Monday, December 30, 2013

From Amy Goddard

For a sample of her music, see earlier post.

Amy writes:

A learning curve from our recent holiday to Morocco. "Hamman" to me means a hot steam room with eucalyptus, it's wonderful for sinus trouble. "Hamman" in Morocco is being scrubbed down by a stranger who cannot speak English (a female thank goodness) until you think your skin must be bleeding.

A facial to me is relaxing and includes a massage which again helps the sinuses. I've just had a facial during which the perfectionist/sadist therapist decided to remove every single blackhead. For me that's thousands! It involved a bright light and some serious pain. She even laughed when I whimpered! Ahhhh I think, she's finished! It must be massage time. It is... but with a citrus essential oil that stings like seven kinds of hell! My sinuses clear alright. They turn to liquid and flow away. I'm actually worried enough to try to explain it stings, she says this is normal! Then when I actually have tears pouring out of my eyes, or is it my sinuses finding another way out she says "finish". Are you kidding?? My face is on fire and I can't get her to understand! She goes to get the hotel manager to translate. Fortunately the stinging has died down by the time she comes back. So, I'll be going out tonight only after dark as I look rather sore... Ah well, it's all experience! When in Morocco ...

Visit Amy here:

History, Religion, Sex

One of our history blog readers continues to find bits of things. Sometimes they’re stellar and sometimes they’re small bits of things. This is really helpful. I’ve adopted my writing partner’s dictum: The story is in the details. It’s true.

One of the “small details” I found comes from a book published in 1877 just after a controversy between an A. P. Adams and the Methodist Church resolved itself by the expulsion of Adams from the Methodist Ministry. Adams formed a new church, preaching to them in the Odd Fellows Hall in Beverly, Massachusetts. The book (I found it last night) adds the name of Adams’ new church. Now this is a small detail. But the name he chose was calculated to poke a finger in the eye of his former companions. I added the fact of the name to an appropriate paragraph. I did not make the above observation on his intent because that’s really my presumption and not verifiable.

Ton, who comments here on occasion, sent me some newspaper articles. One of them quotes a clergyman on the distinction between pre-millennialists and Adventists. It’s excellent. I haven’t added it to chapter eight yet, but it will find a place there.

We still can’t find the three published issues of Rice’s Last Trump. If they exist anywhere, I don’t know it. It’s a shame. My WP still hasn’t heard a peep from the people to whom he sent our work. He shrugs it off. I call it rude and an expression of self-entitlement. If we ever hear from them, it will be a true miracle from God. Or something close to that.

I continue to ponder my sister’s over-tea debate with Edgy. As I said, I mostly listened without much comment. I’m not sure I know how I’d handle that discussion if I were my sister. The roots of personal morality are often a mystery. My sister comes to her beliefs through the sometimes vacillating opinions of others. Her church makes periodic pronouncements on moral themes. Sometimes these are less scriptural and very much personal opinion. IF you’re going to be a Christian, THEN you should derive your moral standards from The Book, not from the ill founded opinions of a few old men. Don’t misunderstand me, her religion is very moral-centric. But in key areas they have made pronouncements that are based on logic flaws or on “principles” that don’t exist. I don’t grudge her ecclesiastical authorities their opinions, but opinions aren’t scripture.

The worst of their past problems is a consistent and decades-long mis-definition of pornea. Because this is a dictatorial sect, members are expected to adhere to opinion as if it were scripture or be expelled. So for years those whose mates were cheating on them with same-sex partners or who engaged in bestiality were not allowed to divorce their mates. Later, some fairly ordinary sexual conduct between partners was declared grounds for divorce. That was retracted after some families split unnecessarily.

The Bible is a very blunt book. It discusses sexual matters in plain terms. The Mosaic Law is an example. There are no new sexual practices. Everything done today was done in ancient times. So there was a wide field of practices for the Law to regulate. One must presume that if God didn’t forbid something he tolerated it. If God tolerated it, who are you to say he was wrong.

There are principles in the Bible. One does not need to manufacture them from inverted logic. (An example is a frequently repeated comment that certain practices are derived from homosexuals and thereby wrong. In fact, homosexuals adapted them from heterosexuals.) And one does not need to adopt them from Roman philosophy. Still, other than the dictatorial nature of this religion’s ecclesiastical authorities, most of their moral beliefs keep one from doing stupid things. So it’s a fair mixture of the really wise and the really wrong-headed.

There is no one between God and Man but Christ. If you allow someone to stand between you and God, you sin. You, not a few old men who confuse personal opinion with scripture, are responsible for what you do.

Think before you act. You're responsible for yourself.

I think my sister would be best served by redefining her points in broad terms, then making them as reasoned arguments. Afterwards she can say something like, “I know you don’t believe the Bible, but that same point it made at …”

I’m giving up for the day. I had a small seizure after work last night; it’s left me in a fog.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Controversial ... just not too

So … someone said I should post something controversial to draw comments, though not too controversial. What to do?
Don't ask me! I have no clue what the artist intended.

Suppose you’re stranded for life on an alien planet. The primary top of the heap life form is brilliant. They make you feel stupid. But … one of them finds you endlessly attractive and wants to take you for a mate. The only problem is … this species looks exactly like a goat. Knowing that you will be there for life, would you agree?

Suppose that you find out that your great grandfather led a double life. He was a bigamist. And … unknown to you both … you’ve married your extra-near cousin and made children. What would you do? 

Suppose your great gram was a notorious thief. Say she was Henrietta the Vendetta Queen. But she escaped to America and no-one knew her secret identity. You find a chest of papers and gold. The papers prove she was a bandit queen. What would you do?

Suppose you’re walking in the desert and fall through a hole in the ground. You follow a tunnel for two days only to discover that the Land of Oz is real and you’ve just entered it. What next? 

Your sister grows horns. What next?

You wake in a small room. There is a table but no chair. There is no other furniture. On the table is a note and a bowl of evil-smelling black goo. It says that you may go free as soon as you eat what’s in bowl. What would you do?

For six days each year all social rules are suspended. There are no consequences at law for anything you choose to do. What would tempt you?

You may have a gift. Choose from these: 1. You can breathe underwater. 2. You can fly. 3. You can have the memories and skills of everyone who ever lived, but you have to take all the memories. Which do you choose?

You are asked to do something that you’ve always secretly wanted to do. No one would know ever, not even a hint of it, that you’ve done this. You question its morality. But you are tempted. What would you do?

A flying saucer lands in your back yard. The aliens driving it are very ugly. With gestures they let you know they’re starving. What do you do? What if they leave a slime trail? What then? What if they smell like a dirty out house? What if they feed on human sweat? Would you let them lick you?

It would be nice if ...

I was getting comments on my posts ...

Sagebrush and Writing

            I’m fighting a head ache today and trying to write. My writing partner sent me his analysis of an article from the June 1879 issue of a religious magazine. It’s quite good I think. I haven’t suggested any changes of content, only some grammar fixes.

            It’s bitterly cold out, but I’d rather be out of the house. I don’t take the cold well though.

            I’m a bit peeved over the people who asked to see our work. My WP sent it all except for the chapter we’re writing and the introductory essays. Not a word. No “thank you.” No “this is crap and you got it all wrong.” Nothing. They are rude.

            One of my aunts called me early this morning. She wants us to come visit sometime in August. Brave woman.

            I’ve been thinking about sage brush. It’s one of the first miracles I noticed. When I was very young we lived in the little town where my writing partner lives. The area is a semi-arid grass land, much of it turned to corn (maze) and wheat, or grapes and fruit. But near our house was open land. I walked it almost every day, usually with a sister or with a group of older kids. (Way back in the archive is an article about that.)

There are houses where we used to walk. But if you were there then, you’d see the remains of the 1919-1920 irrigation project, one of the major western irrigation projects of the early twentieth century. A row of dead trees marked where a farm had been. And there was the sage brush. Many know sage as a low lying bush. Some western sage grows into a small tree, eight or twelve feet tall. The wood and blossoms exude a pungent but pleasant smell. The leaves are a gray green, giving the plain a gray appearance. But it was the wood that fascinated me.

Sage bark naturally peels. The wood is dense, but it’s not heavy. I don’t like the feel of live sage. But I like to look at it. It gave me a sense of awe then, and though familiarity has lessened that, the plant remains on my list of true miracles. There are many varieties of sage, some of them more striking than others. As you can see from this photo, they grow right up into the high mountains.



I think things that become common place lose their wonder. When we let that happen we lose touch with the Divine. The special, the miraculous, the things that give us a sense of the numinous, are everywhere. We should stop ignoring them.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Goat Girl Returns

Oregon Coast Logging

4:31 seconds. Beat that!

Click to Mix and Solve

I get to write in sentence fragments. It's MY blog ...

So … here I sit, thinking about what a dirty liar N. H. Barbour turned out to be, sipping coffee and watching it snow. Other than my oldest who is at work, all the girls are sledding down a long steep hill. Our house is on the crest of that hill, but you have to walk a mile or two to get to an area free of houses. I make them wear helmets. Every year some damned fool goes down that hill without proper protection and ends up in the hospital.

I’m having a fit of the “unhappies” over our last chapter. It’s grown long. I can’t find any thing significant to remove, and there is no clear break point where we can turn it into two chapters. I think we made major progress today, though. Took an hour on the phone with my WP and pinning down a few stray facts. There is a money issue in this chapter. My, how the dollar’s value has changed.  We explain the 1879 value of 100 US dollars:

“We should, at this point, remember just how much one hundred dollars represented. There are several calculations. The Historic Standard of Living measure gives a comparative value of $2370.00 in 2012 U.S. Dollars. The Economic Status valuation of that same one hundred dollars is about twenty-seven thousand dollars. The Economic Power valuation is a staggering one hundred seventy-two thousand dollars. This was not a quibble about small amounts.”


My sister, one of her friends, and one of my more edgy acquaintances showed up at my door at about the same time. This was a lot like setting two angels and a devil at the same table and pouring them all tea. Edgy has her own, self-made set of standards. What she believes and practices changes with her mood. She is not an atheist; she just thinks God is irrelevant. My sister and her friends practice a regular local evangelism. (Of the four of us sisters, she is the only one to do that.)

Having them both to tea ...

So … this turned into a polite sword fight. You can’t abuse others in my house. That’s a well known rule here. But you can freely express your opinions as long as they don’t’ corrupt my children and you manage to do it without being vulgar. On the whole I think it was a draw. Though I sympathize with my sister in many issues, I think friend Edgy carried the day on debate points. This wasn’t the first round of this debate, and it won’t be the last.

My sister and her friend try to craft their arguments in a scriptural light. They derive their belief system from it and think others should too. Edgy has no more than a passing acquaintance with the Bible and thinks it irrelevant. My sister needs to reduce her beliefs to a few easily state principals expressed with rational arguments, using these before she appeals to an authority Edgy rejects.

Me? I usually just sit and listen.

Explaining the fine points of debate to my sister.

I can’t think of really a suitable illustration for this. At least not one that won’t curl a sane person’s hair.


I’ve been writing on this post all day. It’s now 2:32 pm. Knobby Knees mom wants to know if the girls would like to sleep over and make pop corn balls. I said it was okay as long as they brought some home …. 

Knobby Knees has an evening board meeting. He won’t be home until nine-ish. In the mean time, I’ve written myself into weariness. Right now I’m shoving my WP’s notes and nine together. Good continuity between sections mostly. I’m pleased with that much.



Pixies in Vermont - About 1910

A Truck on Turk Street, San Francisco

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

O. Reader Rants


I was reading in the newspaper recently that a consensus of British employers believes that over half the University graduates with UK degrees come out of the system unemployable. How on earth can that be?

In the old days, when work was plentiful, there were choices that suited all kinds of people. Those who were going to be doctors or lawyers or teachers, or whatever, studied, got their degrees, and became what they wanted to be. Those with an aptitude for trades and crafts also trained, but the skills they learned were more practical, hands-on, for the work at hand. Generally, people were happy with the niche they chose for themselves. And if your goal in life was making money, it seemed that it was the builders and plumbers who actually became millionaires.
Keeping Wayward Toes on the Straight and Narrow

But then the rot set in. The politicians in Britain decided that everyone should have a degree. (Maybe it was a way of keeping the official unemployment figures down prior to certain elections). But – it wasn’t just being given the opportunity; the problem was the pressure to go for it or feel inadequate if they didn’t. It didn’t matter whether people could deal with the academic pressure, it didn’t matter whether they could cope with the mountain of debt it would leave them with, and it didn’t matter that the degree often had no bearing on any employment prospects – it had to be a degree. All sorts of strange courses were invented (dubbed Mickey Mouse courses by the media), designed to provide qualifications in subjects that had no chance in the market place. Because “everybody” had them, it promptly devalued the concept even more. Employers, particularly in service industries, looked for workers who were personable, and who had people skills. Graduates found themselves turned down for the actual jobs available because they were “over qualified.” By over qualified it meant that, if something better ever came along, the worker would be off like a shot. That was no good for an employer and frustrating for an employee. Some found it useful to play down their academic qualifications. There’s a joke in Britain with more than a grain of truth in it – What do you say to someone with a first class honors degree? Big Mac and large fries please.

So why am I having a toot about this today? Probably because in my profession, the only entry for nearly ten years now has been by having a first class honors degree. Prior to that, you could enter at various levels by various routes, and find your niche – and earn a living.

One can see the need for “closure” and “standards” in medically allied subjects. In happened over time with nurses and medical doctors and dentists and physiotherapists, and rightly so. For my profession – podiatry (still sometimes called chiropody in Britain) – it seemed to take a lot longer.

Britain is a land of animal lovers, but even Brits found it incongruous that horses hooves (or should it be hoofs?) were protected by legislation in 1975 (with the Farriers act) and human feet had to wait until legislation in 2004 – and even then, it was only indicative rather than functional closure – i.e. protection of titles but not a protection of what people could still do to other people’s lower extremities and charge money for it.

So as chiropody/podiatry evolved in Britain they introduced first a diploma – which meant thousands of hours of practical training – which really made sense for a hands-on profession – but then upped it to a degree. Theory, theory, theory.

So people got their BSc. Wow – and now, here is your work, cutting old ladies toenails...  What? But, but – I’m qualified to do a million times more than that! Sure – but this is the bread and butter work. If you want to earn a living and pay the rent, get down off your high horse, and work.

(Personally, in my book, unlike American Podiatry which is a different profession with far greater scope, the British model of chiropody or podiatry should have become a craft – like hairdressing. In fact, it started out from the same source – barbers cut hair, cut corns, and applied leeches – the first chiropody society was advertised in the hairdressing journals. So a craft is respectable – you need training to be a hairdresser – it is not just the nuts and bolts of going snip, snip, but using chemicals that could turn a client’s hair green or worse, that requires a lot of training – no argument. But in Britain anyway, hairdressing at its basic level does not require a degree. Yet.)

I regularly contribute to boards where assorted foot people slug it out – I am there under various guises, so unless you know me already you won’t identify me. And on these boards are whole rafts of new graduates who cannot hack it. They scream abuse (there is no other word for it) at those mortals lesser qualified than themselves. Technically that includes me – but the mindset is all their problem, not mine.

So now, here am I, a humble podiatrist (although I deliberately never use the title), sunny and happy, who runs a good business. Who trained before ever there was a sniff of degree in the air. Who for nearly thirty-five years has done so, keeping it the size I wanted so I could concentrate on voluntary work, while still feeding my family. Who even now turns work away. And here around me are newly minted podiatrists with their shiny new degrees who can’t make a living. Who somehow think it is my fault. Or attack private schools that knock out other people who treat feet – now calling themselves Foot Health Professionals – which sounds a lot grander than podiatrist to the general public anyway. And some of these people, doing short courses, also make a good living at the basic end of foot care.

What has gone wrong?

It is back to points touched on in earlier paragraphs - the need for not just academic skills, but practical skills and people skills. You can have all the theory in the world, but if you can’t actually do the physical work – then you are sunk. (The physical work for me sometimes involves lying flat out on the floor to deal with immobile patients, and I have to confess I am getting a bit old for that. Lying down on the floor is the easy bit – it’s the getting up afterwards that’s the problem).

But even more, it is people skills. If you can’t relate to people – you are even more sunk. There are a number of patients who come to me because they don’t like the previous practitioner. The previous one was young (well, you can’t help that – only time will cure that problem), they are not qualified (well – they are – but they look and behave like they should still be in second grade), or more likely, he or she was rude! They used the patient’s first name without permission (old people still don’t like that in the UK), they used bad language by the patient’s standards, and they dressed sloppily. All such complaints are totally unrelated to clinical skills, but they are enough to sink a practitioner in private practice.

It probably goes back to the failure of family and the education system long before university. People should be taught “good manners” and “people skills.” They should be taught much of it in the home, and if the home is incapable of providing it, it should be taught in the earlier stages of education. Because in the market place, if there is a choice, the one who has those skills will win every time.

I have no complaints personally – it has worked out well for me. But I do feel sorry for the young people who now go through the system with a strong possibility of disillusionment and failure ahead of them – which can color the rest of their lives. All for the lack of basic human skills – the missing piece of the jigsaw.

There – that’s my rant over for now. I feel a whole lot better.

Gaggles of Gals and such

I’m sitting in a really quiet house. My girls skipped out of the house in a gaggle of chaos, riding gear, and screams and laughter. My cousin is taking them on a winter trail ride. They’ll come home smelling of horse.

A Pixie and her Horse

Knobby Knees is at work. So I’m here “all by my lonesome.” Sippin’ coffee and trying to convince myself to write stuff. I may write this and go back to bed. [Yes, I know the middle sentence is really a sentence fragment.] 

We won’t finish the last chapter by my predicted date. ’Ton, who reads this blog on occasion, sent me some really useful material as did an anonymous poster on the history blog. Some changed footnotes, some added a sentence or two and one added an entire section. This is all good, some of it stellar. The real problem, though, is that my Writing Partner and I disagree on where to end the last chapter. We’re still debating that.

And … we reworked a section. I’m pleased with that. I should say, we’re reworking a section. If the coffee I’m sipping finally wakes me up, I will add the last bits today. 

There are so many things we want to know for which the evidence is lacking and probably does not exist. This is both good and bad. The good part is that it keeps us looking. The bad bit is that we don’t find much. … However, the owner of one of the major newspaper archives – one from which we’ve pulled a huge amount of documentation – announced he is adding a million pages to the archive after Christmas. We’ll be really busy for a while. We’ll need help. 

An anonymous poster gave us a web site link to N. Barbour’s marriage announcement. I contacted the library that owns the newspaper archive, and a really kind librarian hunted it up and sent a scan … for free. I spent most of yesterday hunting things down. We still lack details I’d like to have. My WP’s working principal is that “the story is in the details.” He’s right, of course. 

I sometimes send things to a literary agent friend person not as a submission but just for fun. I sent her a short story I wrote from my 2-4 graders. She emailed me back day before yesterday, calling it “utterly charming,” adding that I’m a “terrific writer!” That turned a fairly dark day bright.

Children can be so embarrassing. I baby sat my baby half-sister for three hours yesterday. She followed me upstairs tugging at my fleecy jamma bottoms and saying “Sissy! Sissy!” over and over. She tugged too hard, and I lost what dignity I had to her peals of laughter. The little terrorist! 

I’m working a shift and a half tonight. At least they’ll feed me. They always do anyway.  

I have a huge pile of laundry to fold and put away. I’m pretending it doesn’t exist. I may just separate it by owner and dump it on their beds. They know how to fold clothes too. 

We had a warming wind. Here in the great PNW we call those Chinook Winds. So all our snow and ice is gone, and we had a warmish day – in the mid 50s Fahrenheit.  This morning the chilled air returned. It’s is, however, clearing and it may turn nice.

So … I found a large lot of Austrian stamps on an auction site. The photos were poor, but I could see that it contained one fairly expensive (for me) stamp that I didn’t have. The price was very low. I bid and won it for under three dollars. The stamps finally arrived. Sadly, the stamp I wanted is a “perfin.” That is it has the initials of some company punched through it. So it’s just a space-filler. 

From the auction photo it looked as if I had all the rest of the stamps. Turns out it’s a hugely fun lot. There are color varieties. A stamp that was too blurry to identify in the auction photo was one I have been chasing for a couple of years. There were printing varieties for several newspaper stamps. One of those is a really rare shade. I’ll add three new pages to my Austria collection (Maybe four) to accommodate these. 

I’ll be left with a small pile of “trade ‘em or sell ‘em” stamps, but this was very useful. 

I bought a small lot of German stamps too, just to get one. I paid about seven dollars for the lot which is more than I usually spend. This was another example of bad photography working for me and not the seller. My impression is this was a dealer assembled lot. (Sometimes dealers assemble an album page to make common or slightly damaged stamps more attractive.) But on examination I found five Bavarian stamps that I already had as mint (unmailed) stamps. As used stamps they’re harder to find. This was a bonus. There were some of the last issues of Brunswick. One filled a blank space in my world-wide albums (I use the old Scott brown Internationals.). Two of them went into my Germany album as better than I had. So this was good too.

I bought the lot to get a fairly common Prussian stamp with a Hamburg cancellation. This had with it a hand written description and a reconstruction of the postmark, all written up sometime in the 19th Century.  This got its own page in my Germany album. My pre-1940 Germany is turning into a really presentable collection. Some areas in the States and in the colonies are weak. The occupations are solid except for some of the Belgian occupation of Germany issues. I’m pleased. Maybe by the end of next year I’ll have all the issues I can afford. I’ll move on to the second album. This holds issues from the 1940s including client states and occupations. It’s nearly empty. I’ve never worked on this album.  


As you can see, the photo makes this look like a disaster. It's not.
Canceled in Hamburg, a German City State. About 1870.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

From O. Reader

(seen on a card in someone's home today)

What do we want?

Better memory.

When do we want it?

Want what?

Roy Orbison!

From the Pixie's Bookshelf


The Origin of the Goat Girl Myth
By A Welshman
An extract of Chapter 2

Contemplating Goat Girls

The origins of the first Goat Girl are often traced to the work of a wicked fairy, a magician and a drunken sailor. We believe this to be merely a ribald story told by Phoenician sailors. That a drunken Phoenician sailor could talk anyone into sexual congress with an Assyrian goat does not seem rational, especially given the well-known lack of hygiene shared by Assyrian males and their goatish counterparts. No self-respecting Phoenician woman would have gotten past the smell. 

There is, however, a vaguely similar Welsh story about a shipwrecked nymph. Dated by most scholars, such as Christian Pentworth and others of the Danielian School, to the Third Century BC, it recounts the ten year sojurn of Tabatha verch Nympos on a small island somewhere in the Caribbean Sea. She was the lone survivor, except for six goats and a vulgar parrot. Being of a suggestible breed, the nymph listened to the parrot’s endless whispered suggestions. When rescued she had a young daughter whose birth had surprised her and for which she had no explanation. The tail, horns, and white, downy hair that covered the child’s legs were also a mystery to her, if not to anyone else. 

We observe that the date assigned to this account is improbable. If at all accurate, it is misdated by centuries, as the statue of the goat girl of the Peloponnesus testifies. Hanty and Stumpworth suggest the ultimate origin of this account rests in a myth found as a fragmented tablet in Ur by Woolley in 1922. This is a much more probable origin than the supposed secret files of Gerald of Wales, despite his well-known descriptions of Welsh sexual deviance. 

We are inclined to discount this as the true origin of Goat Girls. The inclination of Germanic tribes women to flirt with shaggy goats is a well kept secret among museum directors, especially in Europe, where they are known to hide numbers of statues and inscriptions in a basement in Berlin. We gained access through a combination of beer and bribery, spending most of three months examining the evidence. Our conclusion is that a drunken party involving six Teutonic tribes and one lone wandering stranger named Pictus Scotus (or sometimes Imbibus Scotus) and his goat resulted in the primary wife of Versingatorex the Brut’s wife bearing a daughter with a goat tail and some other goatish features. Everyone denied fathering the girl, and the goat bleated indifferently. 

The tribes saw this as a divine portent, half of them predicting disaster and the other half seeing it as a good omen. This resulted in a war that lasted for at least seven years. The records are uncertain and it might have lasted somewhat longer. The issue was resolved by exiling the goat-tailed princess to the isles in the custody of Scotus, who is said to have married her, producing over the next 30 years 15 daughters each of whom had a tail like their mother’s.  

Within the last ten years increasingly detailed evidence suggests that Scotus was too drunk to father children. So the true father of the goat-girls is probably unknown. .....



Me to 2nd grader: Heather, you forgot one of your socks. 

Heather: I know. I was running late. 


Dau 4: Mom, why do they call them square roots when roots are usually roundish? 


Curious 8 year old with elbows on my work table and head on hands: Do you live in a castle? 

Me: What prompted that question? 

Curious: Mr. Ford said you did. 

Me: I live in a two story house. It’s not a castle. 

Curious: Why did Mr. Ford say you did if you didn’t? 

Me: Because he’s a big tease. 


7th Grader to Me: You could bring cookies to class. 

Me: I could? Why would I do that? 

7th G: So we can skip the pop quiz you’ve probably got planned.

Goat Boy and Pixie in Bronze

Goat Girl in Bronze

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Anthony found this one ...

Phatpuppy Art Studios: Autumn/Winter 2011/12 &emdash; Sleeping Forest

How Harry handles the neighborhood rifraf

Harry with Parrot Gun at Ft. Macon, North Carolina

Fighting Naked

I’ve added bits to chapter one, thanks to a constant helper’s recent research results. We’ll elaborate on one of these in the last chapter. Small details matter because they clarify the picture. This is stellar stuff.

In one of his Dark Tower novels S. King says it’s hard to fight naked. I don’t know. I’ve never tried it. I suppose it depends on your view of being naked. But I can imagine one would feel more exposed even if in fact one is just as vulnerable with a bit of clothing as they are without any. Given the right circumstances I rather like naked. In the era B.C. (Before children.) snuggling up in a sleeping bag or on a blanked spread under a protecting tree sans jammas was a fun occupation.

Most of us have had to fight naked. I don’t mean without clothes. I mean with our emotions exposed. The trick is to control what is exposed. Once you reveal an emotion, it is impossible to hide it again. Everyone’s seen it and can evaluate your expression of it.

We can hack away with our emotions or we can control them. When I was a child I took two fencing lessons. I wanted to see what it was like without pursuing the sport. I was writing a story and wanted it to be as realistic as possible. So I walked up a few blocks from our house and knocked on someone’s door. I really didn’t know them, just of them. I explained who I was and what I wanted to the woman who answered the door. She invited me in and called her husband in. He patiently taught me to hold the sword, how to wield it and basic fencing stance and moves. He worked with me almost three hours. He offered one more lesson. I took him up on that. I learned enough to know that my vision of sword fighting was wrong. I learned that control was everything. Wild thrusting and hacking at the air were bad practice.


This applies to emotional display too. One can be ‘naked’ and still be the master. One can be verbally assaulted and still be in control. I guess you’ll make of this rambling comment what you wish. But it’s my thought of the day …

I keep pondering why people believe what they believe. I once left a more specific comment on this topic on our history blog, receiving in return the observation that a Mr. Russell left six volumes of explanation. But that misses my point. His six volumes tell us how he saw matters. They do not tell us what persuaded him to see them as he did. At the risk of offending some I know read this blog, though they don’t comment, some of Mr. Russell’s beliefs were ill founded. They lack support in the Bible, the book from which he is supposed to have drawn his belief system. Occasionally he made a “dead wrong” statement of facts. If you’ve read his At-one-ment you’ll find a couple of those.

He was an earnest man, believing truly what he taught. I know his arguments. I agree with some; others I see as wrong. But I don’t know the key moment, the key thought, that convinced him of “the truth” of what he taught. I don’t suppose I ever shall. But I remain interested in the persuasion process.

One writer suggested that there are those who simply like to believe a lie. The Lie is more comfortable to them than the Truth is. I’m not without sympathy, though the end of this is hurt. The world is a dark place. Creating a place of light and filling it with control we lack in life has its appeal. It’s a form of clothing, though it’s an illusory cover. As I said above … Fighting naked is a skill that must be acquired.

We’ve put part of the last chapter on hold while we research a new point. We can’t devote much time to it, and I think it’s not all that important. Later today I’ll try to merge what I’ve written on it with my writing partner’s notes. We need to finish this chapter in short order.



Sunday, December 15, 2013

New to my Stamp Collection

These are new to my stamp collection. The most interesting piece is the block of four Newspaper Stamps to the right, in gray-violet with the portrait of Mercury. These were first issued in 1867. They’re very common, but this block is interesting – at least to me. The cancellation seems to refer to Dr. Friedenthal of Silesia. I’ll have to research this. This block was used in 1896. 

The blue Mercury head stamps were issued in 1899. Again this is a newspaper stamp and very common. But this is a nice clean block of four with a complete town cancellation. 

The two brown stamps with a numeral of value are postage due stamps from 1899.  

The remaining block are regular postage issues used between 1899 and 1920. Cheap fun, nice “splash” on an album page.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

From Amy Goddard!



On February 28th I will be launching my debut solo album with a concert at North Boarhunt in Hampshire. (For American readers that’s the original Hampshire, not New Hampshire). It’s turned into an epic project so here’s a bit about it.

I started writing songs as soon as I could, somewhat erratically, string 3 guitar chords together in the style of “Oh Mary don’t you….. D7….. weep don’t you mourn….. G …. Oh Mary don’t you….” etc. This was about 1995. After several songs containing the kind of social angst appropriate for a teenager wearing tie-dye and listening to the Levellers I decided I wasn’t much good at it. I spent the next few years honing my guitar playing skills and going through my classical grades. Much as I enjoyed classical playing though it never really hit the spot of a really well crafted song. I had a few more goes at song writing but they usually ended with the frustration of a half decent verse and chorus and no idea how to finish the song.          

Scroll forward several years and I started playing folk and acoustic music. I had difficulty finding material that I could cover comfortably and consistently. So, I thought I had better have another go at writing my own. That way I could write what I COULD sing. Well, it worked for Bob Dylan didn’t it?

Enter stage left, D. I found her when researching singing lessons. I joined a group class that turned out to be just myself and my husband, M. (This was in the very early days; the singing courses are now very well supported.) D teaches a holistic approach to singing based on the principle that a voice used in a way that’s healthy produces the most pleasing and resonant sound. The technique is wonderful but I had found much more than that. I found in D a completely committed vocal coach who actively went out of her way to encourage and motivate her students. As a competent and published songwriter herself, she started organizing songwriting workshops.

I began to realise what the problem with my attempts at writing had been: I didn’t really know what I was trying to say! I had had some vague notion of picking up a pencil and waiting for inspiration, in the form of a completed lyric, to arrive. Through her workshops which included visiting speakers I learnt that a song is often something that has been carefully crafted with a reasonable amount of sweat and tears. So, now I had the idea that you needed to really brainstorm a subject and have something to say to write a good song. Then D organised a workshop which included a heavy metal guitarist from London. Now you may be surprised to know that clever and thought provoking lyrics are often a feature of heavy metal music, just are they are in folk music, the difference is that you often can’t hear them under all that feedback! Ahem, sorry J! He introduced me to a technique called lyrical detachment. This involves writing about the feelings and images associated with a subject but without actually explaining in detail what the subject is. The beauty of this type of writing is that it leaves the specifics to the listener, if they have felt the human emotions of love, pain, betrayal etc. they will use their own experience to fill in the picture. It’s a powerful tool! This technique allowed me to write a song about playing the guitar which did NOT include the line: “I like playing my guitar ‘cos it makes me feel betta!” Actually, ‘Make You Whole’ sounds more like a love song. You have to know the background of it or pick up on some subtle hints to grasp the original inspiration. I also used this technique to write about an unpleasant time I went through that ended in an employment tribunal. The song is about the feeling of betrayal and hopefully listeners who have felt betrayed in any circumstances will relate to that.

That was it, I was hooked! The cathartic experience of writing obliquely about my own experiences, without spelling them out, and getting positive feedback from people in the local folk clubs was completely addictive. There are other songs on the album that are more direct in the lyric writing but by then I had started to learn how to craft a song - how to draft and redraft until you’re happy with it and not to give up at the first difficult rhyme.

So really an album was the natural progression. It’s been a steep learning curve. Combining the use of antiquated home recording equipment, to keep costs down, and a fierce tendency towards perfectionism hasn’t been easy. But as I type it’s finished! Ahhhhhhh... It is in the hands of a professional who is mastering it ready for CD production. I just have the artwork to finish. Another steep learning curve. Don’t talk to me about RGB v’s CMYK or DPI! But that’s a whole other story.

In the concert on the 28th February I will perform all the tracks on the CD with the help of some great musicians. There will also be support from a number of my friends from the folk club scene, an appearance by the Songwriting Choir, performances by D and a few of her students. I hope it will be a lot of fun and the culmination of a very satisfying project.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Friday, December 06, 2013

Icky stuff.

I’m supposed to be working on lesson plans for a history class I’ll teach next year. I’m not, of course. I’m writing this. I’ve watched endless youtube history videos, some made by teachers or professors and some made for television. Most of them are (excuse the vulgarity) crap. They misrepresent events, leave out key elements or just lie through their teeth. One of the worst is a made-for-television “documentary” on the Franco-Prussian War and its aftermath. The narrator’s voice is American. The historian’s voice is English. Facts are absent.

It misrepresents the origins of Prussian military strategy and heavy weaponry. It does not accurately present Napoleon III’s role in the war, focusing on public reaction to newspaper reports. Napoleon’s government could have squashed the false telegram but chose not to. The video puts all the blame on Bismarck. It took two to tango. The French government knew the truth and could have made it public.

It misrepresents the Paris Commune and the brief French civil war that followed France’s surrender and the collapse of the second empire, calling it the bloodiest, most violet “insurrection” of the 19th Century. How stupidly Euro-centric can you be! The United States had just put down an “insurrection” after years of bloody war and a staggering loss of life. Euro-centric visions of history are almost always wrong. Ever read a history book published in the Netherlands? Uniformly, they’re trash. Of course, choosing an American history for high school use is a challenge too. Let’s just say most school texts are icky.

Another video presents an overview of lynchings of southern black women in the post Civil War era. I may post it later. It’s quite good – but it’s limited. The video presents lynchings as a White vs. Black phenomenon, and it is undeniably that. It leaves out the story of the Klan, the role of local authorities, uniformly of one political party, and it leaves out some of the background to the supposed crimes. It also leaves out those instances where authorities (in those days all whites) stopped a lynching. Still, it’s a powerful video, and good as far as it goes, but the person who made it was reluctant to bring home the problem to the still-existing political party behind it. She’s belongs to that party.

There are some factually correct videos on the roots of the Great War. They’re also very boring. I found one that misstates everything.  You’d think the person who wrote the script was a British propagandist from the World War I era. Almost nothing said is true. The film snippets are from World War II and motives and goals of the Central Powers are framed in terms of Nazi goals. The video blatantly lies. Some benighted student will watch that and come away from it as silly-minded as American and British students from the World War era who were fed on government propaganda. Never believe a youtube video without further research. Most of them are wrong factually or by omission.

Now, I’m also interested (to digress) in the Paris Commune because it’s a factor in the belief system of several American religions contemporary to the events. They saw it as fulfilling prophecy. It is possible to be moderately accurate. Why the few videos that touch on it are not is a mystery.

Knobby Knees’ aunt doesn’t post here but she reads this blog. She checked in via email. So did assorted cousins. Aunty lost tiles from her roof but is okay. No one else suffered anything but wind and cold. So that’s good.

I’m trying to find a box of family artifacts I know is in the storage room. I haven’t found it yet, but I did find a box of stamps that belonged to my grandfather. I forgot they were in there. I dragged it out, and I’m slowly sorting it. I even found some I didn’t have in my collection! Super!

Okay. … I have a conference at the school. … About that child with a history of violence they’re placing in one of my classes. So I’ll end this here.

I wish ...

I wish that all my readers and family in the UK would check in so I know you didn't get blown away, washed out to sea, bonked by a tree or some such thing. Then I can stop worrying.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


It is understated. Note which party oppressed blacks. Tell me how this is different from burning them as they hung from lampposts during the Draft Riot?

New York Draft Riots

What they dont tell you in this video is that this was an Irish-Cahtolic-Democrat Party riot. Some historians call this the Catholic Insurrection. This riot remains the shame of the Democrat party, though they would like to forget it.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

What Muslims are:

In Pakistan 56 women were killed in 2013 for giving birth to girls.

A school principal and janitor raped a four year old boy in Pakistan.

A nurse at the Government Nursing School was raped and murdered. Her body was dumped in a ditch.

A 13-year-old girl has dug herself out of a muddy grave after being raped by two men who then buried her alive in Pakistan. The teen was abducted from her local village in the Punjab province while she was walking to Koran lessons.

Forced child marriages are common in the Muslim world. Some child brides die on their wedding night.

In Pakistan it is not uncommon for police officers to rape women and their fellows to cover it up. A highly publicized case was that of Rizwana Khan, a radio producer who was assaulted by an officer. This was covered up, and the police prompted the radio network to terminate her contract.

In Karachi a man named Siddique lured an eight year old girl away by offering to buy her toffees. He raped and murdered her.

I could add thousands of similar and recent stories to this list. The Koran prompts this behavior and Muslims use it to justify their behavior. State action against these people  either does not exist or is a thin veneer over a hugely under-reported problem.

Blog readers' hidden talents ....

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Gladiators - French Post Card

Ragnhild and Astrid

So ... we're given to a multitude of names .... but this was extreme

Franz Salvator Maria Joseph Ferdinand Karl Leopold Anton von Padua Johann Baptist Januarius Aloys Gonzaga Rainer Benedikt Bernhard von Habsburg-Loarraine and his daughters ...

From a Postcard

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Hofkirche - About 1890

Bad bad bad ... And not so bad.

            I’ve been sick again. And peeved over it. There’s nothing like being sick to make a pixie cranky. And then there’s the “other” stuff. Our house needs a major repair. We’re trying to raise money for that short of taking out a loan. We may have that issue resolved by next week. In the mean time, I’ve been depressed over the whole thing. Also, an uncle that we all despise (I can’t of anyone in the family who likes him. Even his own children won’t talk to him, except for one daughter.) had his lawyer send us a letter asserting a claim on our house. To do this he has to dispute Grandmother’s will. It was probated over ten years ago. This is just an annoyance. The will is explicit and, says our lawyer, not only can’t he break it, but the time in which to try has expired. So our lawyer wrote a really strongly worded reply. We never heard back. I hate being sick. I hate stupid stuff from relatives more.

            I’ve had my share of the odd dreams that come with my illness. I can’t explain any of them, and I’m not sure there is an explanation beyond what goes on in my damaged brain. Many of them are short scenes made up of ordinary life but more brilliant in colors than real life is. Most of them are bits of traffic – cars, trucks, people on bikes. None of them are threatening, but they are startling.

            There are two plusses to being sick. Three really. I am pampered and babied by my husband and children. That’s always nice.

And when I spend most of my day vegetating in my chair, I usually need that kind of attention. I haven’t missed any work, but on my “second job” I have staff who know exactly what to do if I show up sick. They take lots of strain off.

My imagination becomes more vivid. Notice I said vivid and not more detailed. When I am sick I can see the stories I tell myself, my children or anyone else in exact visual detail. I have a host of little kids’ stories I’ve never written down; many of them come from periods like this. … And then there are the Warrior Princess, shape-shifting dragon, goat-boy stories I tell my husband. He is highly entertained. I’ve only shared one of those with someone else. I think their computer screen is still fogged up.
On Guard

            I feel like the Warrior Princess on my bad days, attached to my sword, on guard against an un-seeable bad. I can feel it creeping up. I can feel its hot breath. And I fight it with all my soul. I hate being sick. Did I mention that? My emotions are raw from trying to keep them in check. When I get this sick I can feel my good judgment slip. I sleep with my sword. It’s like having a second husband. Knobby Knees and Vigilance.

Sleeping with The Sword

            I have a vigilant family. They know when to look me in the eye and say, “Mom, you’re not being reasonable right now.” I always listen. Learning to listen to family feed back was hard. I seem reasonable when every one does not – at least to me.

Knobby Knee's view of Life.

            There is also the interesting effect on umm umm flirting. I don’t know why, but the snuggles, hugs, kissy-licking things are nicer when I’m sick. No need to be graphic here, I suppose. But it’s a fact of life for me anyway.

            Given these circumstances and my aunt’s health problems, we’ve done well putting the last chapter together. It might be done in first draft in three or four weeks. Then we can get the “print it and get it out show” on the road.

Married to the Sword.
This is a pg blog. So that's all you get of this picture ....

Monday, November 11, 2013

O. Reader Returns - Or the Ride of the Newly Welsh

Language learning

A long, long time ago, I spent five years at secondary school learning how to successfully fail every French language exam that came my way. It was customary in those days in schools to concentrate on French. Two wars had forced two natural opponents to be civil to each other, and France was, after all, the nearest "foreign" country. My mother was absolutely determined that I should learn French. I don’t know why to this day. She could never speak it, and attempts to question her on this omission tended to get her mad. She even insisted on paying a retired French teacher to come to the house for extra coaching – and we weren’t all that well off at the time. I still failed. I ended up with the schoolboy’s ability to recite the occasional French irregular verb, which did not exactly lend itself to scintillating conversation. Few French people are keen to hear their irregular verbs recited – and recited badly – by young Englishmen.

So that was that. Life moved on. A dabble at Swahili came to naught, as did a dabble at Spanish – for reasons I cannot for the life of me remember now.

But then I started courting a girl who was living and working in Spain. So I tried Spanish again, and this time made some headway. I could visit Spain and communicate a little better than the average Englishman, who appears to feel that as long as you speak VERY SLOWLY AND LOUDLY the world will understand them.

Time moved on again, but I was quite amazed later how much Spanish I knew. When trying to learn other languages – which I’ll come to in a minute – invariably the Spanish would come to mind. Not a lot of help in the circumstances, it was as if the part of my brain that dealt with languages was sort of full... (That’s a very polite way of putting it).

Next on the list was Urdu. (If you include Hindi with it, which is the same basic language when spoken but with a different script since the partition of India and Pakistan – it is the fourth most widely spoken language on the planet). The work I did (and do) involves talking to people about belief, and there was a large Pakistani community in a neighbouring city, most of them nominally Moslem in belief. For several years, we had a very enjoyable time amongst them – a very friendly and hospitable people who make a really mean curry, even if my conversation tended to be of the mix and match variety. Mrs O took to it, wrote a book teaching others how to read the script, and all was well – until 9/11. That changed things drastically. Many westerners suddenly became fearful of everyone linked to Islam. While that didn’t apply to us, more to the point, many in the Asian community were subjected to prejudice and a blanket condemnation and went to ground. They were now fearful and kept their distance, which made our work far more difficult.

So time moved on again. The work amongst the Asian community still continues, but is done by those who were former missionaries in Pakistan – brought home when westerners were being targeted. They can get better results than we ever could, and so we moved on.

So the latest is Welsh. I am struggled to learn Welsh. And it is the Spanish that keeps popping back into my mind – especially at awkward conversational moments in class.

Why on earth learn Welsh? Everybody in Wales can speak English can’t they? Well, it is true they can – but I’m going to take you on a brief scriptural journey now. (Now don’t worry – those who think Oh Horror – Occasional is going to preach a sermon – really, I’m not – but feel free to skip the next paragraph if you wish.)

There is an account in the book of Acts where people came to a city for a festival, and suddenly heard others speaking in their native languages. When visitors heard those languages, they were impressed big time, and listened. But, you could argue, what was the point? – People then could get by in the common Greek – the lingua franca of that part of the world. They hadn’t reached that city by using a Berlitz phrase book or waving their hands wildly about like tourists – they could communicate anyway. But it was their native language – what they call in Wales the language learned at the hearth – that touched them. The sort of language someone might use when shouting at their children! The natural, deep down language, reserved for such intimate occasions.

So a native language reaches people. That is being proved in Wales by organising numerous meetings in the Welsh language, which is getting people in who would have said no on principle if approached in English.

So here I am – an elderly Englishman, with a head full of English and an annoying amount of Spanish – trying to get my head and tongue around a language that is totally foreign to my speech patterns. (There is the old joke, and if I’m repeating myself – well tough – I’m repeating myself – Doctor speaking to Worried Man – "don’t worry Mr Evans, you’re not dyslexic – you’re Welsh...") I can understand Welsh road signs, and what means "entrance" and "exit" – but this is mega. And my head hurts. As always Mrs O is taking to it. I am a mixture of pleased for her, and cheesed off that she finds it so much easier than I do.

We sing Welsh folk songs. This is quite good actually. Not necessarily our singing – but the songs. And we have been watching a crime series that was filmed simultaneously in Welsh and English. We are being good, watching the Welsh one with English subtitles. I now know that the Welsh word for "forensics" is – er – forensics... For some reason though, they always choose to swear in English...

Of course, one could always go on about the weirdness of the English language, as those learning it will attest. In what other language do you have noses that run and feet that smell? How come that "fat chance" and "slim chance" mean the same thing? And as for American English... Don’t get me started...! I think it was George Bernard Shaw who said that Britain and America are two countries divided by a single language.

Although I guess that may be why most who attempt to read my posts claim they can’t understand them...