“I Danced in the Morning”

A story from my not-entirely-misspent aerobatic days.

High in the rain-washed air, above spring greened wheat and grass, the dance begins. The nose of the small crimson and white biplane eases slightly below the horizon, and the rest of the plane rotates around it, stopping wheels high to check seatbelts and oil pressure.  The wings swing crisply upright once again, quickly turning to wards a box drawn in the air that only the mind’s eye can see. The silvery nose of the checker-winged Pitts swings left and right, searching for other airplanes. None appear to seeking eyes, and the plane banks towards the unseen box, dipping a wing three times in salute. Continue reading

Yes, I think they are.

“Bang, bang, bang!”

Boink, boink, boink. Three spent 9mm casings hit my head and hands.

“Bang bang bang!”

Boink, boink, boink. Three more rounds hit my head and hands.

Voice from two lanes away, “I don’t see the casings. Are they flying very far?”

Yes, I shoot wheel guns. Yes, I am limited in the number of rounds per go. Yes, they can be harder to conceal.

But, short of a critical (if not terminal) malfunction, I don’t pelt people with hot brass.

 

Book Review: Unmasked

Ngo, Andy. Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy. (New York: Center Street Press, 2021)

Andy Ngo’s book, Unmasked, pulls together the history, methodology, and activities of Antifa. Although they proclaim themselves to be fighting fascists, their tactics and philosophy copy those used by the Fascists, the fighting wing of the NSDAP and it’s successors, and of course, the Communist Antifascistiche Aktion of Germany in the 1920s-30s. Ngo connects the past with the present, showing how the movement came to the US and what its goals are. For some of us, this is well-known material. Even so, it is worth reading. Continue reading

Bathos gets Boring

It often starts with a dark screen. The first strains of something dolorous or heart-wrenching come from the speakers, and images of . . . pathetic critters/starving children/people “cut down in his prime/just starting her life” begin crossing the screen. Depending on the piece, a plea for a donation may follow, or a news-reader may add solemn, understated commentary. The clip ends with the charitable group’s logo, or a jump to a commercial.

“Bathos” was coined (or at least first recorded ) by Alexander Pope, the poet and essayist, in 1727. It means an abrupt decline, “from the sublime to the ridiculous.” The attribution fits Pope, who could be sharp of pen and withering of criticism. It also fits his period in English literature, when evoking and excess of the wrong sort of emotion was considered a sign of low wit and Not Done. Continue reading

Honor – Definitions and Meditations

I have no idea why the idea bubbled up, other than my wondering how, exactly, one would define “caddish” behavior in modern terms. Those of us who have read books written during Victorian times, or patterned off of those, recognize a cad when we see one in action. “Sleezy” doesn’t work, because caddish behavior did not necessarily imply that the man’s manner was unctuous, slimy, and somewhat dirty. There’s a sense of disrespect at a fundamental level by the cad for his cad’s victim, and an unwillingness to accept responsibility. Like another famous definition, those who read/imprinted on Victorian-era books “know it when I see it.” Continue reading

Men of Harlech: A Wandering Essay of Sorts

A repeat from 2016. I finished the battle scene and final chapters of Malevolently Familiar this past week, and a little voice inside my head asked, “What is Arthur fighting for?” I’m merely the author, far be it from me to ask Arthur Saldovado a personal question! But perhaps . . .

What is heroism and manhood? Why do we fight? I’ve been thinking about that question for a couple of reasons. In part because I was watching the last battle scene from the movie Zulu and thinking back to a conversation-over-beer one night in grad school. Somehow the topic had drifted to guys, and how can you encapsulate the best and worst of guy behavior to show to women? The movie Animal House (and Dumb and Dumber) came up as the worst, and the professor said that small unit battles revealed the best. I suggested the movie Zulu, and he jumped on it. “Yes! Yes, that is the perfect combination – Animal House and Zulu.” (He taught British history and specialized in the 19th century.) I needed the clip to demonstrate firing by ranks, but started at the part where the men are singing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-lDY02DThk Continue reading

Droughts and Freezes

Both of them wear on you, after a while. Back when I was flying air ambulance, we happened to pass over a local river that wasn’t what it had once been, in terms of flow (irrigation + upstream dams + upstream town). We started speculating as to what would be required to put the river back to brim-full level. The flight nurse opined that we probably wouldn’t want to be in the neighborhood when that happened. The EMT and I agreed. Talk then turned to storms and droughts. Which was worse to deal with – a tornado outbreak, or a drought? Continue reading

So Thatch How You Do It!

Back in 2017, when I was wandering around the North Sea and Baltic (and other places) studying the Hanseatic League, I lucked into getting to watch some gentlemen replacing a thatch roof. The place was a few kilometers north of Husum, near the North Sea, and a weather system had started moving in. The supervisor had just finished getting things underway, and didn’t mind my small group standing at the edge of the property and watching. The homeowner asked what we were doing, I explained, and all was well.

As I said, weather was coming in. This gives you a sense of what they were setting up, and how deep the roof is.

Continue reading

Book Review: Dress Codes

Ford, Richard Thompson. Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2021) E-book.

Fashion history has been a bit of an interest for me, mostly in the whys and wherefores. I mean, if I’m going to dress 150+ years out of date, I probably ought to know something about the clothes and the reasons (then) for them. Professor of Law Richard Thompson Ford takes a sideways look at fashion going back to the Renaissance, arguing that laws related to dress had serious effects on society, and can reveal a lot about power and culture. I don’t always agree with him, but he has some very interesting observations and ideas. Continue reading

Skip Solar and Wind, Let’s Go Nuclear

ERCOT, the Texas power management organization, sent out an urgent plea this weekend for everyone who could to reduce power usage as much as possible. The system was strained at the seams. Wind and solar had both gone off line, natural gas supplies were not great, and peak usage pushed the rest of the generation capacity to its limits. The state now gets 23% of its power from wind, most of which had turned into turbine-cicles. That left coal and natural gas for power generation, since the state doesn’t have any commercial nuclear power plants.

I think the time has come to revisit nuclear, especially the possibilities of small, regional or even just urban nuclear power generators. Perhaps with a less inter-connected power grid, or perhaps not. Being able to transfer electricity from places with it (up here) to places that need it (down state) can be very, very important. Continue reading