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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Tyranny of Genes

PHYSICS, wrote Nigel Calder in Timescape, is the intrusive science, always butting in. Radiocarbon dating overturned a century or more of carefully built-up chronology in Egyptian king lists and other such things, as estimated by comparing strata in excavations. Consequently, it was resisted and denounced as heretical until it became orthodoxy.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tabclearing Day

Every now and then, the number of tabs accumulating in TOF's browser becomes burdensome and it grows clear that dedicated blog posts for them will never poof into existence. Hence, the periodic necessity of blowing them all off as briskly as possible. TOF has been remiss in maintaining this blog, even though it is as good an excuse as any for not writing.

1. Sugar and spice, and everything nice

CNN tells us about a young lad who is transitioning to a lass. Tommy has become Tammy, and this summer began taking hormone-blocking drugs to suppress puberty. Since age 3, Tommy had indicated by signing his desire to be a girl. In addition to his wearing skirts, we are told that "throughout his childhood, Thomas wanted to read Wonder Woman comics rather than Superman, wear rhinestone-studded hairbands instead of baseball caps and play with dolls rather than action figures." All of this indicates a rather anti-feminist notion of what it means to "feel like a girl,"but what the heck. Consistency has never been a hobgoblin to the little minds of the transgressive.

Complicating the issue is that the adoptive parents of Tommy/Tammy are a lesbian couple, which reinvigorates all the old stereotypes about "recruiting" adopted children. However, the news story tells us that Tommy/Tammy's two mommies have two older children, both of whom are male-male. It is only a coincidence that one of the 0.6% of Americans who identify as transgender wound up being adopted by them.

Or not. Kenneth Zucker, head of the Gender Identity Service in the Child, Youth, and Family Program and professor at the University of Toronto "conducted a study following 109 boys who had gender identity disorder between the ages of 3 and 12. Researchers followed up at the mean age of 20 and found 12% of these boys continued to want to change genders." Taking this at face value, it means that 88% of these lads changed their minds before it was too late. Tommy/Tammy will not have that option, since the hormone therapy has already begun.

We've been here before. What would One-Hand Jason say?

2. Quite a large majority, we would bet

"A large majority of people that have been pregnant or have given birth identify as women."
--- British Medical Association, A Guide To Effective Communication: Inclusive Language In The Workplace.

Hayden Cross, in the Sun.
A big surprise, that.

The BMA insistence that doctors shun the phrase "expectant mother" in favor of "pregnant person" is that using the term "mother" may make transgendered folks feel uncomfortable.

The proximate cause of all this is Hayden Cross, who whilst transitioning from female to "male," suddenly and inexplicably found himself pregnant. Apparently, he had not transitioned all the way. Because he was already self-identifying as a man, this means talk about "expectant mothers" will make him feel sad.

We can't have that, can we?

Why can't we just say "tomboys" like we used to. 

3. Speaking of transgender

"A nation of children is growing up today under a toxic leader. They’re developing and learning how to be adults. They’re curious about how to find their way in this world. And they’re looking for examples of what it means to 'be a man.' We’re giving them Trump."
-- Jennifer Siebel Newsom, in Time magazine

Presumably, we are to believe that Ms Newsom is very concerned that children -- presumably cis-male -- learn to "be a man." This, after many decades of the Besserwissers trying to discourage leaning anything of the sort. She has evidently forgotten that we have had a horn dog, a frat boy, and a prissy metrosexual in that role recently. TOF hates to break the news, but he did not spend his boy scout years modeling himself after Dwight D. Eisenhower. For the most part, the TOFling did not give the President much thought.

D. Trump has been called our first transgender president as he slowly morphs into the neocon Hillary. Well, Fred can be a little over-the-top -- a little? But then there is Peggy Noonan, who has noted the same thing:
He’s not strong and self-controlled, not cool and tough, not low-key and determined; he’s whiny, weepy and self-pitying. He throws himself, sobbing, on the body politic. He’s a drama queen. It was once said, sarcastically, of George H.W. Bush that he reminded everyone of her first husband. Trump must remind people of their first wife.
But to hear everyone howl you would think they wanted John Wayne or Gary Cooper in the role, and not someone so much in touch with his feelings as Mr. Trump. 

4. Going by the book

 Some while back, when Congresscritters went forth to their districts and held public meetings, TOF was struck by a curious sight. At these meetings, people would leap to their feet and shout in protest against changing Obamacare. The Media dutifully reported this as mass resistance to modifying the law and Republican congressfolk getting an earful from their constituents. But, to use a phrase now commonly employed in selected instances, it was "not independently verified" that the folks leaping to their feet were in fact constituents of that congressperson. TOF also noted that there were actually only a few such outcriers, but they were spaced around the meeting hall in such a way as to appear more numerous. Perhaps it was TOF's keen statistical eye, but their spatial distribution seemed curiously uniform. Well, apparently it was carefully planned and carried out.

5. Why did Trump Win?

None of the countless campaign reporters and commentators is on record as having noticed the car “affordability” statistics distributed in June 2016... Derived from very reliable Federal Reserve data, they depicted the awful predicament of almost half of all American households. Had journalists studied the numbers and pondered even briefly their implications, they could have determined a priori that only two candidates could win the Presidential election – Sanders and Trump – because none of the others even recognized that there was problem if median American households had been impoverished to the point that they could no longer afford a new car.

-- Edward N. Luttwak, "Why the Trump dynasty will last sixteen years,"
[London] Times Literary Supplement, 25 July 2017

Next, they should ask why cars have become relatively more expensive wrt incomes. Perhaps all the mandates and such that have been added to their costs?

6. The Fifth Way vs. Intelligent Design

"Once we understand what St. Thomas Aquinas meant by teleology, the greatest scandal he gives to the modern mind is in not being teleological enough, since he thought some outcomes were unpredictable, even in principle, from an awareness of the laws and initial states of the universe. His view of nature made it something much more ontologically loose and unruly, whereas ours makes nature much tighter, precise, and authoritarian down to the last detail. For him, there were real chance outcomes in nature that were not just an expression of our failure to know the true causal stories; but for us a 'chance outcome' means only that we are ignorant of the real causes in play."
-- James Chastek, "Fifth Way (pt. 1 intitial puzzles)" Just Thomism,
31 July 2017

 IOW, Thomist thinking is more aligned with quantum mechanics than with Enlightenment thinking.

7. Okay, just why the heck is slavery wrong?

Try to make your case without circular logic and without including as slaves baseball players prior to the free agency era or movie actors during the studio system, or the prisoners making license plates, or your child being told to clean his room. It's not that easy.Kidnapping Africans and bringing them to Brazil or other slaving countries? But kidnapping is already wrong. So are arbitrary beat-downs, rape, and all the other evils commonly spoken of wrt the Peculiar Institution. If we could institute a system of slavery without all these other things -- without separating families, etc. -- would slavery somehow become acceptable? If the answer is yes, then slavery was not your problem. If the answer is no, then you still haven't told us why it's wrong.

Recently, a statue of Francis Scott Key was defaced with the graffito "Racist Anthem," meaning The Defense of Ft. McHenry. The rationale is that the third verse -- you know it, of course -- contains the phrase.
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Nellie, bar the door! An attack on slaves? A threat of extermination?
Or simply a commonly-used phrase -- hireling and slave -- for those who truckle under to tyrants and despots -- and which rhymes with "grave." Either the complainants are unaware of English usage (very likely) or they are being cynically manipulative (perhaps, even more likely). In any case, the songster was clearly referring to the retreat of the British troops and fleet from Ft. McHenry. The vauntingly swearing band was, naturally, not a four-man rock group, but Ross' expeditionary force and Cochrane's fleet. Key sarcastically asks "What happened to them?" And answers that a bunch were killed at North Point and the Middle Branch and, with some exaggeration, suggests that they "plied swift heels" (in Homer's phrase). The hirelings and slaves were the British soldiers and sailors, many of who were mercenaries or pressed into service unwillingly.

It is also worth noting that the National Anthem of Ireland, Amhrán na bhFiann


Faoi mhóid bheith saor
Seantír ár sinsear feasta,
Ní fhágfar faoin tíorán ná faoin tráill.

(Sworn to be free,
no more our ancient sireland,
Shall shelter the despot or the slave.)
One supposes a hidden meaning here, too; but no one supposes the Irish kept slaves.

8. n-body orbits

Newton never did solve the orbit of the Earth's Moon. It's a three-body problem and there is no general analytical solution. (Not "no known" solution. There is a proof that there cannot be one. Any such problem must be worked out by numerical approximations.) There are, however, a plethora of special cases here

Example: 6 masses orbit each other in two intersecting (roughly Lagrange) orbits: Quicktime and GIF.

9. The General, not the Famous SF Writer

Sara A. Carter, "Did the FBI retaliate against Michael Flynn by launching a Russia probe?" Circa, 27 June 2017, notes the following intriguing time line:
  1. Decorated counterterrorism agent SSA Robyn Gritz accuses now-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and other top officials of sexual discrimination
  2. Flynn writes a letter on her behalf in 2014 on his official Pentagon stationary, gives a public interview in 2015 supporting Gritz’s case, and offers to testify on her behalf.
  3. The FBI seeks to block Flynn’s support for the agent, asking a federal administrative law judge in May 2014 to keep Flynn and others from becoming a witness in her Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case
  4. Two years later, the FBI, at McCabe's direction, opens its inquiry of Flynn.
"The bureau employees," Carter writes, "who spoke only on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said they did not know the reason for McCabe’s displeasure with Flynn, but that it made them uncomfortable as the Russia probe began to unfold and pressure built to investigate Flynn."

10. Speaking of Russia

A friend of TOF in college was a member of SDS, and TOF would amuse himself in telephonic communications by speaking in Russian. Zdrasti, he would say, kak ty poshevayete? Since the friend was convinced his phones were tapped by J.Edgar, this would up his paranoia level a bit.

But we live now in the post-modern age, and now it is the pros, not the cons, who see Russians under every bed and behind every potted plant. In all the hoorah and hype, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that no credible evidence for Russia "hacking our election" has been presented. It is simply reported as an established fact.

10. How does a minority impose its will on the majority?

By being intransigant.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority (Chapter from Skin in the Game), Incerto (Aug 14, 2016)

11. Constitution? What Constitution?

The Manhattan Contrarian has noticed a constitutional crisis relating to Obamacare.

12. Gandersauce

TOF is the founding and so-far only member of the Gandersauce Society and found the following item intriguing.

Remember Rachel Dolezal? Neither did TOF, but she was the daughter of two Midwestern parents of impeccably white ancestry who spent years passing herself off as black and rose to leadership positions in the local NAACP. This violated the No True Black principle and she was shortly after divested. Then, a while back, Rebecca Tuvel published an article in Hypatia, titled "In Defense of Transracialism," in which she argued that the arguments in favor of transgenderism would by a simple change of variable compel us to favor transitions in racial identity. But whites who think they are black is bad, while men who believe they are women is good. One is to be encouraged and assisted; the other is to be shunned. Therefore, Controversy arose to resolve the cognitive dissonance.

A lynchmob of the Usual Suspects, unable to refute the reasoning in Tuvel's article -- she favored both transgenderism and transracialism -- threatened the journal that had published her article. The journal, with the usual staunch courage of academics, caved in to the bullying and issued an apology, throwing the good progressive Tuvel under the bus.

13. How Can You Tell a Fascist from an Antifa?


You can't. Not when folks purportedly resisting imaginary hordes of fascists -- the bar for qualifying has been set rather low these days -- employ all the techniques of the SA and Mussolini's blackshirts. Cognitive dissonance again.
On the Blog of the APA (American Philosophical Association) Shane McDonnell writes in defense of mob violence:
"When we criticize antifa violence we criticize violence that attempts to stop racism and racists. Similarly, when we criticize anarchist violence we criticize violence that attempts to stop intolerance; that attempts to disrupt the capitalist system; that is used in self-defence against police brutality; and that ultimately protects rights. By labeling each side as bad as the other we neglect the danger the Alt-Right and these spin-off groups pose."
The term 'fascist,' as George Orwell noted long ago, has become a mere insult. They've been shouting down speakers, mobbing platforms, and so on for a while now. More accustomed to bullying fellow progressives, who clutch their pearls at the mere thought of being called bad names (see Tuvel, previous item), they have been astonished to discover their latest targets more resistant. And so they resort to rioting and smaching the windows of third parties -- such as small shops owned by minorities in St. Louis -- because "this will get people's attention." 

If anyone has doubted that the Age of Reason is over and done, this should convince them.

14. There's More, but This is Enough for Now.

Later, dudes.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Floods

Images of floods turn one's thoughts to the Flood of 1955. Two hurricanes, Connie and Diane, hit the US five days apart, both in North Carolina. They had weakened to Cat 1 and Cat 3, resp. by then but two hurricanes coming so close together was a problem. There was little wind damage this far north, but Connie dumped 12 inches of rain and saturated the ground. Then, when Diane came along a few days later with 10-20 inches more, there was no place for it to go, and the rivers left their banks all the way up through the northeast. Around 200 people died from the storms, mostly in Connecticut, where Woonsocket RI was nearly washed away by a 20 ft. wall of water.
 
Locally, the most deaths were 80 lost at Camp Davis, a Boy Scout camp.

Total damages were in excess of 7-8 billion dollars in today's money.

There is a gallery of pictures of Easton during the flood here, including part of an 8 mm film that my father had shot -- and which we watched repeatedly when we were kids. My brother Kevin put it up on YouTube a while back. The view, for any locals out there, is from the Lehigh Valley RR trestle facing downtown. In the foreground, the 3rd St. bridge crosses the Lehigh and ducks under the NJRR trestle.



The most dramatic damage locally was the breaking of the Northampton St. Bridge when the Columbia-Portland Bridge, the last of the old covered bridges, collapsed and came cruising down the Delaware like a battering ram and took out the middle span. The bridge had been called "the Gibraltar of the Delaware" after surviving the Pumpkin Freshet of 1903, when every other bridge north of Trenton had been washed away, but the Hurricane Diane flood was too much. An account of its untimely demise can be found here

So it's not a new thing for two hurricanes to come in quick succession, nor for rain to outweigh wind as the major destructive force. When people say, "I've never seen it this bad in my life," it's well to ask how long they've been around.

Harvey and Irma were damn big storms -- and their landfalls were "target-rich environments." There were more people living in vulnerable areas and more and costlier buildings erected there, magnifying the destruction.

But 6-9 December, 1935, massive flooding hit Houston, not from a tropical storm, but from regular ol' thunderstorms.
20.6" fell in 35 hours over Westfield, TX. Houston reported 5.52" of rain. Satsuma in northwest Harris County had 16.49" of rain. Bayous were 52 feet above normal. The city's pumping station was unable to supply water for a few days and the city had no protection against fire. Buffalo Bayou at Houston 54.4 feet with 40,000 cfs. Buffalo Bayou at Addicks 85.6'. 2/3 of rural Harris County was flooded. Halls Bayou was over its banks. Spring and Cypress Creeks were out of their banks.
But about half of the modern city wasn't there yet, and in the 1930 census Houston was only the 26th largest city in the US, not the 4th, and held just above a quarter of a million people. (Detroit was 4th; Philadelphia 3rd. Los Angeles was 5th.) So there were fewer people to be flooded out. And there was not 24/7 coverage to hype the storm. (Which also meant -- as was the case with Connie and Diane in 1955 -- that people did not get a timely heads-up and were taken somewhat by surprise.)

Friday, September 8, 2017

Road Rage, Buddha, and Beeldenstorm

What do these pictures have in common?

Buddha Statues blown up by fanatics at Baminyan, Afghanistan

Confederate statue pulled down by fanatics
at Durham, NC
In both cases the vandals belonged to a triumphalist people who found the monuments of their foes hateful to their eyes. The muslim Taliban regarded statues of the Buddha as demons and the Buddhists themselves to be demon-worshipers. Similarly, the "Antifa" regarded the statues of former Democratic office-holders and generals to be statues of demons, and those who wish to preserve them as demon-worshipers.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Memory Lane

Courtesy of Sweet Sharon, TOF has been gifted with some old photos from my storied college years. People who know me now will gaze at them in wonder and ask, "Where is the rest of him?" And indeed it is true that I am now twice the man I was then.
Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and outdoor
Yes, that's TOF on the right
 Gadzooks, was I skinny. I'll have to clip the picture and tape it to the refrigerator as motivation.

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people standing and closeup
l to r. your humble host, Sweet Sharon, FRXL, Cookie, Sterling.
The second picture was taken about the time of the annual Caisson Ball. A HS friend of mine, Sterling Carter, had come down as my guest. Sterling was in an infantry ROTC unit at U Scranton, whereas I was in the artillery -- "Caisson," right? -- at LaSalle. That made me a big shot, LOL. TOF learned how to call artillery fire down on your grid coordinates. You have been warned.

The fellow who appears in both pictures was Francis Raymond Xavier Lyons, known to all as FRXL (pronounced as spelled). I lost track of him over the years since graduation, alas; but the saga of the frijoles negros will live forever.




Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Mayerling

For the interested, the opening of "Mayerling", that alternate Austro-Hungarian yarn mentioned in Scribble, scribble, scribble, runs as follows.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Scribble, scribble, scribble... and scribble

There are several stories of sundry lengths in various stages of (in)completion in the Flynnish oeuvre.  For anyone interested, they run as follows.

I forgot one! So I have added 098e below, in the queue at Analog.

The opus number runs generally in the order in which they were started, except 098f. All the Journeyman stories are 098, with each installment getting a letter. The current word count is indicated in order to shame TOF into finishing them rather than starting another.

In process
079 Mayerling.....................4200
Short story. Alternate history. Crown Prince Rudolf is at his hunting lodge at Mayerling, contemplating suicide. Or not.
087 The Shipwrecks of Time..........92,786
A novel. Back in the early 1340s, Heinrich of Regensburg was brutally murdered over a now-lost manuscript known as "The Peruzzi Papers."  In the 1960s, an historical researcher in Milwaukee becomes interested in the contents.  What could have been so dangerous to know that the author was so brutally killed?  Why did the banking House of Peruzzi keep the papers secret for 600 years?  Inquiring minds want to know.  But maybe they should not be so inquiring?  Later, in Part II, a documentary film-maker in 1980s Denver and, in Part III, a small town police detective in the fictional 2010s Neston PA are also entangled in the mystery.  Some mss. are better left unread, it seems. However, we are already up to 93 kilowords and still in Part I. Damn. Don't know whether to cut it drastically by 2/3rd or to make each Part a separate book. Still plugging away.
098f The Journeyman: At the Heights of Iabran.......7973
Teodorq sunna Nagarajan the Ironhand is leading a cavalry regiment he helped organize. They are setting up to take the enemy's capital. Problem is, Teo's commanding general is trying to get him killed, due to a small misunderstanding over the general's wife. There's this deep canyon penetrating the aforesaid Heights; but it is likely a dead-end, in more ways than one.
101 The Chieftain....................................16,421
A fantasy novel -- yes, you heard that right -- in the lackadaisical course of being rewritten from an old draft from TOF's youth. It was written long ago, in and shortly after college, as a straight historical, the market for which can best be described as multiples of SQRT(-1).  The writing sucks because I was just a kid; but it is as capable of rewrite as The January Dancer was.  The world has a shortage of medieval Celtic fantasies.  No, really.  It does. This one is set in Ireland in AD 1225.  A bit of medieval magic should pepper it right up.  Don't usually see prayers instead of spells, or saints instead of imps to answer them; so we shall see.  And calling on God may not be quite as simple as calling on gods....
107 Hunters Moon.................1063
Short story set in the Firestar milieu. The narrator is a troubleshooter for Phobos Port Authority, sent to audit the procedures used for aiming the Lunar catapult dedicated to sending cargo to Mars and finds a suspicious death when he gets there. Same narrator as "In Panic Town on the Backward Moon."
108 Adventures in Mythistory........5747
Fact article on how history is turned into myth, with special emphasis on Hypatia.
109 The Three Faces of Science........859
Fact article on the three phases of science in the Modern Age: Mathematical, Statistical, and Modeled.
111 The Singing City...............2200
A vignette set in the Firestar milieu. Flaco's grandson is about to leave for Saturn in a magnetic sail, and Flaco's son "Memo" (born at the end of Rogue Star) is having a crisis.
112 Moonrise at the Tatamy Book Barn...........2750
Short story. Jacinta Rosario, who never became a space pilot because the whole Firestar history never happened, is running away from home and finds herself taking shelter from a thunderstorm in the Tatamy Book Barn, where there are lots of books. Henry Berge, a neighbor who is storing his papers there for safekeeping, is also trapped by the storm. The store manager, whose name is Roberta Carson, invites them both to stay for pizza. Stuff happens.

Completed
In the queue at Analog:
098e  The Journeyman: Through Madness Gap...............................................14,765
Teodorq had crossed the ocean to Old Cuffy, where his sponsor expects him to organize a regiment of Savage Archers modeled after the Riders of the Great Grass. But a foreign country takes some getting used to.
102 Laminated Moose Zombies and Other Road Maintenance Problems........4786
Short story co-written with Son of TOF, Dennis. Zombies are getting to be a nuisance for the Anchorage DPW. It's a fungus-borne disease, and the narrator's girl friend is researching for a cure, or at least a treatment. Should appear in an upcoming issue.
110 Victor Frankenstein's Bar and Grill and Twenty-four Hour Roadside Emporium........1293
Everybody needs a place where "everyone knows your name." This is true even for nameless monsters who want to hoist a few. A deep psychological study.

Recently appeared
104 Nexus..............25,156
Novella. This was in Analog (Mar/Apr 2017). A concatenation of several science fiction tropes.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Thought for the Day

from David Warren:
I had always assumed that mock chicken was an industrial by-product, containing traces of poultry for flavouring, in a crumbly rind probably coloured with orange textile dye. I supposed that live chickens had been harmed somewhere in the manufacturing process, which had included the mocking operation. I guessed the managers at the industrial abattoir hired underemployed professional comedians to mock the chickens, prior to slaughter — doing satirical imitations of the way they walk, try to fly, express enmity towards those who steal their eggs — while taunting them with demeaning imprecations such as, “You’re not a real chicken,” &c — ideally in dactylic hexameters.
It turns out I was wrong. Unless the ingredient list on the package is fake news (I have just retrieved it), our contemporary mock chicken contains miscellaneous “and/or” meats, possibly but not necessarily including winged animals; plus potassium lactate and soy protein; sodium phosphates, erythorbates, diacetates, and nitrates; glucose solids; maltodextrin; “spices”; and of course my favourite, monosodium glutamate. 
-- Mock Chicken

Saturday, July 22, 2017

22 July 1964

Once upon a time, TOF was all alone, and reigned in solitary splendor, king of all he surveyed.
Able seaman TOF

Then, one day, while minding his own business, reading a book....
Scholar TOF
...he was suddenly beset by Another.
This pint-sized intrusion was named Dennis Harry Flynn; and all that can be said of our respective personalities can be summarized in the expressions on the two faces above.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Today we went to the funeral mass at Our Lady of Lebanon church for our neighbor's girl, Elizabeth, who was only 12. It was a sad affair. The grandmother broke down when they came to close the lid on the casket and began to wail. Not a few others came close to it, as well.

There were five priests concelebrating, including a couple of Latin-rite priests from up the hill. The deacon was a guy I went to high school with -- Tony Koury. 
 
 

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.

A Glance at the Holocene


Unless I should say the "Whole Scene." Reconstructed "proxy" temperatures shown in black and model output temperatures in green are compared to atmospheric CO2 in red and methane in blue during the recent interglacial phase. When CO2 began increasing some 7000 years ago, global temperatures did not actually change and when they did, about 2000 years later, the world grew cooler, not warmer. The model outputs grew warmer, however. Notice that in the Modern Warm period, temperatures did increase when a special magical kind of CO2 took over. Either that, or a random fluctuation. In any case, a 5000-year long slide back into an ice age seems to have been temporarily stayed and temperatures have returned to medieval levels, and perhaps almost to Roman levels, although not nearly to normal levels for the interglacial, which were closer to +0.9°C

Data sources noted for each series on chart.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Much is Hereby Explained

From 1980 to 2014, student headcount in public schools increased 22.6% while expenditures increased by a mere 115.2%  (in constant dollars)

The increased expenditures went to purchase more
130.0% more Instructional Aides (whoever they are)
 88.1% more School District Administrative Staff
 63.1% more Principles/Assistant Principles
 63.0 % more Guidance Counselors
 43.4% more Teachers
 40.0% more Support Staff
  7.1% fewer Librarians


The United States Department of Education began operating on May 4, 1980.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Quote of the Day

The Creator hath endowed us with poetical minds, and we have been trying to rewire them as adding machines.
-- David Warren, "Sweetness and Light"

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

It was the Best of Times; It was the Worst of Times

Most creative use of the word "Despite"

Despite the less than generous Unemployment Insurance system, however, just 3.0% of Nebraska’s labor force was unemployed over the course of 2015, the second lowest jobless rate of all states.

Rankings of Best- and Worst-governed States

based on Debt per capita, unemployment rate, tax revenues, diversity of industry, Moody credit rating, poverty rate, rainy day fund vs. operating expenses, and other indicators. (See methodology, below)
Details at site:

Ten best-governed.
1. North Dakota
2. Minnesota
3. Nebraska
4. Wyoming
5. Utah
6. Iowa
7. Texas
8. Colorado
9. Washington
10. Oregon

Ten worst-governed
50. New Mexico
49. Illinois
48. Rhode Island
47. Mississippi
46. Alabama
45. Kentucky
44. Louisiana
43. New Jersey
42. Pennsylvania
41. West Virginia


Methodology:
http://247wallst.com/special-report/2016/12/06/the-best-and-worst-run-states-in-america-2/12/

The Triumph of Education

To graduate 8th grade in Bullitt Co, KY in 1912 required one to pass the following examination, the effect of which is spoilt by several typos scattered throughout. The reading and writing portion is lost. Notice that none of the questions are multiple choice; and all require serious thought on the part of rural Kentucky kids. The exam appeared on the Huffington Post.

Some of the questions are difficult for Moderns to answer because the historical and geographical background has changed since 1912. In Arithmetic Question 3, for example, "kalsomining" means "whitewashing" and whitewash was a calcium solution used by the poor as a cheap substitute for the paint they could not afford. In History Question 10, "magnetic" should probably be "magneto." Either that or it is meant to be the Magnetic Telegraph and the comma between the two is stray.

If the Electoral College were abolished

Presidential elections would be decided as below:

Indeed, winning a large majority in CA was enough to secure bragging rights for the "popular vote" in the most recent election. (Outside of CA, the popular vote seems to have been won by the other candidate.) Although, had the election rules specified a simple popular vote, then
  1. campaigning in CA and other places would have proceeded very differently, perhaps with different results; and
  2. we'd still be going through the nation-wide recount.
(The map is a cartoon and is not to precise scale.)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Everything Old is New Again



The president fired the FBI director a few months after taking office.  (A director appointed, be it noted, by a president of the other party, and still had several years to go in his 10 year term.)  Perhaps the president had some skeletons in his closet that he did not want investigated. The excuse he gave for the firing seemed weak.  Surely, everyone remembers the uproar and outrage that followed  "A coup," said some. "A constitutional crisis!

Or not. The media accepted Clinton's sacking of Sessions in 1993 as being due to misuse of a government airplane (Oh, horrors!) and not due to any investigation creeping near to the Oval Office. Of course not. Alas, Clinton shortly thereafter got Ken Starr as a Special Prosecutor, so firing Sessions did not do him a whole lot of good.

 


Gary Varval in the Washington Times
But what is even more remarkable in the second-time-as-farce repeat of history, many of those now clutching their pearls over the firing of Mr. Comey were among those earlier calling for his sacking! Is a little bit of principled consistency too much to ask for? Granted, it is Washington and neither principles nor consistency are very thick on the ground there; but, still.

TOF feels lonely in stating that Comey was in a no-win situation once he saw the hand grenade roll into his foxhole. If he kept mum about the trove of emails that popped up in another investigation, after he had formally and publicly closed the Clinton email investigation, he would be accused of trying to influence the election by concealing possibly relevant information from the public. What if these were (some of) the missing 30,000 emails that had been subpoenaed and not turned over? OTOH, if he went public, he would be accused of trying to influence the election by keeping the email controversy alive. So he threw himself on the grenade. Keeping silent would have been worse.

David Horsey at the Washington Times
Despite the effort to blame her loss on anything and everything else, where are the post-election polls that show people switching from Clinton to Trump because of the last-minute email kerfuffle? Outside the Beltway and its aficionados, how many people were persuaded by that? Sure, anyone else who had handled classified material so carelessly would have had his security clearance revoked and kept far away from secured servers, and probably escorted from the building with his personal belongings in a box; but the real scandal is less the email contents than it is the privileged treatment of the offender. This, in a year when Privilege was an Issue.

She did not lose the election because the working class voters in the Rust Belt cared a great deal about Insider Football, but because they were worried about jobs and it seemed all she wanted to talk about was who could use which bathroom.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Mothers on Parade

Mothers' Day is coming, and in its honor TOF will present a parade of Mothers. We will start with

1. The Incomparable Marge, who is the mother of the TOFsprings, shown here in their cute-and-innocent versions:
Sara, a/k/a Dear in the Headlights
 




Dennis: Wait, What's Going On Here...







 However, the I/M is herself the daughter of a mother, and while we have no digitized picture of the two in Madonna-and-child pose, we do have them individualized, as it were:
Elsie Vera Hammontree, mother of the I/M




The Marge, imitating a bean bag















2. Elsie Vera Hammontree (1924-1951) of Oklahoma died when the Marge was very young but she is remembered for humming Strauss waltzes while she did her ironing in the kitchen. Margie was her only child, and her dad never remarried. The Hammontrees had settled in colonial Virginia, fought in the Revolution (two were at Valley Forge, and one died there), went over-the-mountain into East Tennessee, fought with Andy Jackson at Horseshoe Bend in the War of 1812; fought in the Army of the Cumberland under Schofield in the Civil War (wounded at Resaca) and headed west to Oklahoma by way of Arkansas. She married Claude Lee White, whose mother was a Choctaw with the splendid name of Maggie Jam and who raised her two sons alone in Ft. Towson, Choctaw Nation (later part of Oklahoma). For her part, Elsie was the daughter of....

3. Ora Vanora Harris (1901-1967) of whom TOF has no digitized photograph. The Marge was largely mothered by this grandmother (and by multiple aunts) after Elsie died. Ora was a Holy Roller and spoke in tongues, a religious exercise which scared the bejabbers out of little Margie. But when Margie entered the Church, Ora came with her. The Harrises had once lived in Hardin Co., KY, neighbors to Thomas and Abraham Lincoln, and moved with the Lincolns to Spencer Co. IN. (One bore the delightful name of Greenberry Harris.) But when the Lincolns moved again to Illinois, where Honest Abe grew to become famous, the Harrises pushed on to Cold Springs, MO and thence to Indian Territory, where Ora married John Hammontree and bore three daughters and two sons in the bustling metropolis of Quinton, OK.  Ora's mother was...

4. Sadie Frances Holland (1884-1918), who had been born in Louisiana and moved with her parents to Chickasaw Nation in 1898, where she married Charles Harding Harris and had five sons and three daughters. She died young of bronchial pneumonia aggravated by measles after a 13 day illness. The Hollands seem to have moved through the Lower South, perhaps starting from Mississippi. Sadie was the daughter of...

5. Annie Eliza Helms (1861-1939), who had been born in Lee Co., Georgia of North Carolinian parents, was married in Claibourne, LA, to Henry Thomas Holland, with whom she had five children: two boys, two girls, and one unknown who died in infancy. They moved to Chickasaw Nation, where they farmed next plot to Charlie Harris, who married their daughter. She died in her late 70s of a brain hemorrhage brought on by hypertension. She was the daughter of...

6. Gatsey [Helms] (c. 1826 - after 1880), maiden name not yet determined, was born somewhere in North Carolina. About 1844, she married Henry Helms, of a prominent North Carolinian family [cf. Jesse Helms], bearing seven children, of whom Anne Eliza was the youngest. Between 1847-48 they moved to Georgia; in 1850 were in Chambers Co. Alabama; and by 1860 in Lee Co. Georgia, where Anne was born. She lived through the Civil War and (to go by her residence) Sherman's March to the Sea. She was widowed sometime between 1860 and 1880, when she was living in Claiborne LA, where her daughter married Henry Holland. Not known when or where she died, or where the somewhat odd name of Gatsey (or Gatsy) comes from.

n. Mitochondrial Eve. Okay, so she's everyone's eventual mother.....

TOF, meanwhile, is also the son of a mother; to wit:

1. Rita Marie Singley (1924-1993) a/k/a "The Mut"
Mut, displaying her bona fides as a mother
TOF is descended from a long line of German mothers. This is an especially daunting thing, for there is nothing more immovable than one. When the pastor at the church hesitated to baptize TOF on the grounds that the parish was German and the name was Flynn -- "Take him to St. Bernard's. That's where the Irish go." -- the Mut said that she would take me home and baptize me herself under the kitchen sink. She would have done it, too. The pastor caved. Some of her favorite expressions were handed down from Germany. When we asked her where a favorite toy or article of clothing was, she would respond: "Where is last winter's snow?" or "Do I wear it/play with it?" Complaints were met with a cheery, "Dry up and blow away." There were no snowflakes in our house, unable to deal with disappointments. Yet, neither was there more love and care.

The Singleys had come from Gemeinde Oberhausen (Upper Houses) in the Grand Principality of Baden around 1854, in the aftermath of the famine, turmoil and oppression following the failed Republican revolution of 1848. They had lived there or in the neighboring community of Niederhausen (Lower Houses) since the close of the Thirty Years War in the mid-1600s. The name had been originally spelled Zängle, which seems to mean "Little Brick." In Nockamixon Twp, Bucks Co, PA, the name became Zingley, later Singley. Her mother was...

2. Helen Myrtle Schwar (1896-1952) a/k/a "Big Mom"
Big Mom, with her smaller brood: Mut in arms, twins Ralph and Paul below
Big Mom is the literal translation of Grossmutter, the German word for grandmother. We lived in her house two doors up the street for five years. Technically, by modern standards, we were homeless while my father jumped through bureaucratic hoops to get the GI Bill money to build our house. Among my fond memories at life up the street, is Big Mom's theory that the cure to all illnesses was an enema. It was there that TOF suffered the chicken pox and several other now-moribund diseases. Come Christmas, she dressed up as Santa and brought gifts. She had married Harry Singley, a veteran of the Great War, and a bricklayer. There is a story about him and bricklaying which must await another day. They had three children: a set of identical twins and the Mut. Her three children eventually moved into houses that were only a couple doors away. Each received a tree, in the traditional German fashion of celebrating special occasions with a tree, sister sycamores, and though two of them have since gone to that Great Woodpile in the Sky, their offspring litter the south side to this day.
TOF (r) and his Milchgeschwester (c)
Milk-siblings were those who suckled at
the same breasts.

The Schwar family (the name rhymes with "swear" but lost its umlaut long ago) came from Niederhausen and see the brief recap of the Singleys, above. The name means "heavy," and in the records of Oberhausen/Niederhausen (now called Rheinhausen) the Schwährs were stone masons back to the late 1600s. The stone work on TOF's home was laid by Mut's uncle Leo Schwar. There is a story about Pere assisting him, which will await some other day.

The whole area on that part of South Side was once known as Schwartown for the obvious reasons, not least of which are the stone houses; and the plethora of interrelated families from Oberhausen/Niederhausen contributed to the firm conviction of TOF and his Milchgeschwester that every person we were introduced to was related to us in some fashion. Schwar, Singley, Metzger, Deck, Keck, Breiner, Raisner, Albus, und so weiter all went back to those same two villages on the Rhine at the edge of the Black Forest. Near Eifelheim, if you read famous SF novels....

3. Frances Hungrege (1870-1926)
Frances: I'll see your five and raise you ten
Big Mom on far right
Mut's grandmother, third from left in the back row, lived in the big stone house on the next corner. She married Francis Joseph Schwar, a stone mason, in 1894. The Hungreges, mirabile dictu did not come from Baden, let alone Oberhausen/Niederhausen, but rather from Westpfalz, which was then ruled by Prussia. Given that she died only a few years after Mut was born, not much else is known about her. She was the daughter of....

4. Magdalena Rieß (1836-1901)

Magdalena Riess,
No family shots
Magdalena emigrated from (you guessed it) Niederhausen in 1854 "to visit friends" and never went back. We have her passport from the Grandherzogthum Baden which, in the absence of passport photography, tries to describe her in that infinitesimal German style. So we know she was 5 Schuh and 1 Zoll tall [about 5'1"], slender figure, long face, healthy complexion, black/brown hair, low forehead, and so on. She married Conrad Hungrege, formerly a steamboat captain on the Rhine, in Haycock Run, Bucks Co, PA, and had eight children, six of them boys. She died only a few years after Big Mom was born, so not much is known of her. She was the daughter of....

5. Franziska Stefan (1799-1856)
Fishermen on the Rhine
who was born, wed, and died in Niederhausen. She married Johann Rieß, a fisherman on the Rhine and was mother to nine children, eight of them girls. Four of her children died in infancy or childhood, one indeed after four days. We are now in the days before antisepsis, when cutting edge medicine meant breeding superior leaches and measuring precisely the amount of blood let. Magdalena was the last of Franziska's children and lived to be 65 in America. Mater dolorosa, indeed. A fortunate thing she was not easily discouraged and did not succumb to grief.   She was the daughter of...

6. Maria Anna Pflüger (c.1772-1845)
who likewise was born, wed and died in Niederhausen. She was the third wife of Josef Stefan and had by him four children, two of whom died in infancy. Franziska was the second daughter of that name, her namesake having died  scant eight months earlier at just about a year's age. After Josef died, Maria Anna took a second husband, viz., Jakob Metzger. During her lifetime, Napoleon was running hither and yon across Europe, including across the Germanies. M. Anna's mother appears to have been

7. M. A. Schwörer (???-???)
who married Georg Pflüger, also a fisherman. But at this point, even German record-keeping falters and it may be that some records were lost during the Napoleonic wars. There is a gap in the microfilms. So far, TOF has not a clue about these more remote ancestors.

n. Mitochondrial Eve
Since she is everyone's maternal ancestor, this means the Marge and I are remote -- very remote -- cousins. But this is no surprise. Considering how many of TOF's ancestral mothers came from Oberhausen/Niederhausen, one is not astonished to learn that he is his own seventh cousin.



Other Mothers
We haven't even scratched the surface of those mothers to whom we must credit our mere corporal existence. This is only the pure maternal strain. There are also the mothers of fathers to be considered. Not only Sarah Jane Metzger from (where else) Niederhausen, but Pere's mother Blanche Jean Cantrel, whose ancestry wends its way back through the Pas de Calais, to the delightfully named Sinia Jane Chisenhall, who lurks on the Marge's ancestral tree, to Mary McGovern, of whom a photograph shows her playfully aiming a shotgun at the photographer. (The McGoverns came from the Glan in Co. Cavan, a then-remote and inaccessible valley where they made their own whiskey. She knew how to use that shotgun.) Then there was Nancy Holloway, who was a model for Mae Holloway (up to a point) in "Melodies of the Heart." But we have to draw the line somewhere or we will end up with every mother who has ever lived.

Though, on second thought, why not? Consider them, and yours, added as well.

Whoa, What's This?