would have the wind at my back on the way home, once it started really getting chilly. The dew-point/frost-point was in the teens Fahrenheit. When the sun disappeared, so would any heat in the air. I could smell wood smoke, and whatever the icky, heavy and black smelling stuff they’re burning three houses up, one over. It felt good to stretch my legs, and the chill in the air faded as I picked up the pace. Continue reading


Book Review: The Chooser

Burkhead, David L. The Chooser: A Tale of Modern Valkyrie (Kindle e-book, 2019)

[cues up Crüxshadows “My Valkyrie”]

So, I was looking for something light, fun, and unrelated to anything I need to be reading. I’d been perusing David’s blog, The Writer in Black, and saw he had some short fiction out. Sounded perfect, and it was on sale (even more perfect) so I clicked the link and started reading.

A Valkyrie is sent to a modern house, to collect someone who died in battle. She found a boy. She’s a bit nonplussed, but she does her duty, and takes him to the one who decides the destination of the dead. That’s when the mystery and fun really begin. What is the boy supposed to do in Odin’s war band? And who will teach him how to fight as Odin’s warriors do?

Then it gets complicated. Continue reading

A Guy Thing.

I was scouring the depths of YouTube looking for the cut from the movie Zulu that I used last year.  Of course, it wasn’t there this year, so I had to find a different one and re-work the timing of the bits I want to use in class. And I hunted up another film, just to be sure that it had not been removed when YouTube cleaned out all the documentary material about the NSDAP last year. (Thank you, twits, for nothing.)

As always, there’s something in the last 15 minutes of Zulu that makes me shake my head in awe – at both sides of the fight. The Zulu were hard core, serious, and darn good at what they were doing (just ask the British at Isandlwana!). The Brits had guts, discipline, and a refusal to quit. And rifles. But it was the discipline and guts that are the focus of the movie, and of that last scene. You get the feeling, once everything ended, that in another time and place, Zulu and Brits would have happily hoisted a few rounds—especially if someone else paid—in each other’s honor, and groused about the d-mn Boers being a pain in the arse. Continue reading

The Day of the Clipper

I grew up with sea stories. Dad sailed as a child and teen, and was in the Navy. I memorized sea chanteys as a child, and literally cut my teeth on a model of the Bismark (Dad wasn’t pleased.) One of my favorite books growing up was H. C. Holling’s Sea Bird, about the seas, sailing, and advances in nautical technology. Some time ago, Dad mused that perhaps if we’d lived closer to the sea, I’d have become a master mariner instead of a pilot. Who’s to say? Continue reading

Between Safety and the Stars

When I go walking at night, interesting thoughts bubble to the surface, along with the occasional “Oh boy. What a mess.”

I was musing on over-bright headlights and safety lights (one of which has a short, and so it flashes for 30 seconds every time a car passes the house), light pollution, and the idea that if you turn on enough outdoor lights, it protects your home with an impenetrable force field that no thief can ever get through. You just buy this, or illuminate that, and you are safe forever. And the world is so dangerous that it is better to lose darkness and bleach the skies than to risk the slightest chance of, well, anything.

Continue reading

Jim Crow and Economics

Note: This is a very broad overview of things, and I’m gliding over a lot of history. There are a number of books on the topic, a few of which I’ll mention at the end of the post. We’re talking economics here.

The laws collectively referred to as “Jim Crow” legalized economic and legal discrimination against people of African ancestry in parts of the United States. In other areas, informal local agreements and mob action served a similar purpose, that being keeping African-Americans and other blacks out of certain jobs and places of residence.

The term “Jim Crow” came from a minstrel show song of that title. Continue reading

Harz Mountain Stories

Two years ago, my summer wanderings took me to the Harz Mountains in eastern Germany. As is my habit, I found a couple books of regional folk-lore, and one very detailed sort of “Folk-Lore Road Guide to the Harz.” In German, and no, I’m not up to translating it, at least not at the moment. But once I found a detailed enough map, or could match the locations to where I was going that day, I found a wonderful treasure trove of stories, and patterns. The patterns . . . Very different from what I’d found in the mining areas of Austria. Continue reading