That Was Almost Interesting

So there I was, standing in the shooting bay, minding my own business when Bang! The pistol went off!

Which could have been interesting except that I was following all four rules, so the only thing that happened was a hole appeared to the right of where I wanted the hole to be, and I startled, and said to myself, “Self, remember, the trigger on this one is a leeeeeeetle bit lighter than on” [movie announcer voice] “The Snubbie.” [end movie announcer voice]

Usually, I work from lighter trigger to heavier, but this time I wanted to get some things done with the snubbie and Big Pistol* first, including practicing using the speed loaders. So by the time I got to Lighter Trigger, I was hurting. This was partly due to muscle soreness from my heavy workout the day before, and partly because I wasn’t wearing a wrist brace, and partly due to inner perversity on the part of my joints in general. When I hurt, I try to move fast, and I get jerky with my movements, not smooth.

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. And accurate.

So when I had Lighter Trigger loaded and pointed downrange at my target, I raised it, cocked it, had my finger on the trigger, and twitched before I was really ready. Bang. It did what it was supposed to do, just a little before I anticipated it to do that. Nothing aside from my ego was damaged. I know better. When I hurt, when I am tired, I must watch myself and focus on being smooth, no matter which tool, vehicle, or piece of equipment I am dealing with. Guns are tools. Knives are tools. Power drills are tools. All can hurt you if you are not careful, or do expensive damage.

The Four Rules. 1) The gun is always loaded. 2) Do not point the gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. 3) Do not put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot. 4) Always know what is behind your target.

Rules two and three are often interchanged, but rule one is always rule one. Unless the firearm is in multiple pieces on the table, consider it loaded and treat it that way. If you don’t touch the bang switch, it won’t go bang.

You can apply the Four Rules to other things. I use them for power tools, especially tools that have pieces that might come loose (air hammer, rivet gun).

*Big Pistol is not that big, until you compare it to a snub-nosed pistol of a smaller caliber. Then it looks big. It’s not a .45 or a Desert Eagle. And revolvers always look broad in the beam.

Teddy Bears and Tableware: An Estate Sale

An older gent, perhaps late 60s to early 70s, approached the check out with an armload of teddy bears. The lady two customers behind him had two quilts, both embroidered with teddy bears. The gent set down the bears, gave a sheepish grin as he pulled out his wallet and said, “Grandkids.” I left the mail with a watching family member and got out of the way.

The dear old lady who lived a few houses up the block fell twice more. Her family decided that, despite the lady’s assurances, she needed more than just a five-days-a-week visiting nurse and family checking in on weekends with groceries and household supplies (they either live out of town, or have jobs with rotating shifts.) We her neighbors were both sad and relieved. Sad that she had to move out, but relieved, because we had nightmares about her getting badly hurt, or having a medical crisis and not being found in time despite her cell-phone and emergency button.

The family opted to have an estate sale, once the lady settled into her new home and had taken all the things from the house that would fit in her apartment. The family also took some things, and I heard one young lady saying that she was glad to get the heavy desk and office chair, because it would save her a lot of money trying to find a newer set that fit her (she’s smaller than I am. I feel her pain.) They hired professionals to clean, the arrange everything, and catalogue the estate. Then came the sale.

She collected teddy bears. Almost a hundred, according to MomRed, who had gone over earlier and returned with some bedding, pillows, and things for Little Bit. And two antique hat pins for me (I need to find caps for them. Those always disappear.) When I went later to deliver some mis-delivered mail, I saw teddy bears being carried out, a steady stream of bears. And bear-embroidered quilts and coverlets, bear-bearing plates, and similar. They went to appreciative homes. Books also went quickly, alas, and small items.

The furniture sold fast, per the woman’s grandson-in-law. So had valuable collectibles, and the lawn furniture and some other things.

I’m glad that people wanted the items, and that they will be used and loved. I hate to see good things going to the dump, although I know styles change and some places just don’t have room for, oh, a china cabinet or wardrobe. The house is quiet. Those of us who live around the lady’s house keep an eye on it, just in case, and the family comes by the take care of the lawn and do more things inside.

Times change, people age. The lady is doing OK in her new residence. Moving did not solve her medical problems, but she has full-time care and is much closer to the hospital and her doctors. That’s a blessing.

Everyone Knows that the Word Comes From . . . Popular vs. Actual Etymologies

Tucumcari. Karabela. Canadian as in the river name. Where do these come from? “Everyone knows that . . .” doesn’t always match what the language people, or historians, know. Or think they know, because English isn’t the only language to borrow bits and pieces from other tongues. It’s just the most likely to. German translates, English steals.

“Karabela” is the name of a type of Polish cavalry sword. It’s a form of saber, but works better when used on foot than do many sabers. There are at least four possible sources for the name. One is that it comes from Turkish and means “black curse.” Many of the surviving examples do have black hilts, and it would fit the Polish attitude toward the Turks and vice versa (not best friends). Another source claims that it is a corruption of “Karbala,” the city in what is now Iraq that was known for sword making. Or it could come from Italian meaning “precious beautiful thing [cara bella].” Perhaps a Polish noble or sword maker named Karabeli introduced the sword to common use, because there are other weapons that bear the names of their creators or popularizers. Or none of the above. I’m inclined toward option number one, but that doesn’t mean much. Polish is not one of my languages, nor is Turkish.

When I moved to Texas, I was told that the Canadian River was named for French-Canadian fur trappers, or named by them. And there were beaver in the main river valley and tributaries, so OK, sounds good. Except the name appears before Canada existed, and as far as anyone can tell, no one familiar with northern beaver would bother coming down here. The pelts are not as good for what people wanted beaver for. No, the name comes from Spanish, from a term meaning a sheep path so worn that it has raised sides, a cañada. The term can also mean a box-canyon, which is what part of the valley looks like when approached from the west. So it was a rio cañadian.

Tucumcari is another term that has a wildly off-kilter folk etymology. A certain local tourist bureau used to spin a tale about an Indian princess (or chief’s daughter) named Tucumcari, or her lover named Tucumcari, and doomed love, and how one or the other of them plunged off a butte (Tucumcari Mountain) because of a broken heart, and so on and so forth. Alas, the Comanche language doesn’t work quite like that, and the name in Comanche probably means something like “high alone in a low place.” The Comanche named places for what they looked like, thus the “hills like prairie dog mounds” and “the river that flows near the hills that look like prairie dog mounds.” Or “the red muddy river.” Not quite what the Chamber of Commerce wants to use in their tourism pamphlets, alas.

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins at sundown today. For people of the Jewish faith, it is a day of very solemn contemplation and prayer, for fasting and sorrow. It is a day to consider one’s failures, and to bewail them, acknowledging where one went wrong, and how one failed to do his or her duty to the Most High and to his fellow men. It was the day of the scapegoat, the animal that bore the sins of the people into the wilderness. It is still for apology to G-d and remembering errors.

“Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa,” to mix liturgical languages.

There is also a sense of being close to the presence of the Most High through worship and prayer. Yom Kippur truly is the holiest of the High Holy Days.

To my Jewish readers, may you have an easy fast, and may you find that your name was inscribed in the Book of Life.

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Blogging, Current Events, and So On

You have probably notices that I have not commented on many of the recent events, aside from weather, fires, and the like. There are a few reasons for that.

One, so much is tied in with US politics, and this isn’t a dedicated political commentary blog. There are other people who have a lot more background and interest in the political system and what it does.

Two, I’m a historian by training. We generally try to follow the thirty-year rule. This “rule” comes from two sources: classification time-limits in the US used to be thirty years, and the idea of a generation. What you live through is current events. What your parents lived through is history. Distance is supposed to allow 1) greater access to sources from a wider span of view points, and 2) dispassion. I have no personal dog in the fight over whether Holy Roman Emperor Charles V was a well-meaning, decent ruler or a tool of the AntiChrist and incompetent to boot, so I can opine away and show sources and documents. The legacy of the Presidents Bush? No, staying out of that.

Three is the language limit on this blog. Right now, I’m inclined to voice uncharitable thoughts using Anglo-Saxon and related verbiage.

Four, this blog is, when it comes down to cases, about selling books and stories, and entertaining my readers. People read fiction to get away, to escape into the lives of people different from they are, to get a happy ending where the forces of evil are defeated, the guy and the girl get hitched, and everyone can pay their bills in full and on time. Even if Arthur is losing to the computer 2:3, again. Sometimes I will wander into personal musings and views, but I’m trying to keep things lighter, or at least more diverting. My job is to divert my readers from current events, after all.

A Commercial Observation

I was in Hobby Lobby with MomRed as she looked at different weights and textures of cotton flannel for a project. I started reading the ends of the bolts of fabric. Last month, we had gone to Jo-Ann’s to buy material for a different project, and I had noticed that everything came from China, at least every single bolt of material that I looked at. Fleece, twill, calico, muslin, denim, satin, cotton, polyester, everything I found came from a textile mill in China. The thread came from the US or Pakistan or India. Buttons tended to be US or, more often, France.

Most of the fabric in Hobby Lobby that I looked at came from not-China. Pakistan, India, Taiwan, but not China. I didn’t browse the notions, because I got drafted to look through the lower shelves in the remnants rack.

I’m seeing more and more places selling things not from China. Clothing isn’t made in China as much, at least not what I’ve browsed at stores ranging from WallyWorld to Dillards (upscale department store) to Talbots and LLBean. Plastics not made in China. Paper goods not made in China. Granted, a lot of things are still made in China, but the shift is getting more and more apparent.

Part of it is economics. Vietnam, Pakistan, India, are less expensive in terms of labor and other costs. The quality is as good or better. The countries are less likely to steal the product’s design specifications and use them to undercut and drive out the patent/copyright holder.

Part of it is also growing numbers of people like me, who are wary of Chinese made goods. Sometimes it is quality, sometimes personal political beliefs, sometimes fear based on past bad experiences. After all, if the Chinese government has no qualms about poisoning its own people with contaminated water, and fosters an atmosphere where baby formula can be fortified with toxins (at least until enough people scream), and doesn’t see a problem with companies shipping pet food that kills the pets, what else does the government turn a blind eye to, or encourage? Recent news about the “forced labor” contracted to major international corporations doesn’t help, either.

I’m also seeing more Made in the USA stuff, including things that were not made at home for quite a while. I will happily buy sheets made in Portugal, wool fabric from Italy (no US maker for that weight that sells retail), shoes made in the US or Britain, and other things. I prefer not to buy from China. All else aside, and there is a lot of else, the quality control on things from China has been poor, and the fits are worse.

Random Thoughts and Musings

So, I’ve been juggling a lot of stuff, some interrelated, some random. A lot is either writing related or Day Job related (Day Job begins this week. No, I can’t believe it is already “fall” already, either. I squandered a lot of July.) The outside world has also been hanging over my head, just like it has been for most other people. I’ve quit wondering what strange thing is going to emerge from Washington DC or California, because they make the Babylon Bee satire site look too prophetic. Sort of like the military folks who read the Duffel Blog back between 2008-2016 to find out what the Department of Defense was going to do next.

I think that is part of why I’ve been putting off working on White Gold for so long. Yes, I am working on it, but it moves slowly and I am fighting myself as well as the story. It is so different from the Familiars books, and somewhat different from the other Merchant stories, that I’m having trouble sussing out where a main thread in the story needs to go. I have a feeling that once I know what my Day Job schedule will be, things on the book will move faster because that’s one outside distraction out of the way.

Henry of Bavaria “the Lion” was a character and a half. A pain in the rump if you were Frederick Barbarossa, but also a vital asset and supporter. That is, as long as Henry wasn’t getting too, let us say, confident in his own abilities and power. I’m a bit surprised that there’s not a good, current book about him in English, but then the Holy Roman Empire in the 1100s isn’t a popular topic in US and England. Henry was a town founder, among other things, and a wee bit too fond of power politics for his own good.

If you are a fan of the heavy metal sound but not so fond of some of the topics in some metal (the Satanic stuff . . . No thanks.) I recommend Twilight Force if you have not found them yet. They riff off of high fantasy and Tolkien, and have fun doing it. Yes, the lyrics can be cheesy. So is some fantasy writing. I also like _Beyond_ by Freedom Call, except fro the song about how great animism and voodoo are. No, voodoo is something best left well alone.

After White Gold is done, I’m going back to the Familiars. I might have another Merchant book after that, or might work on some other unfinished stuff, that I’ve been kicking around, like the fantasy I roughed out over on Mad Genius Club. Spring is going to be very slow on the writing scene, because Day Job is uneven this year. Fall is fairly chill, and spring is heavily loaded. Even more than usual, in terms of class load plus outside activities.

In theory next summer I’m going to England and Scotland. I’m less and less certain about that, because of a combination of things, including policy and legal changes in Scotland. Some of the proposed regulations on political and personal expression are rather worrisome, should they come to pass. The “quarantine for two weeks, then start your vacation” part is also a difficulty, as is the current “must have a negative SARS2-WuFlu test 48 hours before returning to the US, then go into isolation for a week” rule. If I don’t go to the British Isles, I will be at LibertyCon. Maybe. If it happens in person next year. *taps wood*

I’m reading a lot of Central European history right now, and refreshing my Chinese history. I really should have picked a field 1) far less broad with 2) fewer books and sources and 3) that doesn’t change and expand so much! About the time I think I’m close to current, whoops! A new title has arrived, with previously unstudied sources. Yes, I know I will get no sympathy from my science and tech people.

RedQuarters will get some kitchen work done this fall. I may hide for a week or so.

A Quick Reminder about Blog Rules

It’s been a long time since I posted Do’s and Don’ts, so it seemed like a good thing to do. This is not because of any one comment or problem, but just a general update.

  1. The blog posts are moderated, especially the first time you comment. Or if you use a different e-mail. WordPress occasionally glitches and I have to release comments from people who are otherwise approved. I try to check every few hours, but if I’m on the road, it may take a while.
  2. Because there are a lot of readers from Europe and elsewhere, I ask that you don’t talk about doing unkind things to political leaders, US or otherwise.
  3. Yes, FaceBook blocks some posts. No, I don’t know why. It was blocking all posts for a while. So if you try to link a post to a FB post and you are stopped, it’s me, not you.
  4. I don’t mind typo catches and critiques. Please do check to see if someone else has flagged that first, though. I get irked when five or six people flag the same thing. It’s not you, it’s me.
  5. If you want to sell a product or service, please check with me first before you post an ad comment.
  6. If your entire comment is a long theological infomerical for your tract/book/blog, it will not pass moderation.
  7. Ditto e-currency. A thousand word comment about the benefits of, oh, DogeCoin or BitCoin belongs on your blog, not mine.
  8. Language needs to stay PG-13. I know, I sometimes break this one in the excerpts. I will try to be better about toning down the blog-version of the story.
  9. Discuss theology as much as you want; but please don’t run-down other people’s beliefs. And keep in mind, theology 1000-300 years ago could be a lot different from current churches’/synagogues’/temples’ teachings.
  10. I will track down and thump the first person to start the 9MM vs. .45 caliber argument in the comments. [See theology above.]

It is a very, very rare day that I have to edit a comment or block someone. I’ve only blocked two people, one was a serial advertiser and the other . . . Yeah. That one went/goes after me because of two other people that the individual has decided are their enemies or something.

Show Museum or Teaching Museum?

A re-post about museums and their purpose.

You probably can tell without my saying much that I am a sucker for museums. Art museum, science museum, history museum, folk-life museum, botanical garden, I’ll probably at least poke my head in to see if it looks promising. I’ve been very, very fortunate to be able to visit, and re-visit, many of the great art and history museums north of the Alps, like the Kunsthistorischesmuseum [Art History Museum] in Vienna three times, the Gamäldegalarie [painting gallery] in Berlin twice, and a few others, like the Louvre (twice over two days. Don’t bother with the southern art section, IMHO). Continue reading