Dog in the Car: A Rant

So there I was in traffic, waiting for the light to change. The SUV beside me caught my eye. The driver had her window down a little, and was letting a lap-dog stand on her chest and the steering wheel, looking out the windshield.

Later that day, I did a double take because it appeared that a mastiff was driving. No, but he was leaning across the driver, peering out the open window. Continue reading


Goslar and Pfalzes

The question arose yesterday: what exactly is a pfalz? Dictionary definitions suggest that it is another term for SchloƟ, a palace. A pfalzgraf was a count in charge of a pfalz, or who had one on his territory, but that doesn’t answer the question.

Short version: a depot and temporary residence for the early Holy Roman Emperors. Continue reading

Two Blisters on the Continents: The Harz and the Black Hills

We tend to think of the middles of continents as dull, stable places. There’s a reason John McPhee’s essay about the Great Plains focuses on the term “Stable Interior Craton.” Nothing of great geologic excitement happens mid-continent. Neither does much of cultural excitement, either. When was the last time you heard wild breaking news of earth-shaking excitement from, oh, Dessau, Germany? Or Pierre, South Dakota? The vertical relief tends to be gradual with a few exceptions, and those exceptions promptly got turned into parks. No earthquakes add moments of interest. It’s all wheat fields, beet fields, and gently rolling land.

Looking east from the Hexentanzplatz at the edge of the Harz Mountains. Flaaaaaaaaaat.

Looking east from the Black Hills.

Until a lump appears.

Continue reading

Where Women Ruled…

The imperial abbey of Quedlinburg had an interesting history. The abbess was one of very few people to have a seat on the Imperial Council of the Holy Roman Empire until the empire’s dissolution in 1804. The church was founded in part to firm-up the Holy Roman Emperors’ control over the Harz Mountains and the Saxon frontier, and to provide a place where sisters and daughters of the upper nobility could serve the Church. Continue reading