Sunday, May 31, 2015

Back in the day ...

Back in September 30, 2010, I yelled at people from Brooklyn, New York, who visited this blog and our history blog. My writing partner asked me to remove the details. I did, leaving a threat but taking down the contact IP information. I told them that if they returned, I'd make their life miserable. They returned. Today. Not using the original IP address, but one traceable to them.

I'll rant about this later. This is, however, notice that I will not tolerate their abuse or even their curiosity. You want to use our material, contact Mr. Schulz. Do not come here. I don't like you. The more I deal with you, the less I like you. Stop it.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sandra Cormier!

Thanks to Rachael for inviting me to hang out on her blog. We go back a few years, and we shared the angst of query letter writing together. In the spirit of pixies and woodland creatures, I will share with you a story about Mrs. G.

I live in a fair-sized town, so when wildlife comes to play, I participate wholeheartedly as long as they don't drink too much beer and wreck the place. Our house sits across the street from a wooded conservation area, where feathered and furry creatures abound. Sometimes I feel like a Disney Princess, except the animals don't clean my house while I sing.

We have skunks, raccoons, foxes, chipmunks, Cooper's hawks, songbirds, bunnies and groundhogs. While the raccoons and skunks are annoying, they still deserve a fair shake, as long as it's not under my house. And stay out of my garbage.

However, I've allowed the local groundhog – let's call her Mrs. G. – to use the area under my porch as a nursery.

Last weekend, while I had my morning coffee on my little deck, Mrs. G thumped around under the deck boards, dragging stuff around as if rearranging the furniture. She sounded as large as a dog when she scratched herself. She popped up from under the stairs to check me out.

Later that morning, I heard a sound through the window, so went onto the porch to peek through the screen door. Mrs. G was in the process of making off with a folded tarp I had on a low shelf.
I asked, "What are you doing?" She freaked out, dropped everything, and ran.
I said to Mark, "How much do you wanna bet she'll try to steal that tablecloth?" I pointed at a cheap dollar store vinyl tablecloth that sat on a low table. I took the tarp inside.

A half hour later, I returned from the store, and discovered she had indeed attempted to purloin the tablecloth. I imagine the flannel backing was just too inviting to resist. Problem was, it had a heavy extension cord reel on top so all that resulted was few tugs and some claw marks.

Since it was now ruined, I gave up and threw it under the porch stairs so she could pull it underneath when she was ready.

I saw her two yards over, stuffing her little face with greenery.
An hour later, the tablecloth had disappeared. Therefore, she has either dragged it under the porch, or to a neighbouring yard. I suspect her nest is now ready under my porch. We shall see if I hear little baby groundhog snuffling in the coming days.
If you want to see more photography of woodland creatures, food and travel, visit my Instagram page:
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Sophia in Pink

Friday, May 29, 2015

Note on post below --

Okay you old guy Americans who read this blog ... Is this better, more engaging then what you had in grade school?

Rough Draft: Magellan's story

Ferdinand Magellan

            Fernão de Magalhães was born in Portugal about 1480. He was the son of a wealthy, noble family with connections to the Portuguese royalty. His parents died when he was ten, and he became a page to Queen Lenore. As a page he ran errands and attended the queen and her guests. When grown, he sailed and fought for the Portuguese king, sailing around Africa and fighting battles with an Arab fleet. Magellan was accused of illegal trading but was found innocent. The accusation was enough to leave him unemployed. He received one insulting offer to work as a common seaman but refused the job.
            Magellan studied the newest maps. Likely, one of these was drawn by Martin Waldseemüller in 1507. While not showing the exact tip of South America, it shows the continent narrowing to a tip and with reasonable accuracy shows the west coast of South America for some miles up the coast. Magellan wanted to sail around the tip of South America and on to India.
            King Charles V of Spain funded his quest, providing him with five small ships. The Spanish mistrusted Magellan, and removed many of the Portuguese sailors from his crew, replacing them with Spaniards. His crew was of mixed nationality. They included men from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, what is now Belgium, Greece, England and France. Despite opposition from the King of Portugal, who sent his navy to stop Magellan, they set sail August 10, 1519, reaching South America in 1520. One of his men kept a record of the voyage, and it was later published as a book.
            Many of them were unreliable. Many of the Spanish sailors hated sailing under the command of a Portuguese captain. They spent the winter months in barren country. The crew of three of his ships plotted against him, and he had to fight the mutineers. One of the ships was wrecked. In the spring, one of the ships deserted, returning to Spain. Three ships were left.
            Not everything written about these early voyages is accurate. When Magellan and his crew reached Patagonia, (Find it on a map) they spied a native dancing on shore. To them he appeared to be ten feet tall. In fact, Patagonian natives were about six feet tall, still taller than many Europeans then were. Magellan had his crew kidnap some of the natives to prove his story, but they died on the way back to Spain.
            Most accounts of Magellan’s voyage say he and his crew were the first to sail through the narrow, storm filled passage at the tip of South America. It’s named after him and shows on maps as the Straits of Magellan, but though we don’t know who preceded him early maps show someone did. Magellan sailed across the Pacific Ocean, a long and perilous journey. Food was exhausted. They ate rats and soaked old leather and ate it. Their water went bad, turning thick and yellow, but it was all they had to drink.
Eventually they reached the Philippine Islands where they met Humabon, Rajah of Cebu. (Find it on a map.) Humabon became a Roman Catholic, and appealed to Magellan to fight an enemy chief. This did not go well. Magellan was killed.

            One of Magellan’s crew wrote that “a native hurled a bamboo spear into the captain's face.” Magellan killed the native with his lance. Leaving the lance in the native’s body, Magellan tried to draw his sword but couldn’t. His arm was wounded. “When the natives saw that, they all hurled themselves upon him. One of them wounded him on the left leg with a large cutlass, which resembles a scimitar, only being larger. That caused the captain to fall face downward, when immediately they rushed upon him with iron and bamboo spears and with their cutlasses, until they killed our mirror, our light, our comfort, and our true guide.” Without Magellan, the remaining adventurers finally returned to Spain. Only one ship remained and only twenty-five of the original crew.
            Trade with China and India over the Pacific Ocean route would develop later, but not as a result of Magellan’s voyage. In the early 1500s it was still impractical. Magellan’s voyage is significant to us because it prompted further exploration, including to lands now part of the United States. His voyage showed just how big the world was, and how much was left to know about it. It showed that there was more water on the earth than there is land. Others followed, using Magellan’s route or looking for a shorter passage far to the north.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

End of School Year Evaluation

The comment section:

"Rachael completed another successful year. She has inspired future authors (our students) for many years now. (Since 2008 - Pixie) She sparks the imagination of young students. Rachael did a nice job communicating with parents. She participated in professional development and strand work which is appreciated. Though we would lose an excellent classroom teacher, Dr. de Vienne should pursue her administrator's credentials."

So ... The Line of Demarcation for 4-6 grades.

Balboa’s route over the mountains was impractical. It was dangerous, hard traveling. No trade with Asia could happen over it. The Portuguese had a monopoly on the waterways around Africa. Spain and Portugal had conflicting claims, and they turned to the Pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, to settle issues. The pope had considerable political influence in the 15th Century, and he was the head of the church honored in both countries. In 1454 Pope Nicholas V granted rulership over all the lands the Portuguese might discover from Cabo de Não,[1] Africa, to India. The pope was willing to do this and the Portuguese to accept it because of their view of religion. They assumed they had the right to take away the sovereignty of other people because God favored them but not non-believers in other lands.
            Spanish exploration put Spain into conflict with Portugal. The Spanish king appealed to Pope Alexander VI, himself a Spaniard, and in May 1493 the pope issued a decree granting the Spanish king “all islands or continents that may be found” westward of the Azores and Canary Islands. [Find these on a map.] The earlier decree meant that all lands east of this Line of Demarcation belonged to Portugal, but Portuguese explorers sailed the Brazilian coast, laying claim to it. This caused further conflict which was settled by treaty in 1494. The rest of European seafaring nations were ignored. They felt free to ignore both the Papal decrees and the treaty.

[1]              Cabo de Não is now known as Cape Chaunar. It translates as Cape No, and in the 13th Century it was believed to be the limit of safe sailing.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cute Shoes, Pantyhose, and the Parking Lot Lake

            Our state is officially experiencing a drought. Even if it wasn’t official, it still would be in drought. It’s not very noticeable where I live. Up the Yakima Valley and elsewhere it is. Some reservoirs are low. But ….
            Last week we had a cloud burst, an intense rain that made the streets little rivers. I was at my ‘other job’ and watched it out my office window. I like rain. Not so much if I’m out in it, but I like to watch it. Rain makes me feel … content. It says God loves the planet, even if he doesn’t love all who live on it. So … anyway … it let up about two in the morning. My shift ended an hour later.
            Employees park in the back and enter through double doors near the kitchen. As I reached the doors, the rain restarted. I was unprepared. Rain wasn’t forecast for our area. It was supposed to fall to our east, and my uncle tells me it did. Copiously. (He lives there.) There is a remedy for most of life’s little problems. I rummaged in the kitchen supplies, nabbing a large plastic bag to hold over my head. I got another for one of the front desk clerks who was staring out the door glass, distress written on her face.
            “Here,” I said, demonstrating my version of an impromptu rain cover.
            “Thanks,” she said.
            We made a mad dash to the parking area. It’s covered. So we were protected there. But … we parked near a drain. It was blocked and our cars were isolated in a small lake, about six or seven inches deep.
            “What do we do?” she asked.
            Let me describe this. A few steps from our parking spaces is the external electrical service, big transformers and such. (I don’t really know what all that stuff is.) They’re caged within a chain-link fence; the fence has slide-in panels (Prolly have a name but I don’t know it.) to block the view. You’ve probably seen similar. There is a space between the cage and the back fence. If you stand there, no one will see you. I stepped into the gap, kicked off my newish shoes, pulled off my panty hose, and said, “We wade.”

            The water was cold. But holding my newish shoes (Black leather. Italian. Cute shoes are a way of life.) and with water way over my feet, prolly half way to my butt, I made it to my car.
            Friend Frontdeskie, hesitated, then copied me. She shivered mid-wade, but made it to her car.
            The drain is fixed now, rooted out by a company that does that sort of thing.
            There isn’t a moral lesson here. Just an adventure.
            Unfortunately, the rain won’t cure the drought. There’s almost no snow pack in the Cascades. It’ll take a huge snowfall this winter or Noah’s flood to improve things.
            The River is lower than usual, but not really awful here. Where it shows is in the small stream that crosses our pasture. It starts as a glacial runoff, and it is very, very empty – probably a third of its usual water flow. Even the little green frogs have left it.
            I found a calf wandering down the access road this morning. No-one’s raising cattle near us these days. I have no clue where it came from. (No ear tag.) It’s in our pasture. I called the Sheriff. No word yet. I don’t really like kine of any sort other than to eat them, but he’s a cute little thing. He slobbers. I have no clue what to do with him if the owner doesn’t claim him. Call the brand inspector I guess, and get him off my hands.
            I thought O. Reader’s post was worth more than one comment. Just my opinion.

Monday, May 25, 2015

From O. Reader

Reasons to rise

In addition to all the serious things of life, it is nice to have hobbies and interests – things that can get you up in the morning with a sort of spring in your arthritic step.

Over the years I have had many. I loved joining clubs and writing for them. I still do. But their activities all seem to fall into two extremes.

I was one of the earliest members of the Jerome K Jerome Society, which illustrates the two extremes quite well. On one hand there was deadly serious research on both the man and his late Victorian and Edwardian times, before it all got blown out of the water by the Great War of 1914. I was quite pleased over the years to have serious research published, which is still available in printed form. But on the other hand, there was the spectacle of grown men (company directors, bank managers, doctors, etc.) dressing up in white flannel trousers and straw boater hats, larking around splashing each other with water on the River Thames, trying to recreate Three Men in a Boat.

The same extremes feature in another of my clubs. The Laurel and Hardy club called itself The Sons of the Desert, based on a Masonic parody in the film of the same name. My interest in all things Laurel and Hardy went back to infancy. As a pre-teen, I used to be packed off to the British equivalent of the American Summer Camp each year – where we were “looked after” by bored, spaced out teachers earning an extra crust during the long summer vacation – a throwback to when children were needed to bring in the harvest. But they used to keep us quiet in the evenings (well, not exactly quiet, but at least attentive) showing Laurel and Hardy films. In retrospect, the main attraction was often seeing the 16mm projector break down, and sweat pouring down the teachers’ faces, as they tried not to use language their charges would have gleefully repeated.

Again, there were the two strands of interest. On the one hand, there was serious film scholarship – still finding extra footage after all these years, especially foreign language versions of their movies with new material; and I had a number of articles published in various obscure journals over the years to show my continuing obsession with the minutiae of trivia. But the other strand was the boozy get-togethers, with grown men of the middle-aged variety in costume shoving custard pies into each other’s faces. (Serious historian bit here – in over a hundred movies Laurel and Hardy only ever did one custard pie fight, and that was in The Battle of the Century – 1927 – but the concept has sort of stuck. A bit like the custard.)

Obviously – harrumph - you can guess which school I fell into. Although I confess, I used to do a passable impersonation of Stan Laurel. (Generally while public speaking...)

And just think - if I had been an Elvis fan I would have attended Elvis conventions, dressed in a Rhinestone cowboy romper suit, doing his portly Las Vegas days. (I still do the John Stewart parody “I Wanna Be Elvis” in folk clubs when good judgment deserts me). Actually in the music field, I was much more of a Gene Vincent man, and even if I say so myself, could do a mean impersonation. Before my orthodontist got to work, I sort of had the teeth for it.

Still, as noted at the start – apart from the actual serious things of life - it gives people that little extra to get up for in the morning. To quote from another John Stewart song:

To carve out a face on a mountain of stone,
Day after day, one man alone.
And it took twenty years just to get to his eyes
- But he's found him a reason to rise,
Finding the reasons to rise.

Reasons to rise. I used to think this was a reference to the presidents’ heads on Mount Rushmore, but it is actually about the Crazy Horse Memorial still being created in South Dakota.

Or to revert to a favorite Laurel and Hardy catch phrase (pinched from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado) – “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into...”

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.