Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Goodreads update ...

As noted in the previous post's comment trail, all but one of the abusive accounts was removed. I am more kindly disposed to the Goodreads staff, but I am unhappy that they left one of these up. There seems to be no rational reason for doing so. And I wonder if this is their usual practice. Goodreads has a history of fostering abuse, or rather of allowing it. As improved as the situation is, I'm still unhappy with them.

Monday, May 18, 2015


Some of you may use Goodreads. Pixie Warrior is reviewed on Goodreads, and most of the reviews are pleasing. On April 11, 2015, an individual using the Second Life platform created a number of accounts to trash my book, a book he’s never read. He is vulgar in real life, wants sex, and is annoying as he can be. My response was to mute him. As it does most trolls and griefers this upset him. His mental well-being depends on being noticed. He is an attention whore.

I contacted Goodreads on April 15th, explaining the situation in full. As distasteful as it was to explain the situation, I did so bluntly:

“I'm Rachael de Vienne, the author of Pixie Warrior, an out of print ebook. On April 11, 2015, someone from the social media site Second Life posted many negative reviews, never having read the book. This is spill over from my refusal to have cartoon sex with him and his dog. The names he used are: Pwruch, Rachel IsabitchonSL, Rachel Ismean, and Maltese Doggy. Each of these accounts was made specifically to attack me and most of them contain a personal message. On the basis that he could not have read a book now out of print and that these are personal attack disconnected with Pixie Warrior, please remove his reviews.”

Goodreads replied on April 17th:

“Hi Rachael,

We wanted to let you know that we received your message, and we are in the process of looking into this matter for you.  We appreciate your patience and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.  If you have any questions in the meantime, please don't hesitate to let us know.

The Goodreads Team”

Their email led me to expect that they would address the issue. I was wildly mistaken. Today I received this email:

“Hi Rachael,

Thank you for your patience as we looked into this. Creating fake accounts for the sole purpose of inflating or deflating a book's ratings average is prohibited. We have looked into the accounts you reported, and as several of the them raised a number of our standard red flags for illegitimacy, they have been removed from the site.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to let us know.

The Goodreads Team”

Now this makes is seem that the Goodreads Team addressed the issue. They did not. All the reviews remain and the accounts are still active. They lied. Are they stupid? Did they think I’d fail to check?

If you have a Goodreads account, cancel it. If you’re an author, and many of my readers are, check your reviews for similar issues – but don’t count on Goodreads staff for help. They lie.

Friday, May 08, 2015

From O. Reader

Memento Mori
A few months ago I visited the home of a long-time collector and author. He had died in his late eighties, and had been a friend for many years. I was mentioned in his will as someone who should be invited to his home and be allowed to help myself to twenty of his books from his library as a gift. That was quite a surprise, an unusual bequest. The family were even more generous – take as much as you like, they said.
This collector was an authority on certain subjects that overlapped my interests, and he often wrote for magazines that circulated in the many millions, but with a policy of using unpaid and uncredited writers. His home – which I had visited many times in the past when researching materials for my own literary efforts – was still crammed with about five thousand volumes – give or take – and innumerable files of research material. He had managed to sell off a few rare folios, but nearly everything else remained, as if he were still there.
It was a good day. Mrs O came with me, and we had lunch with one of the daughters and her husband. They had a gossip and I personally went through everything!! Even the books that I knew were buried in a second layer on some of the shelves!
But it was sad on several levels. One was the loss of the individual – which of course is a very personal thing. He wasn’t everyone’s favourite person – none of us are – but I had a great respect for his work, especially his earlier work, and had proofread materials for his last publication.
But as a collector myself, I could see the sadness in the real dilemma facing his family. They hadn’t taken a great interest in the minutia of his collection – it wasn’t their scene – so sadly he couldn’t just have left it to them. They weren’t going to be keepers of the flame. And they were totally nonplussed. They didn’t know what on earth to do with it all. There was this huge daunting mass of materials, and all the widow wanted to do was drastically downsize and get rid of the whole lot as soon as possible.
Now there was gold there. Specialized, but real gold. I did my good deed and didn’t make off with any of the actual valuable re-saleable stuff. I went through it all and told them which volumes were worth a good amount (a nice set of Horae Apocalypticae for example), and should be sold as individual pieces with reserves, and not just be sold as a job-lot, or worse, sent to a charity shop, or even worse again, put in a dumpster. Much of the rare material of interest I already had myself – either as originals or pdfs – so there was no point (other than personal profit) in my taking any of this; and anyway, I felt that would have been a betrayal of the family’s interests.
Instead, I chose the odd quirky materials that appealed to me, plus a mass of correspondence with flaky individuals from the past that filled a few gaps in my jigsaw of strange people and strange events in which I take an unhealthy interest, but few others would. I am VERY pleased to have that material.
A month or two later, after the bulk was sold at auction (with hopefully my suggested reserves on some items), I received a call from another collector friend. He had been out of the country at a crucial time, but still managed to trace where some of the material had gone at auction and obtained some items. It obviously cost him a lot more than the family received by that time, but at least we knew that the family received a fair price and crucially – which is where I am finally coming to in this post - the material has survived.
But it makes one concerned about one’s own holdings. For years I have collected rare materials in a certain field, but knew I would never complete them all. Even the group that originally produced the stuff has gaps in its own collection. My family smile indulgently and ask me to tidy the shelves and the desk and the floor in my office from time to time (I have what is known as a flat filing system), but the details are not their scene. Should I suddenly wander into the road under a truck, I don’t want my nearest and dearest to be faced with the horrible dilemma that poor family I visited faced. I would rather dispose of a lot of original material while I am still fit and well – making sure it either goes to good homes that will treasure it, or at least will pay for it, so won’t just dump it. For really rare materials, we only have “a lend” it seems to me.
So many times I have followed up leads to discover that materials have been lost forever because people have had no idea of their rarity and value. A classic example involved rare movie film which had survived for decades. But by the time I had tracked down the descendants of the owner, he had died and his relatives in their ignorance had junked it. So it was gone for good. In my book, that remains a real tragedy. A reconstruction of the movie in question is still missing some of those segments.
Is there any message in this post? If we collect, we are custodians, we have a “lend” of material – that is all. We may view it as an investment, to generate income when needed of course. That is fair enough. But we really have a responsibility to posterity to see that the content as well as the object lasts longer than we do.
So I have got to the point where I am happy to start shedding my rare materials to fund other things. I am happy when I know the objects have gone to someone younger who will treasure them a bit longer than I may be around, and if they have paid for them, have at least put that value on them. And I am happy to copy what I can and share it freely with the few people who will understand it. Because if future researchers are to able to do their work, then key material must still exist somewhere – and not just exist, but be accessible.
Now when I get on my high horse and bang on like this, you may call me po-faced, you may call me pompous, you can call me whatever you like. I really don’t care. But I don’t want my life’s collecting interest to end up in the trash, and neither would I ever want to subject my family to the dilemma those poor relatives of my friend faced, with their mountain of mystery and little chance to unlock it on their own. So I hope I helped them out a little bit.
Normal service (i.e. feeble attempts at humor) may be restored in future posts.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

A Doodle

So ... my writing partner sent me a scan of some of his notes from way back when. I found this scribbled on the bottom.

I wonder what was going through his head when he felt the urge to doodle on his notes. ....

Mystery Photo

From a box of old family photos. Unidentified. Doesn't look like any of us. Taken in Hanover, Germany.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Pet VII

If you're going to record classic literature ....

You should at least know how to pronounce the names. This recording butchers a classic poem. The reader can't pronounce the Native American names and he never bothered to find the correct pronunciation of Michigan. This is a fail.

Americans can successfully read aloud English and Scots poems. Englishmen almost never get American or Canadian poems right. Shame!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Older Crime TV with Doctors

Canadian, sometimes insulting to an American audience, but usually good. Australian. Sometimes the characters seem improbable. But uniformly good nevertheless. American. Overly dramatic, has not held up well. Some are good, some just obnoxious.

No so good. 9 seconds under 'average time.'

Click to Mix and Solve

A historian I admire

Skip the boring introductions.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

From Harry

To Rachael and others the Great War was WWI. Here in the South it was the war between the states - the Great Civil War. I am not going to defend the South here. Slavery was and is an abomination. But at a gathering of my high school classmates yesterday, I became aware of a song that tells the story of one soldier from my home. I want to share it with y’all. - Harry

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Working at Home; Pie, Shoes and Socks

So … I had Thursday off. But not really. I completed by class descriptions for next Fall’s catalogue. This is a time consuming and stressful project. It’s become more complex over the last two years. It’s not a fun task. Knobby Knees was home too. He abandons his office for work at home when a major project is due. He says he is less distracted at home, which maybe be true sometimes. Anyway … he turns off his cell, won’t answer emails, and uses me to block calls to the home phone. I never answer that anyway. It all goes to voice mail. Anyone who’s important has our cell phone numbers.

We slept in some – I slept longer than he did. I made coffee and took it up to his office area. He had his nose nearly pressed to the computer screen, and he was frowning.

“Here,” I said, setting the cup on his desk.

He didn’t look up. Now lack of attention can make a pixie flutter her wings. I fluttered mine, kissing him on the cheek.

“Thanks,” he said, still not looking up.

“Have you eaten?” I ask.

He nods. “Toast and strawberry jelly,” he says.

“I’ll make some bacon and eggs,” I say.

He nods again, finally looking away from his work. “You’re very distracting,” he says.

I blink. My hair is un-brushed; I’m in my old ratty bathrobe, I’m wearing my ratty terry slippers. My eyes are blurry from sleep. “You’re blind and a pervert,” I say.

He chuckles.




I shout up the stairs. The eggs are done; the bacon is prepared as he likes it. I’ve toasted bagels and spread cream cheese. He clumps down the stairs. “Kiss first,” I say.

He obliges.

“I won’t get anything done if you distract me,” he says.

“Okay,” I say. I won’t distract you. I have work of my own to finish.”




So … It’s about an hour later. I’ve sent my course catalogue entries off to the appropriate secretary and read my personal and school emails, one of which is a nagging email about lesson plans that aren’t really due for a week. I’ll have them done by Monday.

I look at the ceiling. Knobby Knees is up there, quiet, immersed in architectural designs and such. He probably could use a break and more coffee. I know I needed both. But I should probably get dressed first. So I do. Sort of. Maybe.

I carry a tray up the stairs. On it is a small carafe of coffee, a mug for me, the last two pieces of apple pie and two forks. I have to kick at the door because my hands are full and there’s no convenient spot on which to rest the tray. He opens the door and steps back to let me enter. I place the tray on his work table and smile.
Pie with Intent.

“Lass,” he says. “Just what I needed. …. Are you trying to distract me,” He adds.

I shake my head and pour the coffee. He’s already nabbed a slice of pie.

“Pretty shoes,” he says.

“Thanks,” I say.

“Did you plan on wearing anything else?”

“I’m wearing socks,” I say.
Shoes and Socks

“So you are …” His eyes drift upwards. “And a bracelet.”

“Yes,” I say.

“Can I finish my pie first?” he asks.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

From Harry

I have sent Rachael several posts recently that she has not put on the blog for whatever reason. Some were funny, at least to me. Some were personal. I am a proud grandfather of adorable twins. {Yes, I'm neglectful. I repent. - pixie.)
Anyhoo, I will try once more with a story of terror and unspeakable acts. I give you…


I walked down the hall with a sense of trepidation as well as a feeling of cold air flowing over my nether regions under the hospital gown I wore. They were waiting for me as I entered the room. 

“Here, sit on the table.”

“Lay down please.”

“Slide back a little please.”

“He’s pretty big. Is he going to fit?”

“Raise your arms up. Back more, please.” 

I feel the examination table rise and then move forward into the maul of the giant machine. Further and further I go. My chest is constricted as I breathe in the tightness of the tunnel. 

“It’s tight. Are you okay? Can you breathe?”

“It should work. Pull him out.”

Now things start in earnest. Unspeakable things. 
Friendly Technicians

“Roll over on your side. Relax, (pause) just a little lubricant. Deep breathes now. You’ll feel a little pressure.” 

GREAT JOHN PHILLIPS SOUSA! She calls that a little pressure! But wait… there’s more.

“Now we’ll just pump up the ball a little to hold it in place,” she says with a soothing voice, which is not helping as the pressure increases. 
The Wicked Coil!

MY AUNT SALLY’S KNICKERS! Somehow I believe there has been a miscommunication as to the actual size of the “small coil” to be inserted next to my prostate. I grimace as I roll over on my back again. The inquisitors… er, I mean technicians, position me again. 

“You’re going to feel a little prick…” (I’ve heard that before.) After several intense jabs in my left arm, she moves to the right and starts an IV. Headphones are put in place and I’m given a bulb to squeeze if I need to escape my prison. 

And now it begins… 

As I listen to the soaring strings of a Mozart concerto, the table moves relentlessly into the mouth of the great machine. It stops with my head just inside the opening. 

BARRAPP, BARRAPP, BARRAPP, BARRAPP, BARRAPP. The machine screams in my ears, only slightly muffled by the headphones which are now jammed hard against my head by the tight confines of my prison.

BARRIPP, BARRIPP, BARRIPP, BARRIPP, BARRIPP. The sound pulses rise in tone. The thought of listening to music as I while away the time is now a distant dream. 

I hear an indistinct voice. I push one headphone from my ear. “Is everything okay?” I hear the voice through a nearby speaker. I raise a thumb in assent. 

A technician is beside me to adjust the position of the headphones. I tell him to take them off. They replace them with foam earplugs. Back into the tunnel of torture again, deeper still, more loud sounds blaring in my head as I feel the table jerk and shudder.  

Oh no. I feel an itch around my left ear. I try to ignore it and, of course, it grows more intense. I try counting the number of times a pulse of sound is repeated before it changes tone. I can’t. The ear itch has now been replaced by one in my right foot. I realize I am grinding my teeth and will myself to relax. My right arm seems to be comfortably positioned, but the muscles in my left arm are aching. 

I had kept my eyes closed for the most part, but open them from time to time. I am close enough to the tube to see the lines and scratches in the plastic shell and wonder how they got there. My nose starts itching and I stare at the small microphone above me. I am curious how the paint has been peeled away in places on its surface. The noise shifts in pitch again and rises in intensity. A distant voice tells me that the ‘contrast’ has been added to the IV. Eleven minutes to go. 

How do you count the passage of time when you have no watch? Let’s see my normal respiratory rate is 22 breathes per minute. In. Out. One. Two. One. Two. Oh no, I am counting one breath as two and then repeating myself. I can’t count. 


“Okay, you’re done. Let’s pull you out.”


 “He’s stuck.”

“Push him back. (Pause) Alright, now pull.”

“There we go. The rail was stuck.”

“Okay, lift your knees up. I’m going to remove the coil.” 

GODFREY DANIELS! MOTHER OF PEARL! The (REDACTED) thing feels larger coming out than it did going in. 

The MRI technicians sit me up and help me off the table. They all tell me how well I did throughout my fifty-minute ordeal. As I leave the tunnel of terror I am just thinking of two things. I need my pants and I want a stiff drink!

Austria - Long-Service Soldiers - February 1918

Monday, April 20, 2015

Don't annoy one of these ...

"Pretty? Of course I'm pretty. Continue to annoy me and I'll feed your gizzard to the frogs."

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Children Playing on the Beach - 1914

Note how they drew their skirts between their legs and tucked them in the front. You can find similar images as far back as the 1500s.
This image is from a French soldier's post card mailed in October 1914.

Pittsburgh PA - 1910-1915

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Little Rabbits

I haven’t written about my daughters in a while. At their age they need some privacy. But I’m going to tell you about Annie. Anastasia isn’t the child of my earlier posts. Oh, she’s not all grow up, but she’s a maturing young ‘lady.’ She’s in between, I guess. She can still find pleasure in playing dolls with my baby half-sister. But she has developing intellectual and personal tastes.

            She likes to dress nicely. Of all my daughters, she is the one who will spend an hour with me looking through clothes at the Goodwill store. With patience, we find nice things. She found a like-new pair of Italian-made shoes. They sell for nearly two hundred dollars at Macey’s. These do not seem to have been worn.

            Annie is still attached at the hip to me and her sisters. She’s very social, a chatter box sometimes. She has definite beliefs, often at odds with some of her sisters. And she’s discovered tea. I prefer coffee. But she likes tea. Her grandmother collected tea cups and saucers. Annie has adopted a Copland set as her own. She boils her water, pours it in her cup and brings the cup, water and a tea bag into my work room to chat or read.

            If any of my children will turn to writing, it is she. I sent off some of her writing to a friend who is also a literary agent. Friend agent said that Annie was “immensely talented.” I agree.

            There is still much left of the little-girl Annie. She likes to snuggle. She can still annoy Isabella and will do that on purpose. Isabella in turn has always been Annie’s ‘protector’ and nag. But there is less need for that now, and their relationship is changing. Annie is not as impulsive as she was. Isabella isn’t the scold she was.

            Annie coaxes me into a cup of tea some days. Once she got out her grandmother’s silver tea set and made ‘high tea’ for us all. It was fun. We don’t make blanket ‘forts’ under the table or behind the couch unless my baby sister is staying over. Then the expert tent maker in Annie takes over. I still find Annie wandering the house at night, looking for a non traditional place to sleep. She’s done that always – well, at least since she could walk. Today she does it because (she claims) Kat ‘snorts’ in her sleep. Oh dear LORD and little rabbits!

So .... I have this secret formula

So … I bought this ratty stamp. A nice example would cost about forty dollars. I paid about two dollars. No one else bid on it because, as you can see, it’s really ratty. But … its condition is curable.
Notice that it’s on a paper fragment. My best guess is that this is a fragment of an old album page and that the stamp was glued to the pages with mucilage. The glue accounts for the stain. Without the stain and the paper fragment, this is a nice stamp. So when it arrives I will soak it in warm water with a tiny amount of dish soap added. This will remove the paper and some of the stain. If it is a mucilage stain, I’ll add a drop of my secret, super-duper chemical and rinse it in clean cold water. The stamp will be stain free.
My secret is a bit of pre-wash stain remover. Don’t tell anyone. It is a secret.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Germany - Official Stamps from Inflation Era

This is a messy page, and eventually I'll reorganize it. Some of these are very scarce. Two of them may not be what they seem. I'm still working on that issue. The two billion mark stamp might have a faked overprint. I've compared it to others I know to be genuine, and I have unresolved questions. I'm watching an authenticated one at auction. I have similar questions about the ten billion mark stamp. The Dienstmark overprints seem to be too thick, the final 'e' misshaped and the cancellations seem to be washed out. The problem with these concerns is that I can find similar problems on authenticated examples. It'll give me something to do on days I must vegetate.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Televison as national personality

Two mostly contemporary television shows. I think they show national personalities. What do you think?

From O. Reader or the trials and tribulations of ...


Many years ago when I was young and sweet and innocent I spent some time in the Royal County of Berkshire working with a group of like-minded people and attended gatherings three times a week. The man who presided over the group used to have a special ritual each week – he would always conclude one particular meeting by relating what he called an “experience”. This was basically an anecdote about the work that had been done that past week with a good encouraging result. But this night the meeting ran late. It wasn’t my fault, but I had the misfortune to have started late and been on just before he rose to conclude. He scowled at me and the audience in general and in sonorous tones (and broad Berkshire accent) announced: “I was going to have an EXPERIENCE to-night – pause – but there isn’t time so I’ll have an EXPERIENCE on Sunday...”  I can still see people stuffing handkerchiefs into their faces to conceal their merriment.  

Which is nothing to do with this post really – it just came back to me through the mists of times – except that you could say that I had AN EXPERIENCE this week – involving my automobile – what we Brits always call a “car”. (So do we Americans – ed.) 

Finally Out of the Car.

I am rushing out to get to two patients and am already late. I quickly press the button to open the central locking on the vehicle and clamber inside. But somehow, in fumbling with the key in the steering lock I inadvertently press the same button again. The central locking system promptly goes CLUNK and locks up the car. DRAT I think, how on earth did I manage to do that? So I press the button again to unlock it, so I can drive away as planned. Total silence. Nothing happens. Huh? What? I press it again, and again. Zilch. I am now locked in my car. I can’t manually open it from the inside. The door won’t budge.  It could be opened with the key in my driver’s door of course, but – er- the key is with me – locked inside the car. We never got round to getting a spare. 

This cannot be happening I think. But it is. It has.  

How do I make my escape? A cellphone call to my local service garage yields, along with general hilarity, the thought that the rear doors can be opened by hand, as long as you can manually deal with the child safety lock inside. So I phone Mrs O who comes out to the car and we conduct a conversation by semaphore through the window. I then clamber from the front of the vehicle, headfirst with bottom in the air, to get onto the back seats. I tug the child lock handle and Mrs O tugs the outside handle – and eureka – I am free.

I am also about an hour late for two patients. Somehow in jiggling the vehicle around, things have started working again because the alarm now goes off big time and summons half the village to see what vehicle we are stealing. Fiddling around with the key finally stops the alarm and starts the car.

All seems well. I nervously visit my clients, do unspeakable things to their feet, and come back to the car. I press the button to unlock the car. Silence. Nothing happens. Aaaagh! I am now OUTSIDE the car. It starts to rain. I forget for a moment of extreme distressed dampness that I can at least get into the beast with the key in the door. I manage this, and give up – and call my rescue service which here in the UK is called the RAC (Royal Automobile Club). An hour later a nice man in a patrol car comes and makes an extreme effort to not sound like he is talking to a five year old.

And what was it dear reader? A clasp on the battery had come loose, and so power to work everything was intermittent. As in – working when you didn’t want it to, and not working at all when it was essential. One quick turn of a spanner – my no claims bonus for not calling them out this year is now shot to pieces – but I am mobile again.

 Cars, cars.

Still it used to be worse. It made me think of other vehicles our little family owned in the past – now all safely gone to that great scrap heap in the sky.  

But that’s perhaps another story.

Harry, Anthony ...

Coments would be nice. Go read 'stuff'.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Roberto's stamp question

Roberto asked how I bought my stamps on the cheap. Harry said I used a coupon from Stamps R us which made me giggle. But now for the serious answer …

            I buy most of my stamps online. There are many stamp dealers and auctions online. The largest and easiest to use is ebay. As with anything sold on ebay, it takes patience and persistence to find the good stuff at a good price. While I find some things by just browsing, I hunt for specific stamps. That more than any other search takes patience. Remember the official stamp I posted about earlier. Finding that was the result of a persistent search. I searched for it by Scott and Michel numbers, by date, by a combination of search terms. I found it by searching “Germany pages.” I see lots of junk that way, but I also see stamps the seller failed to check.

            Many dealers start their auctions at ninety-nine cents or some similar amount. If it’s something I need or want, I’ll put it on my watch list knowing that it will probably go for much more than I want to pay. But sometimes they receive no bid. I have the entire set of the ‘snake’ over print German officials. They are listed for hundreds of dollars each. The most I paid for any of them was five dollars, because I found them in mass lots that no one wanted or bought them from the dealers with low initial listing price when their items received no or few bids.

            If the item is really scarce, even rare, I will take a stamp with minor flaws, sometimes more than minor if it is still presentable. A flaw drastically reduces the value. But the stamp can still look nice on a page. Below is a page from my Germany collection. These are the Thurn and Taxis North District stamps. The princes of Thurn and Taxis had the mail contract with most of the German states. You see I still miss some. If you look closely you’ll notice that many of these are flawed in some way. Some are cut close on the margins, or even into the margins. One is heavily canceled to the point where the ink bled into the stamp. It would be hard for me to find nicer examples at a price I can afford.

Some of these are really good, some so so, a couple are badish. But its how I found them and I probably cant afford better. Sometimes I find something really supperior for nearly nothing. 

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Early Saxony ... Now mine

I've been looking for a copy I could afford for a long time. Found this one with minor faults for 4.00 including postage. Not bad, huh?

I have a headache but I wrote this anyway ....

I’m about to run off to teach my morning class. I don’t want to go. I want to stay in bed and sleep. Mostly all I want to do these days involves a pillow and closed eyes. But I forge on. The WA state Department of Education people are coming this month. They want to interview me and a few others about our program. They like us and use us as a model which is pleasing and intimidating.


My writing partner and I are reworking the outline for the chapter we’re writing. We had a major miscommunication. He thought I had material I did not. He was going to use it in chapter one. Nonsense! So a contributor to our history blog sent it along to me. Big surprise! I’ve griped, moaned, complained and now it will show up where it belongs.


Some days everything makes me unhappy. I know it comes from declining health and as a side-effect of my current medication. But knowing doesn’t make it better.


Oh … they’re doing major upgrades to our school over the summer. So we have to pack up everything. They’re basically building us a new building. Everything must move out in the interim. Fun huh? Not so much. Nice new stuff will be good. Packing stuff won’t be.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Can you solve it?

So I went 'treasure hunting' today. I found a book and this picture. It's on modern photopaper, and it's not a print from a digital camera. It's been in the frame long enough that most of the color has washed out. I don't know which castle this is, nor do I know the broad location. I suspect this is Scottish because of the bulky square tower. It could possibly be Irish. I do not know. Can you find it?

Okay, so I solved it myself ... It's Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

Silly Poem - Written for a Child

I Wonder
By B. W. Schulz
Do little fishies have to bathe,
Or are they washed in the waves?
Do their mothers lick them clean?
Do they look into a mirror and preen?
Do they wash their hands before they eat?
Before at the table they take a seat?

At night, when everyone else is sleeping ....

Thursday, March 26, 2015



New to my Collection.

Wurttemberg Prepaid Stationary.
I haven't identified all of these.
Top Row: Offical overprints on prepaid letter and money order
Second Row: Envelope corners
The rest are unknown to me, but fun.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


From O. Reader


I blame it all on Welsh TV.

I remember for many years that Welsh TV was – well – Welsh. Like. You know. Sort of. As viewed by foreigners from England.  I also remember once there was a competition in a national newspaper as to what could make you punch the remote control quicker than anything else. There was one outright winner:

“And now for our classic movie - Singing in the Rain...   (pause)    ...Viewers in Wales have their own program...”

But it has changed a bit, and Welsh language programs have been fairly adventurous, especially since they gained their own dedicated channel. OK, so the programs for tiny tots can resemble Beatrix Potter on acid, but some of the others aren’t too bad, even if (like me) you need the subtitles.

British TV in recent years has shown a number of crime dramas originating in Scandinavia. They have invariably been dark, moody and miserable. Well, someone worked out that parts of Mid Wales can be dark, moody and miserable – especially when it rains. That’s 365 days of the year. So they decided to do a moody Welsh noir.

There were two versions – an English language one, lapsing into Welsh in home situations with subtitles (which is more the reality in Wales) and one totally in Welsh. They were filmed back to back. The English language one was called Hinterland and the Welsh, Y Gwyll.

So someone in our household of two (who shall remain nameless) suggested that we did Aberystwyth and did the film locations. In previous years we have done the same for British crime series Inspector Morse (Oxford) and Foyle’s War (Hastings). We have our stash of pics of Mr and Mrs O pulling faces (the local word is gurning) in front of well-known sites of the Ghost of TV Series Past.

We managed to get respite care for my mother for two weeks. The government’s idea is to give carers a break, so they don’t crack up and cost the State even more money. So off she went for her “holiday” and off we went for ours. And that is why we have been shivering in a caravan near Aberystwyth. Now we like caravans. I have lived in several in my murky past. The problem is the time of year and lack of insulation. We were promised verbally that the van would have central heating. They lied. They of course denied this, and we have just stuck it out – with hot water bottles, piles of bedclothes and eReaders, and a cold nose when waking up in the morning. Not being canine, and pushing elderly, it hasn’t really worked as it should we have done.

But Aberystwyth has been interesting. There is a series of books by Malcolm Pryce with pastiches on familiar titles – Don’t Cry for me Aberystwyth, Aberystwyth Mon Amour, Last Tango in Aberystwyth etc. They are a sort of mixture of Raymond Chandler crossed with Terry Pratchett. Imagine hard boiled dialog but Druids replacing the Mafia. Aberystwyth houses a famous university and the National Library of Wales. We did the library, the tour, the exhibits, and some researching (Mrs O on Welsh folk songs, and me on Welsh Bibles) and as always when away, we looked up the local folk club, with a whole new unsuspecting audience for our limited repertoire. We also attended a one day meeting attended by over 300 where the whole program was in Welsh. I will be doing one of the talks in English in a few weeks time at a repeat event and thought I might have gained some points. And if I could have understood more than the odd word, perhaps I would have done. Mrs O is the linguist in our family. The language is certainly making a comeback from those former days of being suppressed and children using it in schools being punished by the authorities.

And of course, the locations for Y Gwyll. One key location was a place called Devil’s Bridge. I’d been there before, but a million years ago when our daughter was small, and we never did “the walk”. This time we did.  This time I wished we hadn’t.  It is a one-way trip down an extremely steep gorge, with high water-falls to your side and rainwater underfoot; then crossing a scary bridge, and up the other side. Once you have entered – using a primitive slot machine – you can’t get back. There’s a catch-phrase from a British quiz show – I’ve started so I’ll finish... No choice here. We reached the bottom, Mrs O was hyperventilating, and I had come to realise how badly I had done my leg in the day before (don’t ask). Never mind, says I, we are half way there. Except that the second half was going up; mountaineering with slippery rocks, dodgy handrails, and the real possibility of doing an impersonation of that famous Holmes-Moriarty scene from the Reichenbach Falls.

I think I am getting old. I once mentioned in an old post how my father walked 13 miles for charity (and more important for him, a story on the front page of his local newspaper) when he was 95 years old. He died shortly thereafter, but I hasten to add that there was no connection between the two events. However, I have decided after Devil’s Bridge that I am not going to emulate him.

And finally, we spent time in the caravan and shivered and caught up on DVDs. While writing this, we have been watching Paranoiac. It’s a British Hammer studio horror picture based loosely – very loosely – on a superior Josephine Tey novel, Brat Farrar. The old Hammer Company turned it into an over-the-top shock-fest – and it made me laugh out loud and spill my beer. It was the sort of film that as a teenager you would take a girl with you to see in the cinema. At a crucial scary moment you would clutch her hand – only to find it already contained an ice cream, resulting in an unpleasant experience for both of you.

Anyhow – I’m rambling again. As you do. As I do. So to-morrow it’s goodbye to Y Gwyll and Aberystwyth and cold feet – we head back to civilisation and work and responsibility and all that. And decent central heating. It reminded me of a newspaper filler that compared attitudes of people of a certain age with certain decades. Example – Year 1965: “I want to look like Elizabeth Taylor.” Year 2000: “I don’t want to look like Elizabeth Taylor.” And the warmth one?  1965: “I wanna to go to California, man, because it’s COOL...” 2000: “I want to go to California because it’s WARM!”

I’m with the latter all the way.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015

So ... maybe it was stupid ...

I'm teaching a medieval history course next year. It's for grades 4-6, but many of them will function at a high school level. I've scouted dozens of curricula and found all of them wanting. I rashly agreed to write one specific to the course. If my mind had been turned on, I'd never have done that. Experience tells me it's inviting over work and stress.

I have until the fall to finish it. But I have to simplify material and present topics that might offend with some delicacy. Here's the start of an "extra" page (minus the illustrations) that is about a third of the way into the course:

Chivalry was not an ‘official institution.’ It was not decreed by a king or priest. So historians do not know when the idea of chivalry arose or where, and the definition of chivalry differed according to time and place, making it hard for us to define. Though it is strongly religious in thought, it was not a religious organization. “It would be useless to search for the place of its birth or for the name of its founder. It was born everywhere at once, and has been everywhere at the same time the natural effect of the same aspirations and the same needs.”

Chivalry arose from a German custom which was idealized by the Christian church; and it was an ideal than a practice. One writer called it “the Christian form of the military profession; the knight was the Christian soldier.” While knights believed this, this belief is contrary to early Christian practice.  

“They refused to take any active part in the civil administration or the military defense of the empire. . . . It was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers, of magistrates, or of princes.”—Edward Gibbon: History of  Christianity.

“A careful review of all the information available goes to show that, until the time of Marcus Aurelius [Roman emperor from 161 to 180 C.E.], no Christian became a soldier; and no soldier, after becoming a Christian, remained in military service.”—E. W. Barnes: The Rise of Christianity (London, 1947), p. 333.

The various sects of the Church continued to speak against war, but by the time of St. Augustine its view of war had changed. Augustine wrote: “He who can think of war and can support it without great sorrow is truly dead to human feelings.” But “it is necessary to submit to war, but to wish for peace.” The Catholic Church believed war was God’s way of punishing nations and individuals. Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, (1627-1704) a French bishop, said the Catholic Church believed war was earthly preparation for the Kingdom of God. He said that empires ‘fall upon one another to form a foundation where on to build the church.’  The code of Chivalry bound knights to the church.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Monday, March 16, 2015

okay ... this is swell!

I have all the numeral issues from the Kingdom Bavaria except one. These are some of my favorite stamps. I didn't have the 12K Red. It isn't as pricy as some of the others, but people seem to want more than usual for it. The Scott Catalogue suggests 140.00 used. No one pays that unless it is top quality. Usually sellers ask about 40-60 dollars. I don't think it's worth that either and would never pay that much.

Uncle B. found one for cheap and bought it for me. So now I have the complete set 1849-1858. How very nice. Here it is:


             I continue to find comfort in my stamp collections. It’s a distracting hobby, and right now I need to be distracted. I tried a new medication that didn’t work. It didn’t do anything but make me feel icky and turn my pee a funny color. So when I can’t do much else, I sit with one of my stamp albums on my lap and turn pages.

            Which album I examine changes with my mood. I found an old packet of Austrian stamps in a box that Uncle B gave me. Some of the early issues have varnish bars across the front. Most American collectors see these as a minor variety, but I collect them. There was a complete set of the 1904 issue in the packet. So that was nice. I made a special page for them.

            But the nicest find this week is a pair of German Inflation Era stamps. The normal example is very inexpensive mint or used. There are several varieties. This example is listed in the Michel catalogue as 256d and valued at $250.00 each used, giving the pair a catalogue value (seldom realistic, but a guide to rarity) of $500.00. This example differs in color from the normal issue. I’ve found a number of the rarer varieties in large groups of otherwise common stamps. I’m always pleased to find something like this.

The heavy bars used to cancel these stamps indicates that they paid parcel post.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A poem by O. Reader

He only sent the first few verses.

A dragon’s life is very hard
When you think about it.
From most places it is barred
And heroes come and clout it!
Your worries never seem to cease.
No life are you enjoying.
You never get a moment’s peace
- It’s really most annoying.
Fire and sulphur you must blow
To scare the humble peasant.
If you hiccup blowing though,
It can be quite unpleasant!
And every time you come in view
All people flee in fright.
And no-one ever talks to you
- Unless they want a light.
You are cursed to have a face
All greenish as a rule;
A tail that is a right disgrace
- You don’t half feel a fool.
And every hero to a man
You have to go and fight.
And only “gorgeous dishes” can
Appease your appetite.
These last sins are quite correct.
(Such nasty things to do).
But alas, they all expect
That sort of thing from you.
Legend thus is most to blame;
For no-one has been told
That somewhere deep inside your frame
You have a heart of gold.