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

Overheard in the Halls: Part 21

Miss Verbum: Miss Red, a question.

Me: Yes, ma’am?

Miss Verbum: I see that the October Revolution will be in March. Can we move that a week?

Me: Yes ma’am, there’s some flexibility in the schedule.

Miss Verbum: Thank you. [walks toward the work room]

Puzzled Sophomore [to junior]: Huh?

Jaunty Junior: Teachers don’t have to make sense. We have to make sense.

P.S.: [still puzzled] Um, OK.

* * * * * * *

Continue reading

Thursday Excerpt: White Gold and Empire

Life happened yesterday, so instead of the post I’d intended, you get this instead.

Tarno ate a large helping of bread with potted meat and some of the previous day’s stew before leaving for the boiling house. The boys slept still. He should wake them, but they’d put in good work the day before, and deserved a little extra rest. Or so he told himself. Tarno did bring in the night-soil box, lest it disappear. He also checked the vegetables in the garden, picking off a few leaf-beetles and crushing them.

A handful of other men walked with him to the city gate closet to the salting works, yawning and muttering about the price of wood, the weather, and speculating about the next year’s wood supplies. That seemed to be all anyone talked about. Tarno mulled things over, and decided that he preferred grumping about wood to nervous whispers about the Great Northern Emperor, or about dying magic workers. They’d lost a preservation mage and a healing mage from the salting works, and the men and women had sworn that they’d kill any southlander themselves if they caught the bastards who had poisoned the grain. People who worked with fire and boiling brine every day knew lots of ways to kill people. Tarno preferred any other topic, almost. 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