Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Thought for the Day

One learns something of a society through its statutes, and by old scholars like Rashdall, and Haskins, I [David Warren] was introduced to the punctilios in mediaeval university towns.

Much attention is given to student behaviour, and from Leipzig, for example, I recall the carefully stepped fines that begin for threatening your professor with a missile. The fine increases if you throw and miss; doubles if you hit him; and further costs may be assessed, depending on the nature of his injuries. For this and for other infractions, it is useful to have things spelt out, so the student on a tight budget may know what he can afford.

-- David Warren, "Some Attitudinizing"
Today, of course, it is all or nothing. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

James Hammontree

Monument to the 153rd Pennsylvania at Gettysburg

Memorial Day

Alright, so I missed the deadline again this year. Stuff Happens, so we're posting this for the Fourth of July, which this year falls on the Fourth.

A couple years ago, TOF posted an account of the Incomparable Marge's grandfather's grandfather; viz., John H. Hammontree, who served in Co. H 5th Tenn. Vol. Infantry, US Army of the Ohio. This year, we turn our attention to his grandfather, James Hammontree, who served in Duncan's Company, Bunch's Regiment, during the War of 1812.

The Backstory

 1. Jonathan Hammontree appears to have been born in England, ca 1693 and emigrated to Virginia sometime before 1719, settling in Richmond Co., which had been erected from the northern half of old Rappahannock Co. in 1698. Specifically, he appears like magic in North Farnham Parish. Like magic, because the surname Hammontree has never been found anywhere earlier than 1719, in North Farnham VA, in any reasonably variant spelling. 
Hertfordshire
Note: A William Hammontree, age 64, appears in an English Census of 1871, living in Westmill, Hertfordshire, where William claimed to have been born. Thus the Hammontree surname finds European roots in England at least as early as 1807, although this is nearly one hundred years after the name is first attested in Virginia. It has appeared as spelled Heamondre, Hamontre, Hamondry, and just about any other variant imaginable. These were likely the results of non-standardized spelling back in the day than of actual name changes. But the spellings ending in -dre look suspiciously French and raise the possibility that the family was among the 50,000 French Huguenots that took refuge in England after Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in October 1685. If so, Jonathan would have been a first-generation Englishman, born shortly after his parents (illegally!) sneaked out of France.
Jonathan Hammontree and his wife Mary had four known children, christened in North Farnham, to wit:
  • Rubin Hammontree (1719-1802), 
  • Anne Hammontree (1721-??), 
  • John Hammontree (1723-1786), 
  • David Hammontree (1726-1770)

Friday, June 30, 2017

Dinner, Conversation, and an Unexpected Appearance

We took Pere to Beck's Land and Sea House north of Nazareth for a long planned Father's Day dinner, delayed by this and that. Beck's is the best seafood restaurant around for all that it is well inland. Margie and I had the broiled cod, each of a size worthy of being called Cod the Father. Pere had a most excellent Surf and Turf.
This is the actual table at which we sat
Google Maps has gone mad and took us what it deemed the easy way, by way of Jacobsburg state forest, and we found ourselves on two lane blacktops wending through dense forest cover with signs bearing hikers and warning of trail crossings ahead. The more direct route, which we had taken once before, wound through downtown Nazareth, and Google Maps for its own dark reasons shuns stop lights.

During dinner we discussed this and that and wound up somehow on the subject of how old Flynns are when they die. Not too morbid, right. Pere is 92 and quite lively. His father smoked from the time he was 10 years old and only lasted to age 77. He wasn't too sure about his grandfather, Daniel; but did recall that we was supposed to die several times when they shortened his legs. Each time they cut a bit off his legs to try to get the cancer, they told him he would not likely survive the operation. "But Flynns are stubborn," my Dad said calling the kettle black, and Margie almost choked on her cod at the Understatement of the Millennium. By the end, Daniel had no legs left up to nearly his hips and sat in wheelchair.
Daniel on right looking stubborn well before the amputations
By then, he was living with his daughter, my dad's Aunt Kathryn, who ran Flynn's Hofbrau out by Budd Lake in NJ. He remembered how he and his cousin John Schaible would visit there and when his grandfather had to go to the bathroom, Aunt Kathryn would lean over and he would wrap his arm around her neck, and she would rise up holding him and carry him into the rest room and set him down to do his business; then carry him back out. He remembered how matter-of-fact they were about it. So far as I know, no Flynn has ever been put into a Home.
Pere enjoying the air at Rath O'Flynn a few years ago
Pere recalled that he had been a pretty good pool player in his younger days, but his Aunt Kathryn always beat him. One of my cousins told me once that he had gone up there to play her table. "What size cue do you use?" the by-then old lady asked him. On receiving an uncertain answer she replied that she preferred a 32 (or whatever it was). Then she pulled out a carrying case and screwed together her personal stick. "I knew right then," my cousin said, "that I was dead. That old lady ran the table on me." Ah, there were giants on the earth in those days.

She wore out three husbands, Pere told us at dinner. Her first husband was named Mill, the second Poole, and the third Giroux. My grandfather used to joke that she had married successively the mill, the pond, and the frog.

A week ago, Pere had an unusual experience. He was dozing in the chair at his house when the phone rang. The phone has an unusually loud ringer for the obvious reason. So he sat up and... there, across the living room stood my mother, sort of semi-transparent, like a hologram. Now, she had never lived in that house -- it had belonged to Pere's second wife -- so he was startled to see her appear there. Or indeed, to appear anywhere, she having been dead for many years. Her lips parted, as if she were about to speak and then, just as suddenly, she disappeared.

Pere did NOT wake up at that point. He was already awake. The phone had awoken him. What do you think she was about to say? we asked him.

Knowing your mother, he answered, it was probably "Answer the damned phone!"
Answer the damned phone!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A first draft

Here is a first draft of an opening for the Book Barn story I'm playing with, after a drive up to the former site thereof. (The building is still there.) Everything, title included, is subject to revision.

Moonrise at the Tatamy Book Barn

by Michael F. Flynn

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed,
and some few to be chewed and digested.
-- Francis Bacon, Studies.

THE LATE AFTERNOON had spread across the Valley, creating from the waving branches and leaves moiré patterns, all black shadow and orange sunlight across the hiking trail beside the creek. The upper sky was still pale blue, studded with high popcorn clouds, but shifting toward the more cobalt sort as the westerlies chivvied glowering cumulus ahead of them. The fishermen had abandoned the creek in a splashing of waders. It was a matter of luck, the locals said, whether storms would roll down the slot between Kittatinny Ridge and South Mountain.

But Cindy did not believe in luck, or at least not in the sort of luck that you didn’t make for yourself. Besides, the dark clouds seemed intent on rolling directly toward her and if the last couple of miles since leaving the diner were any indication, she really ought to give some thought to finding shelter for the night. She had a meal in her belly and some money in her purse, thanks in large measure to that same diner and its manager’s willingness to exchange clean dishes and clean rest rooms in lieu of payment. But there had not been anything resembling a motel along the miles since.

Not that she hadn’t slept rough before. She carried a bedroll and camping gear atop be backpack – they called it a rucksack around here – and she always enjoyed sleeping under the stars. When she had been younger, she had dreamed of being an astronaut and the night sky possessed a wistful allure. But the stars tonight seemed inclined to hide behind lint and she was less inclined to sleep under driving rain.

Nor was she inclined to beg shelter from the isolated houses she passed. Folks hereabout were generally hospitable, but that might not extend to guesting a stranger for the night, and Cindy had not survived the long road by being overly trustful on her part, either. You never knew when a nice-looking domicile might house a meth lab in its basement, or a young woman alone might prove too tempting for a middle-aged professional in his lonely country home.

Cindy did not know where she was going. Her long trek was more of a whence than a whither. A vast dissatisfaction had driven her from her mother’s house and her nowhere job and whatever it was she was looking for, she had demonstrably not yet found it.

Thunder rumbled in the west like God clearing his throat.

Cindy emerged from the shroud of trees that enfolded the hiking trail and found herself facing a paved road. Directly ahead was a ramshackle stone-and-wood barn with a gravel parking lot. To the right, the road crossed a short bridge over the creek and met the state highway. To the left, it curved north and out of sight. It didn’t look like there would be much in the way of accommodations either way. The fleshpots of Xanadu might be just around that bend, but she doubted it. A darkened residence stood on the left side of the curve and she gave it some thought.

A lot of homes had been foreclosed lately, so the place might be empty. Growing up in Wessex County, back in New Jersey, she had learned all the arts of B&E. But there were no sheriff’s notices plastered in the windows and it would be just her luck that the householder would return just as she was settling in for the night, and in this neck of the woods they were as likely to be the Three Bears as not. And armed. Didn’t they believe in the right to arm bears here?

That left the big stone-and-wood building across the road. A large board sign above the entrance named it the Tatamy Book Barn, Old and Used Books, and three equally old and used cars in the parking lot promised that the building was open. More importantly, unless the owner took a devil-may-care attitude toward his wares, the roof likely did not leak.

God dumped a truckload of scrap metal on the sky, which turned bright brass for an instant, and that made up her mind. Cindy hitched her backpack and strode confidently toward the entrance just as the heavens let loose.

Her strides broke into as fast a run as the weight on her back allowed, but she was drenched before she reached the door. She ducked through, slammed it behind her, and leaned her back against it, almost as if she feared the tempest would try to follow her inside.

The woman behind the counter looked up at this sudden eruption into her domain, took in Cindy and her bedraggled appearance, and cocked a rueful smile. “Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.”
#

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Possible Short Story

Succumbing to impulse, I have written 1300 words on a short story whose working title is "Midnight in the Tatamy Book Barn." Cindy is running away from home and her boring nowhere job and has been driven by an afternoon thunderstorm to take refuge in the aforesaid eponymous Book Barn. At one time she had dreamed of being an astronaut, but that that was not to be, she tells Robbie, the proprietor of the Barn. Robbie eyes the backpack and bedroll and asks where she is headed. "I don't know," said Cindy. "I haven't got there yet." Robbie asks if "Cindy" is short for something. "Jacinta," she is told. "Jacinta Rosario."

A neighbor, Henry Fogel, from up the creek has earlier come to the barn with several boxes of personal papers and notebooks. He is going away for a few days and is concerned about possible flash flooding on the creek and wants Robbie to store the boxes on the upper floor of the barn. Despite the "donnerwetter," he leaves. Robbie lets Cindy stay in the Barn overnight. And in their chatting Cindy learns that Robbie once had aspirations of her own: She had been a teenage poet calling herself Styx, but it had never gotten anywhere. As the night wears on, Cindy helps Robbie carry Henry's papers upstairs, and she begins glancing at them. And they are very strange.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Report from the Imperial Tailor

A morning newsitainment show with pretensions recently "interviewed" the Secretary of Energy over the President's decision to "withdraw" from the Paris Deal. Now, technically the US cannot withdraw because the agreement was never ratified with the advice and consent of the Senate, a requirement of that "scrap of paper" called the Constitution. (This document was once referred to as an "obstacle" to doing what was right by a constitutional law professor named Obama, who later won his way to higher office.) That's why it was called a "Deal" and not a "Treaty." The Constitution does not mention how Deals are to be handled, only how Treaties are to be handled. So, believing in Name-Magic, the handlers deemed that by calling it something else, it would become something else and the US could be committed to it by Executive Order alone. The other term for this sort of ruler is dictator, i.e., "he who dictates."

Now the pearl-clutching that commenced after the announcement of withdrawal was a wonder to behold. The NY Post ran the headline: Trump to World: Drop Dead, as if that would really, truly be the result of withdrawing from the agreement. But maybe not. Even if every jot and tittle of the agreement is carried out, even those things agreed to by China and Russia, the result might be a saving of 0.05°C by the year 2100. And that assumes that the models are correct. They haven't been yet; but who knows?
Anyway, on the TV show, the Sec Energy pointed out that the accord gives China, the world's biggest emitter of carbon (assuming CO2 to be a "pollutant") has promised to do exactly nothing while the US has pledged to reduce "greenhouse gas" emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025 -- only 8 years away.  China, whose emissions are already about double those of the US, agrees to no reductions whatsoever, and only to try to reach "peak" emissions by 2030. At this point, the interviewer interrupted to point out that China had pledged to reduce emissions by 60% after 2030. He said this with a straight face, too, as if he believed a) China would follow through on that pledge; b) his network would remember by then to hold them to it; or c) it would be technologically feasible to accomplish. Well, TV personalities are seldom taught to think quantitatively.

Thanks to fracking, the US has already reduced CO2 by 7% below the 2005 baseline, but this success (which actually exceeds the more preening Europeans) frightened the activists so much that they started an anti-fracking campaign. The EPA's Clean Power Plan was to shutter cheap coal power plants and cover the landscape with wind and solar farms.  A version of the strategy that has led Germany to residential electricity prices about triple the U.S. average. This sort of thing can result in the collapse of industries dependent on cheap power: Paper down 12 percent.  Cement down 23 percent.  Iron and steel down 38 per cent.  Coal down 86 percent.

No wonder they wanted China and India to be exempt.

Never fear. California announced they would on their own try to abide by the Paris accords. In fact, in September 2016 California's legislature passed, and Governor Brown signed, SB-32 requiring a reduction of "greenhouse" emissions in California to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.  That's about 12 1/2 years from now.

Now, California has been pushing to replace fossil fuels (boo) with "renewables" (yay) for 27 years, since 1990, covering the hillsides with wind turbines and the valleys with solar collectors.  So how much of the 40% reduction have they accomplished so far?  California's emissions for the latest year given (2014) were actually marginally above the 1990 level:

Does anyone really think California will accomplish this miracle in the next twelve years that it hasn't touched in the last 27? What will be the next strategy? Threats? Will household electricity become, as it is fast becoming in Germany, a luxury?

And will China, after doubling its emissions between now and 2030 really even try, let alone succeed in doing even more in the sixty years following?


Friday, June 2, 2017

Why There is No Bad Big Wolf

and clocks never go tock-tick.

The language rules we were never taught, but we somehow know them anyway, by Mark Forsyth.
“Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out.”
 Go ahead, try to write the sentence in a different sequence. It will sound wrong.  You cannot have an old little French lovely silver whittling rectangular green knife.Why this is TOF does not know. But we will say "a steel cutting die" (material-purpose Noun) and not "a cutting steel die" (purpose-material Noun).

There are also sound patterns.
"The Big Bad Wolf is just obeying another great linguistic law that every native English speaker knows, but doesn’t know that they know. And it’s the same reason that you’ve never listened to hop-hip music. If somebody said ‘zag-zig’ or ‘cross-criss’ you would know they were breaking a rule
You are utterly familiar with the rule of ablaut reduplication. You’ve been using it all your life. It’s just that you’ve never heard of it. But if somebody said the words zag-zig, or ‘cross-criss you would know, deep down in your loins, that they were breaking a sacred rule of language. You just wouldn’t know which one."
+++
If there are three words then the vowel order has to go I, A, O. If there are two words then the first is I and the second is either A or O. Mish-mash, chit-chat, dilly-dally, shilly-shally, tip top, hip-hop, flip-flop, tic tac, sing song, ding dong, King Kong, ping pong.

Whoa, What's This?