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

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?