Thursday, October 23, 2014

From O. Reader


I was going to call this - Don’t try this at home. But actually you would have to live in an unusual home to even contemplate trying it.

We were half way driving to Scotland and stopped off at one of the motorway service stations. A visit to the rest room was in order.

Mrs O pointed to the arrow. It appeared to me that the way to my intended destination was up the escalator. So I leapt onto it. No, she cried, it is NEXT DOOR to the escalator. Our later conversation went on a rather repetitive and circular journey. Me  – if the rest room is next to the escalator why did you point UP the escalator? She – since I pointed to the entrance NEXT TO the escalator, why on earth did you GO up the escalator...?

But alerted by Mrs O as I was being swept up into the sky, I turned around and tried to run down it. As you do. Well, as you do If you are an idiot. Or think you are immortal. Or something. Doh. I discovered that running down an upward moving track is quite easy and quite fun. Until you reach the bottom. But jumping off a moving platform turns a straight forward jump into an inadvertent dive.

I shot forward, to the consternation of Mrs O and a collection of multinational shoppers, and only saved myself from serious injury by instinctively remembering days of long ago and doing a roll – coming instantly to my feet and walking off nonchalantly and rapidly around the corner – before crumbling in considerable pain. An ashen faced Mrs O followed me to pick up the pieces.

Fortunately, I haven’t broken anything. I was able to hobble to the car and we continued our journey. But I now have a bruise in the exact shape of a mobile phone on my thigh!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


            I’m more than a little frustrated over our progress with volume two of Separate Identity. We’re rethinking one chapter. This means that I’ll have to reread several thousand pages of material. I’ll start that project this weekend. This is a key chapter – one of the most important. It’s partially written, but I think we’ll trash what we have and approach it differently.

            K. Knees returns from Portland this evening. He’ll come home to a mess. The plug to the south side main drainpipe gave way. It’s in a cubby in the first floor bedroom. Water flooded the carpet. I had to move things, call the plumber to fix it, and rent a carpet cleaner to suck out the water. It’s almost dry. When it is dry we’ll spray on a disinfectant enzyme cleaner. What a mess. I’m stressed. And it cost nearly 300 dollars to have this fixed, not counting the cost of the carpet machine rental.

            I got an email from one of my former students from back in the day when I taught at some university or other. She’s mentally ill. She was when she was my student. My one observation is that if you invite evil into your life, you compound your problems. She’s addicted to vampire novels and writes poetry about sex with demons. I think this is dark and seriously dangerous. There is another, hidden world. It is real, and if you go there you harm yourself.

            I’m unhappy with one of my writing classes. This is not a class for reluctant writers. It’s for students who already love to write, but it’s stuffed with kids whose parents made them take the class hoping it would fix problems. One parent admitted she hadn’t read the syllabus. So now I have a bunch of problem children dragging down the rest of the class. On the plus side is a dis-graphic young man who has gone from writing one sentence to writing six or eight. This is a real accomplishment. He sees himself as stupid because of a learning disability. He’s far from stupid.

            One of my coffee mob friends helped me with the flooded bedroom. She’s coming over this afternoon to help put things back in order. We’ll sort out the closets while we’re at it, and send all the outgrown clothes to a thrift store.

            Uncle B and I are still selling things to pay off our collective medical bills. I hate parting with some things, but we do need the money. We’ll list some things this week, mostly stuff that’s interesting but doesn’t contribute to our research. We’ll list a first edition second printing (1904) of the French translation of Millennial Dawn – Plan of the Ages. One like it was for sale for six hundred dollars. I think we’ll ask 125.00.

            I need to wash all the bedding before winter starts. Well, I probably don’t, but I feel better when I know all the blankets and quilts have been washed.

            Uncle B’s YA novel impressed me. I’m sad he decided it was not worth continuing.

            I teach three classes today. I’d rather stay home. I have to explain the difference between Separatists and Puritans to second and third graders. And I have a K-1 literature class in the afternoon. I don’t look forward to either of those. I really need to stop working. I just can’t.

            So much is piling up; at least I feel it is. The shutters on the front windows need to be replaced. That’s not a huge project. I’d like to get that done before first snow.

            So, how was your day?


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sometimes all it takes is patience

I've been pursuing the scarcer varieties of German inflation era stamps. Sometimes it's the shade that makes them scarce, or the placement of an overprinted denomiation, or sometimes it's the separations. Most stamps you're familiar with are perforated. Some German stamps are separated by a rouletted cut. Some of the inflation era rouletted stamps are scarce, even really expensive.

I found this lot on ebay:

Most of this is interesting but fairly common. There are a few not so common but not all that expensive. And then there is this --

It's not earth-shakingly expensive, But as a used pair is hard to find.
I'm pleased with myself. Thank you very much!

Then there are these. Some of these have no real value. They're worth pennies.
The 5, 50 and 75 thousand mark stamps have a catalogue value of about sixty dollars. The 200 mark stamp is worthless because of its condition. The 50 mark stamp (upper right corner) has a Michel Cataloge value of 150 Euros. It is somewhat less in the Scott Cagaloge.
This is an auction photo, though I now own these stamps.
If you're patient, nice things can come your way.
These are examples.

Monday, October 20, 2014

From "the old guy's" work in progress ...

I don’t fly in airplanes much. But I can tell you I don’t like landings. I read in some novel that the ground rises to meet you. That’s not what happens. The plane descends to meet the ground in a parody of a lovers’ embrace. I closed my eyes and forced them back open and watched out the window.

            I was surprised at the trees. The streets below were thickly lined with tree. I like trees. Forests sing to me, and this was an urban forest. We crossed the Potomac, green with algae or slime or whatever. The Washington Monument came into and passed out of view, and we continued to descend. The city proper appeared. The buildings are white or shades of off-white. It’s all that marble and concrete. I should have expected it, but where I lived it’s all red brick, and only one building is taller than four stories.

            The wheels hit the runway with a slight bounce. The flaps came up. There was a roar. The plane slowed, and I relaxed. There is nothing worse than falling out of the sky. A stewardess welcomed us to “our nation’s capital,” telling us it was approximately 4:02 and asking us to remain seated until we parked at the gate.

            Everyone seemed anxious to exit the plane. The aisle was full. I don’t like crowds and I especially don’t like to be herded like cattle, so I hung back. The plane emptied quickly. The stewardess leaned over Mr. Red Tie. His head still rested on his shoulder. She gently shook him; he fell forward. She reached to shake him again but pulled back.

            Consternation was replaced with panic. I could see it on her face.

The Indian man stood. “I’m a doctor,” he said. “Can I help?”

The stewardess nodded. “I’ve got to tell the captain.”

The man from India squeezed past the exiting passengers and felt for a pulse. He glanced our way, nodding slightly and shaking his head.

“We need to get you off this plane,” Leland said.

I nodded, and, as the tail end of the exiting herd passed our row, I stepped into the aisle. “Will that man be alright?” I looked back. The captain and stewardess blocked my view.

“Doesn’t look like it,” Mr. Gaunt said. “Probably had a heart attack.”


Though Leland Gaunt and I had known each other only for the duration, I felt as though we were now friends. This is unusual for me. I make few real friends, though I try to be friendly to everyone. I turned to thank him for his company and guidance.

Before I could speak he pointed to something behind me. “I think that’s your party,” he said.

I looked. It was. My dad’s back was to me, but I knew it was he.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Because Roberto Asked

Dream Stamp
The New Guiana Black on Magenta
Only Known Copy
Last sold for nearly ten million US Dollars.

First stamps issued for postal purposes. From my album. Sorry the picture quality is poor.

Among the rarest I own.
These are Postage Due stamps from Italy.
Note the one mounted by itself. Do you see that the number of value is inverted. That makes this an expensive stamp.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Okay this is more about my stamp collection. Live with it! It is my stress reliever. My Germany and Area collection is very specialized. That means that I collect varieties and sometimes both unused (called 'mint' by collectors) and used. These are from Danzig as an independent city-state post World War I. The used specimens from the hyper-inflation era are usually rarer because they were in use for a very short time.

Below are used examples of the first of the Danzig inflation issues.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

So ...

Well … I’ve returned to a full work schedule, not that I’m at all ready for that. But if I don’t we live in poverty.

            While I’ve been sick I’ve watched a huge amount of old television shows. Some of them are very poorly done, and some of those are so poorly done that they’re funny. Captain Midnight was high adventure in the 1950s. The dialogue is funny, the science invariably wrong. But it’s a fun show. The original Dragnet shows are still good, though police work has changed since the 1950s. It has held up well as entertainment. Combat! a World War 2 adventure, is still excellent. It was essentially an anti-war series, but within the limits of theater, accurate and interesting.

            I watched some of the older BBC crime dramas. The BBC version of the American show Law and Order is uniformly bad. The dialogue is improbable, the characters mentally ill, and the police work seems unrealistic. The American version is much, much better. The Inspector Linley mysteries are mixed. Some are really good. Some are not. Some episodes are filled with unnecessary personal conflict. It distracts from the story, rather than furthering it. His ability to solve crimes often comes not from good police work or deductive reason but from plot necessity. But it is good enough that he kept me entertained through several episodes. The other BBC crime and law shows are very poor.

            Bad TV isn’t unique to the UK. The American show Burke’s Law is silly to the point of stupidity. Made in color and with updated production standards it would be Inspector Linely on meth.

            When you’re mostly house bound, little things are entertaining – I suppose. I’ve read a lot, written some. I spent a lot of time in bed. My current meds are doing bad things to my skin. I bruise easily.

            My sister took me to coffee Saturday. Some of our usual coffee group showed up, mostly because of text messages. We’ve switched coffee shops. I don’t know why exactly, it just happened.

            One of our coffee mob writes paranormal romance. Her stories tend to be “torrid.” They’re probably not something most of my blog readers would find interesting. But she can write well. We discussed her work in progress. I think the discussion left the nosey neighbors (table next to ours) in shocked silence. As I understand it, the main characters are a sea-warrior turned into a wolf by a goddess of some sort. She keeps him as her “companion.” Use your imagination.
Our Coffee Group.

            I want to go camping before it turns cold. Just overnight. I like the sound of the river at night. I like the feel of a hot camp fire, and I want to eat food cooked over fire. And I want to snuggle what’s his name in a sleeping bag.

            I’ve been poking at things like the German-American Bund. Nasty bunch. Deluded. Eventually they’ll show up in my history class. As with many elements of American History, we sanitize it for high school. I don’t sanitize anything. There are some excellent raw films of Bund meetings. They speak for themselves. Next semester, we’ll watch one. I find it particularly offensive that citizens of countries with poor economies or insignificant political influence call German speakers Nazis. There are very few Austrians or Germans who find the Nazi movement attractive. Some glory in past empires that were characterized by murder, rape and the subjugation of civilizations as good as their own. Those empires were as brutal as the Nazis.

            I didn’t work last Thursday. I spent most of the day out in the barn and in the pasture, trying to get everything ready for winter. I work a little, then sit and sip coffee. Remember the male goat that thinks I’m his mommy? He still follows me everywhere. He’s very affectionate. He likes to be petted, talked to, and likes to make mischief.

            We’re getting more deer on our property than usual. Deer hunting season starts in a week. If there are poachers out, the deer would be showing up in no hunting areas, so that may explain it. Male deer are very unpredictable. It’s not wise to make friends with them. Besides (not that you want to know this) they sometimes mistake a human female for someone they might find sexually attractive and become very aggressive. There are several theories as to why this is so, but I think the explanation is that they’re just bloody perverts!

            I put out new salt licks in the trees. If it turns into the cold and snowy winter everyone seems to expect, I’ll put out feed and hay.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

I'm not going to post ...

I won't post comments that promote irrational ethnic hatred, that imply that one nationality can tell the truth and another cannot. Don't make them. You won't see them here.

The Big Guns

A. E. F. stands for American Expeditionary Force.
Assembling the Guns: World War I

What really happened to the Big Bad Wolf ....

Friday, October 10, 2014



Burn And Glow

Incantus Media


Originally from South Wales, singer-songwriter and guitarist Amy Goddard now lives in Portsmouth, where she performs regularly at local folk and acoustic clubs. She co-wrote and released one CD with a friend and musical partner, Helen Harris, before circumstances dictated she continue in a solo capacity. She then embarked on a life-changing course that explored a holistic approach to both singing and songwriting and gave her the confidence to produce a whole album’s worth of her own songs.


These stem from her self-confessed epiphany, the catharsis of writing obliquely about her own experiences without spelling them out; for, by majoring on this principle of lyrical detachment, she leaves the listener to draw his/her own conclusions by using personal experience to fill in the picture with specifics. This apparent ambiguity can lead to some revelations and unexpected insights through its flexible portrayal of key feelings and images. Make Me Whole, for instance, is a beautiful song depicting the solace found in playing a musical instrument but written from that object’s point of view, whereas Don’t Try tellingly expounds the virtues and value of a listening ear over and above a more active (albeit well-intentioned) problem-solver. On the other hand, Amy shows she can also write powerfully dark songs that more directly explore their subject (Suzie, which examines the lasting effects of serious bullying). And then, the disc’s ostensibly-final track One More Song is the perfect encore. Amy also admits to deriving songwriting inspiration from John Stewart (who could forget Daydream Believer?) and in addition to covering his song, Jasmine, she’s penned a tribute to John, Lonesome Picker, while the breezier of her own material also seems to reference John’s work, if at times (Morning Train, Just Be You) a touch obvious in its sentiment and expression. As is the brief medley of lullabies that derives from childhood memories of these being sung to her by her mother.


But the finest of her compositions – I Will See, with its striking, assured imagery; Don’t Try; the painfully vulnerable Web Of Lies – prove to be very special indeed, as is the intimate and involving atmosphere conjured by the album’s production, which conveys so well the close-knit sense of identification with her listeners that Amy’s persuasive singing voice affords. Her guitar work is both stylish and amicably phrased, allowing just enough space into the sound-picture for very occasional, selective instrumental enhancements (double bass, guitar and percussion – Greg Mudd, James Crocker) and subtle backing vocals (Matt Goddard, DiElle and the Igloo Choir). This rather lovely CD is so aptly titled, for it surely burns itself into your consciousness and leaves a wonderfully warm glow there.


David Kidman

The Living Tradition, issue 104, October 2014


Thursday, October 09, 2014

Harry's rare, one-of-a-kind stamp

It's my blog and ...

If I want to post stamp photos I will! Thupp!

Not mine, but I wish it was. Early Airmail. Germany. Expensive.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

From O. Reader



            Earlier this year, Mrs O and I had a 40th wedding anniversary celebration. The family came up and we all had prezzies.

            My daughter did a photo book for the two of us, and then the extras were a necklace for Mrs O, and for me some sheet music autographed by the late John Stewart. If you have read some of my older posts you will know why the latter is special, but if not, then no matter.

But the photo book contained numerous surprises. Earlier this year she and her husband stayed at our home to look after her grandmother, while I went to America to be ill. And, with a photo book in mind, she raided our photos, stuffed in boxes and all sorts of places; then she raided photos at my elderly mother’s, and then she raided photos from a friend who sometimes does anonymous battle/banter with me on this blog. She dug out so much stuff that I just didn’t remember – being somewhat elderly and forgetful now.

            There is stuff in the photo book that I have not seen for a million years.

            There is me walking on my hands with a 5 year old chortling in the background. At school I could cover the length of the school gym on my hands – reminding me of Boswell’s politically incorrect dog quote in Life of Johnson: “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all.” I had put such youthful achievements completely out of mind.

            There were photos from the two ends of the British Isles, John O’Groats and Lands End. One vacation I cycled from one to the other, camping on the side of the road in a kiddie’s play tent. I had tried to waterproof it but the aerosol can ran out, so I took a chance that it wouldn’t rain. I lost. At the very end was a postcard I sent to my mother from Lands End after eight days and 930 miles (the route was slightly off course so I could freeload on friends at various stations on occasion when I didn’t feel like wet camping.)

            The postcard contained eight lines of verse (or worse):


The Land’s End folk were roused from sleep

By one loud crash, then groans,

And rose to find a crumpled heap

Of mainly skin and bones!

Which exclaimed: “eight days it took

- I’ve done it – though I’ve roughed it!”

Then with a contented look

- The apparition snuffed it!


            I have no recollection of writing that at all. It is probably just as well.

            That trip was my only experience of Glasgow, cycling home at the time they threw people out the bars. I have never seen so many people fighting in the streets, and being bundled into the back of Black Marias. I put my head down and pedalled like crazy to Hamilton Race Track for another wet night. I have not been back.

            I remember I had made a list of things to do before reaching a certain age. This was one of them. The next was to canoe up the Grand Union Canal from London to Birmingham – but I pedalled back from Lands End in time to film a wedding where I met the future Mrs O and priorities sort of changed.

            There were pictures of me and the future Mrs O in Spain, where she was working. The hairstyles were interesting. There were meetings in the woods under the guise of picnics, because the group she worked for was still banned in the last days of Franco. And then all the rest, our first home, birth of child, pictures of child biting father’s feet, father putting on a horrified look while holding a book entitled Baby Taming, and fancy dress. Oh yes, fancy dress. Mrs O used to make costumes and in the regular parties the congregation we attended held for the kids, there was always someone who would write a song and get the kids to mime – generally with loads of wild enthusiasm but a certain lack of attention to detail. On one occasion our daughter played a little piggy who in the middle of the song, decided she’d had enough and escaped from Noah’s Ark, and resisted all attempted to put her back, while the singers flailed away as if nothing had happened.

            Then there was the time we made the front page of Welsh newspapers when our tandem bicycle was stolen. The reporter came and clucked sympathetically and took pictures of us looking glum. Then – just to show in the office, nothing more – could we pose as if riding an invisible tandem? Of course we could and we did, and of course that was the picture they used. Still, it ultimately got the machine back and we lived to pedal another day. In due course a kiddie seat was fixed on the back and we had some tiring holidays trying to pedal up and down mountains.

            There were photographs taken on long distance solo cycle rides (250 miles variety) where a certain correspondent insists I ate something off at a midnight cafe in Pembrokeshire and was ill in a ditch. I really don’t remember that. I am sure he imagined it.

There were vacations here and there, and pets – including a dog that grew and grew. Our daughter wanted a dog, and her best friend had picked up a stray on the side of the road, taken it home, to be presented with eight puppies of indeterminate breed. We had one of them. The first time the dog visited my mother, it enthusiastically leapt onto her lap. My mother’s cup of tea in hand shot up like a Fascist salute and we had the tea stains all over the curtains for years. Of course, as soon as our daughter got the dog she met her future husband, and we were left with the animal. Sadly our lifestyle precluded the kind of care Mutley needed, but we re-homed him in an untidy house full of children, and hopefully he lived out his life in doggy-heaven.

            Celebrations – so many years of this, so many years of that – yes, it’s a picture of a life.

But it was a bit disconcerting to think that my daughter rummaged through all that stuff. I mean, ALL that stuff - bottom drawer, bottom cupboard, attic, and all the rest. What actually is there? We haven’t looked ourselves for years. I just hope she didn’t come across my diaries...


Monday, October 06, 2014

Harry's been sending me these ...

There was a man who entered a local newspaper's pun contest.
He sent in ten different puns, in the hope that at least one of the puns would win.
Unfortunately, no pun in ten did.

1. Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He's all right now.

2. I couldn't quite remember how to throw a boomerang, but eventually it came back to me.

3. Police were called to a daycare where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

4. A small boy swallowed some coins and was taken to a hospital. When his grandmother telephoned to ask how he was a nurse said 'No change yet'.

5. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

6. Have you ever tried to eat a clock? It's very time consuming.

7. Yesterday I accidentally swallowed some food coloring. The doctor says I'm OK, but I feel like I've dyed a little inside.

8. Atheists don't solve exponential equations because they don't believe in higher powers.

9. When the cannibal showed up late to the luncheon, they gave him the cold shoulder.

10 I knew a pixie who owned a taser, man was she stunning!

Trains Return

I'm still trying

I'm still trying to learn how to use my new camera. It's frustrating ...

Here are some practice photos from one of my stamp albums:




Click to Mix and Solve

Saturday, September 27, 2014

From Harry

The Bus Duty Nazis
I’m generally a mild-mannered man, but there are days when my buttons get pushed. Yesterday was one of them.
I started volunteering at one of our elementary schools this fall. Two days a week I drive to the other end of the county to help coach a Lego robotics team. Thursday I was running late because I had been babysitting the twins while my wife had her hair appointment. Normally I get to the school before the end of the day, sign-in in the office and go to the classroom we use.
When I arrived yesterday the buses in front of the school were beginning to leave. The bus ramp is between the parking lot and the school building. Two teachers were on duty, one on each side of the crosswalk. The teacher on my side said I needed to wait for the buses to leave.
Okay. This makes sense. No one in his right mind is going to step in front of a bus. Right? The first bus pulled out, then the second, third, fourth, etc. Now there are two buses left. The one in the lead is four car lengths away and is just starting his engine. It is not moving. I cross and enter the school.
These bus ramp Nazis are yelling at me that I can’t go yet. I ignore them. You see I generally follow laws and most rules. Natural laws I will follow until I can figure out how to levitate. As Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory said, “Gravity, thou art a heartless bitch.” But I am a private citizen now and an arbitrary rule made up by some coven of a bus ramp safety committee rubs me wrong when compared to the common sense rule of looking both ways at a crosswalk and then proceeding across the street.
What made the whole incident really intolerable is that these two idiots followed me into the school office and accosted me, and telling me that I was setting a poor example to their kids. Neither of these‘ladies’ knew me. I don’t know about other schools, but it is not a common practice for teachers to yell at school visitors where I come from. They are lucky because I could have reported them to the principal, a man I have known for 20 years. Instead I told them in very direct terms that I cared very little for their arbitrary rules and they were making me even later for my meeting. They stormed off and I had to settle my nerves before facing my teams of student robot builders.
In the end the sad thing is I was considering running a robotics camp for these kids after the robotics competition is over. Now I don’t see where is worth my time to drive 60 miles (round trip) to volunteer my time at this school anymore.
I'm inclined to agree. When I was a new teacher, I let staff run all over me. I don't allow that now. In the last two years I've told the principal where to go and how to get there at least once a semester. I refused to let the yearbook staff disrupt my class room. I threw a district videographer out of my class room, reminding him and the district of Washington State student privacy law. I'm primarily responsible for having our former attendance secretary transferred to another school. I expect to give exemplary service to my students, and I expect that of other district employees. No exceptions.
If you allow officious people to run your life, you will be miserable. I'm one of the most highly qualified teachers in my field in the PNW. It is their privilege to have me. I no longer take abuse or anything approaching it from anyone. I especially expect that from support staff. They're there to support instructors; instructors are not there to support classified staff.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

An Under-whelming Response

Email to my writing partner:

Dear Brother Schulz,
Thank you for your recent e-mail. I appreciate your providing a copy of your recent book. It was received in good condition.
With good wishes,
John W*


Saturday, September 13, 2014


Mom said I could write what I wanted for her blog. So, I am. Mom is some better. Dad took off work yesterday and took mom to her school. She set in on one of her classes and had a meeting with the substitute teachers who are teaching her classes. I’m in her writing class and that’s where she was. We all miss her in that class. I try to like everyone, but sometimes that’s hard. I don’t like the substitute teaching that class, and no one else does either. Mom makes the class fun but the new teacher doesn’t. He expects us to write like adults. We’re not adults. Mom knows this and is not so critical and we learn how to improve instead of being insulted. After her visit to our school, Mom went home and slept most of the day.

I bought a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle and we put it together. Mom does better when she has something to concentrate on. She sleeps a huge amount. Dad says her new medicine does that.

My aunts come by to help. And my grand aunt came for two days. She’s my favorite aunt. One of mom’s best friends made dinner for us. It was a chicken stew with oriental noodles, different from the kind of food we usually have but okay.

Almost every kid in our school knows Mom. I can’t think of any but two boys who don’t like her. Both the boys were thrown out of her classes for being idiots. So they don’t like Mom. No one cares. No one likes them either except for a few boys just like them. I forgot to say that mom met with the substitutes taking her classes. It’s funny to me that it takes three substitutes to do what mom does.

My oldest sisters except for Kat all go to the same church. Two of them got baptized in it. And Izzy just goes sometimes. I go sometimes, but just to go with my sisters. It doesn’t make sense to me to believe some of their stuff. And some of the people are odd. One lady from that church came to see Mom yesterday. She wouldn’t take no for an answer and I was angry at her. Mom said to let her in and she says to my mom that God sent her with a special message. Now I know this church doesn’t believe in special messages in that way. But that’s what she said. Mom said that’s a Black church thing and the woman came from a black Pentecostal church originally. She took mom’s hand and said: “Who stole your lampstand?” This was creepy. But mom was nice to her. I wouldn’t have been. I wanted to yell at her. Mom’s sick. Come debate your silly religion when mom’s not sick!

Kat and I have been fixing up mom’s work space. We dusted all the shelves and put all the books back where they belong. I get distracted in her room. It’s easy to do. She has so many interesting things. And I like her stamps. She gave me an album and I started my own stamp collection.

People call mom on the phone, but mostly she can’t talk to them or for long. I’ve brought home lots of get well cards from school from teachers and from kids who like her. We stick them on the frig.

Dad took her to town this afternoon for coffee and cake. They’re not home yet. You have to help her walk because she is dizzy a lot. She has a cane she uses then too. Not because she’s lame or anything just dizzy.

When I was younger I didn’t like it when other kids hugged my mom, but I don’t mind anymore. When she was at our school she got lots of hugs. It made me feel better for my mom. So she’s getting better but slowly.

I tell her when people wish her well. Sometimes she doesn’t really hear what I say, but she’s much better at that now. -- Anastasia

Monday, September 08, 2014


I've answered a few of mom's emails, but some seem personal. For those who've asked about her health you should know that she can't answer your emails but I've told her that you've written.

Anastasia Marie

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Mom can't write things for her blog right now. She'll be better later and come back to it then.


Tuesday, September 02, 2014

From O. Reader


Like many a tourist I do like history and enjoy visiting historical sites. Back in June when I made my first visit to America, one thing I noted was that as a (relatively speaking) young country nearly everything was quite modern – certainly when compared with the UK. Now that is not a criticism, it is just the way it is – you see an old barn (ten a penny in rural England) and in America it turns out to be an ancient monument.

I will say though, that in my limited experience in America, the places I visited had made efforts to preserve what history they had. I spent several days in Pittsburgh. I liked Pittsburgh a lot. It is quite a small city, a little smaller than Cardiff in South Wales. It is a city built on steel. There are numerous folk songs about steel-men that originate in the area and have travelled since. One evening in Pittsburgh I was standing with my hosts looking down from what is now known as Mount Washington.

The area had originally been populated by poor German immigrants. They lived on top of what was then called Coal Hill and had to work down in the valley alongside the Monongahela River. The river was so polluted, in the depths of winter it never froze, and met the Allegheny River downstream – which did freeze. To get to and from work they built a number of incline railways – based on the funiculars found back in the old country.

Only two of the incline railways are preserved, but they are preserved well. Of course, the hill top area has now become extremely expensive – the views, coupled with the absence of the steel industry, make it so.

Along the river valley, there are various pieces of machinery from the steelworks, now preserved. They are painted up, often in bright colors, with labels showing what they did, and the waterfront area is a nice place to walk and eat and drink. It was full of families – and history. They have done well.

Looking across the vista from Mount Washington you could see modern Pittsburgh with its tall buildings – which may be practical but do not appeal – aesthetically I found New York the pits for that reason, although I acknowledge that some British cities are going the same way. And you could also see old Allegheny. Allegheny has been much redeveloped, and they haven’t done a bad job – except that about 40-50 years ago they knocked down rather a lot of the history that I had specifically come to Pittsburgh to see. I actually knew in advance that it had gone, and there was a plaque to say it had gone but that it had once been the stomping ground of the person I was researching – but retrospectively, it was a shame. My main sources of research that remained untouched were the many graveyards. Unlike Britain, where it is quite possible that your ancient relatives may get concreted over in the interests of a new multi-storey car park, graveyards in America seem to be heritage sites, and therefore protected and well-tended. Well, at least the ones I visited anyway.

If only we knew what would be viable historical sites for the future. Where I live, in South Wales, there is a World Heritage Site called Blaenavon. Now I knew Blaenavon when it was just Blaenavon. I used to visit people there and visit the spit and sawdust cinema, where films ended up after the major circuits had finished with them and trashed half the sprocket holes. It was a rowdy but friendly audience – you could expect full interactive audience participation for every movie.

Blaenavon had been a huge site for the coal, iron and steel industries. As these industries contracted and died, things were just left to rot. And rot they did. No slum clearance, no gentrification – nobody from outside wanted to live there, and those stuck there didn’t have a lot of choice. But when heritage became big business, suddenly there were sufficient viable ruins to be restored on which they could set to work. So there is the Big Pit – you can go down in the cage and turn your light off and just be very glad you didn’t work there in the old days. There’s the Blaenavon Ironworks, a section of the Pontypool and Blaenavon railway, and other bits and pieces.

Sadly, next door, is a town that had far more history, Merthyr Tydfil. Two hundred years ago this was the largest place in Wales. Much larger than Cardiff. Merthyr had history, it had unrest, in addition to the martyr Tydfil (Merthyr means martyr in Welsh by the way) it had its own more recent martyr, Dic Penderyn. Dic was hanged in 1831 after a soldier was stabbed in the coalminers’ revolt that came to be known as the Merthyr Rising. Years later, someone else confessed on their deathbed that they had been responsible – but the establishment needed a scapegoat at the time. There was so much history in Merthyr, but when it all fell apart and grinding poverty hit the area after the First World War, well-meaning people tried to improve the area. They pulled down historical remains – they put up high rise flats (well, high rise for Britain of the day, small fry by American standards) and they did their best. They ultimately created new slums, and grappled with huge social problems, but they did their best. But they trashed most of their heritage along the way. It is a nice little town to visit today, with a college and river walk and new bridges and little tiny bits of history – mainly chapels from "the great awakening" no longer used for worship – other than that of mammon – but it is a huge opportunity lost. But of course, they didn’t know that at the time. Life in Merthyr might have been a bit better than Blaenavon for a few years, but it is Blaenavon that now has the heritage status.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing – but in the circumstances, a pretty useless thing. I remember reading Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, where at one point he mused over the hideous presents people were giving each other – and wondered if these would be rare antiques of the future? You watch antique programs and – yes – they are. If only we had saved them and hoarded and then could sell them. Trouble is – you would have to wait until you were long dead and gone to get anything back – and it could be just as true that they were worthless. It is like old books. Some people think that old books are valuable because they are old. I remember visiting a shop on the Isle of Wight and asking if they had any old books (I was looking for weird Bible Translations at the time). Oh yes, they had old books – they must be rare because well, they were old, and they were real old books – you know, they had old covers (now detached) and they had old pages... It was not a productive conversation.

But I like it when old things are preserved, valuable or not. So, I like heritage. I like it when town planners insist that old facades still be kept on modern buildings. I like it when the skyline isn’t completely blighted by buildings that shut out the light. And for all its warts and all, Britain does have a lot of this sort of stuff overall. So give me your tired and your huddled masses – do come on your tourist visas and please do spend your dollars here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

In a Cowboy Mood

North American Traditional of Uncertain origins