It Ain’t Necessarily So…

A lot of what I’ve been reading, particularly about medieval and Renaissance history, has been traditional accounts interspersed with “Oh duh, that makes perfect sense” moments of something new. Like corsets can’t have been that horrible or women wouldn’t have bought them by the tens of thousands once they became inexpensive to cheap. Other things are a little less obvious (I mean, look at photos of Victorian and Edwardian street scenes. Duh.) but are still intriguing. Continue reading


Culture and Stress

No, this is not a post about angst in academic places, or the latest museum display fight (I’m sure there is one going on, somewhere.) It is about how culture affects how people react to stresses. Sort of, since I’m not a psychiatrist, or psychologist, and I don’t play one on TV.

What brought this to mind was Peter Grant’s post about the upcoming Robin Hood movie.

Continue reading

Things I learned Downstate…

It is possible, nay probable, to have a headwind no matter which direction you are traveling.

Head colds are no respecter of season or event.

“We are NOT going to have too much food this time” never works out as planned. There was, once again, more food than anticipated, because everyone brought a “little extra just in case.” (Did I mention that my friends all believe in over-preparing?)

Unless the food is a magnificent pot roast, in which case there is never too much. We had just enough, and that was with one person out with the aforementioned head cold. Continue reading

Five Years in Print: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

A Cat Among Dragons hit the electronic stands in the fall of 2012. Since then I’ve released three* other series, four if you count the Alexi stories as a series, and several stand-alone works, plus series-related short stories. I’ve not been as successful as I’d like, but that’s mostly my fault.

So, what have I learned and what has changed? A great deal. Continue reading

Specialize or Generalize? Heinlein vs. Smith (Maybe)

A lively discussion erupted at The Passive Voice about the validity of Heinlein’s famous passage from “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long” about generalization:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Robert A. Heinlein

Which led to an intriguing rebuttal in the comments, pointing to Adam Smith’s emphasis on specialization in The Wealth of Nations and its importance to a healthy economy and efficient production. The discussion got a touch warm in the comments section. Continue reading

G. K. Chesterton and Orson Welles

On a December 1941 Christmas broadcast of his popular radio program, Orson Welles presented part of the Gospel of Luke, the short story “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde, a few other Christmas things, and closed with a most unusual Christmas poem.

It was by G. K. Chesterton, and Welles’s reading came as the US was still reeling mentally from Pearl Harbor.

Fast-forward to 23:00. The text is below.

The Truce of Christmas

Passionate peace is in the sky—
And in the snow in silver sealed
The beasts are perfect in the field,
And men seem men so suddenly—
(But take ten swords and ten times ten
And blow the bugle in praising men;
For we are for all men under the sun;
And they are against us every one;
And misers haggle and madmen clutch,
And there is peril in praising much,
And we have the terrible tongues uncurled
That praise the world to the sons of the world.)

The idle humble hill and wood
Are bowed upon the sacred birth,
And for one little hour the earth
Is lazy with the love of good—
(But ready are you, and ready am I,
If the battle blow and the guns go by;
For we are for all men under the sun,
And they are against us every one;
And the men that hate herd all together,
To pride and gold, and the great white feather,
And the thing is graven in star and stone
That the men who love are all alone.)

Hunger is hard and time is tough,
But bless the beggars and kiss the kings;
For hope has broken the heart of things,
And nothing was ever praised enough.
(But hold the shield for a sudden swing
And point the sword when you praise a thing,
For we are for all men under the sun,
And they are against us every one;
And mime and merchant, thane and thrall
Hate us because we love them all;
Only till Christmastide go by
Passionate peace is in the sky.)

Darkness Inside

This is the time of year I go back to Susan Cooper’s series The Dark is Rising, especially the second and fourth books (The Dark is Rising and The Grey King.) Greenwich is also scary, but in different ways, and I prefer Will’s adventures on his own to those with the other children.

But something about this time of year also makes me look inside. As you can guess from some scenes in my books, especially the Cat series, I have a dark streak inside me. Not only a tendency toward depression and despair, but I have a tiger inside as well. He is not a nice monster.

I learned early on that I have to keep a hold on myself, especially when the baser passions are stirred, because what lurks inside me is vengeful, cruel, and would love to lash out. I once spent an hour walking around and around until I was absolutely certain I could stay in control of that side of me. Continue reading