Monthly Archives: November 2016

The Sculpted Ship, by K. M. O’Brien

My brother Kevin just finished his science fiction novel and put it up on Amazon on Saturday. It’s listed under Steampunk (because the manners and mores of the local galactic empire tend that way, and they’re major features of the plot) and Galactic Empire (because there is one). I copy-edited it and I’m proud of it, but he got most of the ideas that improved it. (He’s the kind of guy who tends not to follow your ideas, but likes to bounce his ideas off yours until he gets something he likes. He has good instincts.)

He’s got a blurb, but let me tell you about the book.

Cover of The Sculpted Ship by K. M. O'Brien

The Sculpted Ship is a small business development story. Anailu Xindar finds the perfect starship of her dreams, and plans to put it to work for her new cargo hauling business. But at the cheap price she got it, you know it has to be a fixer-upper. Finding the parts is going to be a problem. But this time, it’s the intrigue, traps, and very-bad-things kind of problem.

(Yes, Kevin is the kind of computer geek who also has car and truck projects in the backyard.)

Even before the parts problem kicks in, it turns out that having a unique ship gives you unique opportunities to make money — but only if you train yourself to take advantage of them. And in Anailu’s society, it means learning how to mix with the rich, make bets with other captains, and buy fancy duds. From a fashion designer. Who likes frou-frou. Anailu likes to plan ahead, but she never planned on this!

This book stands alone, but Kevin is writing a second Anailu novel right now. In fact, he wants to have a whole series. He’s got some great worldbuilding ideas, and he also has a good sense of storytelling and humor. I also think you will like Anailu and her friends; I sure do.

The Sculpted Ship is only $3.99 $2.99, as of November 26. So check out the sample pages and see if you like it!

PS. I don’t have Kevin’s Amazon affiliate link at the moment, and I’m not one. So feel free to search out The Sculpted Ship from the affiliate of your choice. He’s going to have it up on Barnes and Noble and Kobo, too, but right now it’s just on Amazon.

PPS. I hope everybody has a happy Thanksgiving. I spent most of the morning still resting from last night, because things have been crazy at the store all the last few weeks. And tomorrow morning is Black Friday. I’m certainly getting hours!


Filed under Family, fandom

Red Wine Hot Chocolate = Syllabub

The problem with red wine syllabub, as opposed to the more stealthy white wine syllabub, was always the visual impact. Most modern people are not open to drinking dark red or pink milk. Also, it is more difficult for milk or even eggnog to balance the strong taste of red wine.

So I fully support the addition of cocoa powder and sugar to the classic taste of syllabub.* (Which is warming your milk or eggnog to cow temperature, adding it to wine, and watching the nifty bubbles appear in the mixture as it clabbers quickly, rather than curdling. Syllabub is cool to watch!)

Here’s what Hannah Glasse said about it, in The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1758):

“Make your Syllabub of either Cyder or Wine, sweeten it pretty sweet, and grate Nutmeg in, then milk the Milk into the Liquor.. You may make this Syllabub at home, only have new Milk; make it as hot as Milk from the Cow, and out of a Tea-pot, or any such thing, pour it in holding your Hand very high….”

Of course, she then advocates adding a bunch of cream on top, so apparently she was into adding a little bit of extra stuff.

But using condensed milk in any kind of hot chocolate or syllabub is definitely overkill. Also, you can make hot chocolate or classic syllabub in your microwave without nearly as much danger of scalding the milk, so I don’t get the idea of putting it in a pot on your stove.

Also I never got the point of whipped syllabub or cold syllabub (the later stage of the dessert, which English people never dropped and contemporary US chefs are reviving), but I guess some people really like overkill in their desserts and drinks.

(Of course, if somebody else wants to whip the egg whites and steep the thing overnight with various flavorsome substances, I’d be fine with eating it. Feed me, English people!)

I should mention that, since it’s the acidic qualities of wine that make the bubble clabbering happen, you can make non-alcoholic syllabubs of all kinds by using acidic juices. Here’s a pretty example if you would like to try it.

*  Actually, the “classic syllabub” is also known as a posset, if you heat up the wine and the whole thing ends up hotter than the cow.  Not so much on the bubble-clabbering, but tasty. So actually, I should have said that red wine hot chocolate = chocolate wine posset. But chocolate/wine bubbles would be so cool….

Beer/ale possets are not terribly popular outside of Eastern Europe, but you can do them too. Ditto sherry, hard cider, whisky, rum, etc. But that’s where you start to run into toddy and White Russian territory.

Anyway, possets do make you feel good when you are sick. And hot milky chai tea with whisky is technically a posset, too!

UPDATE: Post backdated to Wednesday, to keep The Sculpted Ship up top.

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Devil Costumes Are Traditionally Catholic, Too

In Mallorca/Majorca, they have a local saint called St. Catherine of Palma, or St. Caterina Tomas.

When she was still with them, she was the kind of saintly girl who bore patiently with being tormented by nasty people and poltergeisted around by devils. (Yes, there are quite a few folks like this in the saintly rolls. It doesn’t happen often, but they tend to get notice.)

Before she became a nun, she lived a perfectly normal life, albeit she was an orphan who got treated like Cinderella by her uncle’s family. After she became a nun, her whole convent witnessed a lot of bizarre demonic phenomena. The most notorious moment was when she was minding her own business, and suddenly got lifted in the air about thirty feet and then dropped down a well. This happened in full view of all the nuns while they were having a recreation period, and it pretty obviously wasn’t something the girl could do herself. (And did I mention that she was unhurt, other than being stuck down a well?)

On the bright side, she also had gifts of prophecy and healing, as well as ecstatic trances that lasted for days. Saints visited her and gave her advice, as well as healing any wounds the demons gave her. But yeah, obviously a lot more fun to be an ecstatic levitating kind of saint than to be the kind who gets bugged by demons all the time.

It took a while for her case to be fully researched, to the point that even the Vatican was embarrassed by how long it took. (It was mentioned in her canonization decree.) It took so long that she’s still known on the island as “La Beata” or “La Beateta.” But the Mallorcans always knew she was a saint. Her uncorrupted body is on display in one of the island’s churches.

Anyway, it used to be the thing for the entire island (or at least the younger people) to dress up in devil costumes on notable days associated with her life and run around outside in the spring weather, having fun and playing pranks on each other. Nowadays, they have a parade with floats depicting events in the saint’s life. A few notable girls are chosen to dress up as the saint (which is an honor), and the rest of the kids dress up as devils and try to scare the spectators. The adults just watch. At other festivals, the traditional devil costumes have sadly disappeared, and things are a lot more passive.

For Mallorca being such a tourist island, it’s really hard to find any pictures of the parades and costumes online. One supposes that such things are discouraged. (In this day and age, maybe it’s just discouraging photography of kids. But sometimes people also don’t feel like dealing with ignorant comments about their local festivals.) On the other hand, it seems that the devil costumes may be going away, just as the traditional boy singer of the “Cant de la Sibil-la” at Midnight Mass on Christmas has been replaced by adult female opera singers. (Which is dumb. You lose the “unearthly” vocal quality of a trained boy soprano, and you also lose innocence. I could maybe see a little old lady doing it, but sheesh.) However, the “Battle of the Moors and the Christians” at Soller and Pollensa on August 2nd is still a thing — grown men dress up as Muslims and Christians and mock-fight in the streets, commemmorating a local Christian victory over Muslim corsairs in 1550, and giving the credit to “Holy Mary of God’s Angels,” the island’s greatest patron saint.

Anyway, St. Catalina Tomas’ feastday used to be April 5th, but it’s now on April 1st. (Handily enough.) But on the island, she gets celebrated on days in late July (July 27-28 in her hometown of Valldemossa), September, and October, depending on the village.

Pictures of island tilework and statuary of her.

Little kids dressed in traditional Mallorcan costume for one of the tamer festivals.

Kids forced to sit still in a carriage wearing angel costumes for one of the tamer festivals. These are “triumphal cars,” representing the saint’s triumphal entrance into Heaven upon her death, with lots of attendant angels. Apparently the gig for the kids is carrying baskets full of goodies for the crowd, and getting goodies too. The girl sitting up top is the one dressed like St. Catalina Tomas.

Info about the annual fiesta in the village of San Margalida.

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Blessed Ela, Countess of Salisbury?

Ela de Vitre, aka Ela Fitzpatrick. She was Countess of Salisbury in her own right, devoted wife of William Longsword, served as High Sheriff of Wiltshire in her own right too, laid one of the foundation stones of Salisbury Cathedral as a big donor, and was generally a powerful medieval lady. There’s lots to read about her, and she even comes into canonization testimony for St. Edmund of Abingdon (aka St. Edmund Rich), because she was miraculously healed of fever at one point, albeit by a reliquary of the blood of St. Thomas a Becket. (Yeah, not very useful for canonizing St. Edmund.) She founded two religious houses in one day (partly as a memorial for her husband), and she did lots of good things.

But is she a blessed?

Well, frankly, I don’t know. Probably she counts, but it’s murky.

The Big Book of Women Saints by Sarah Gallick lists Blessed Ela on February 24. Her main source for Ela as a blessed (as opposed to a historical figure) is Agnes Dunbar‘s excellent Dictionary of Saintly Women, Volume I, and the Bibliotheca Sanctorum (1961-1964), aka the Enciclopedia dei Santi. It was put out by a Vatican-backed university, so there’s some officialness there.

I don’t know what the Bibliotheca Sanctorum‘s sources are. Dunbar’s sources are  A Menology of England and Wales by Richard Stanton (which just says there’s no “proof of cultus for Ela), and Bucelinus’ Menologium Benedictinum. Also, Bishop Challoner’s A Memorial of Ancient British Piety, or , a British Martyrology, which says in the Supplement for February 1 that Ela did have cultus: “At Lacock in Wiltshire, the memory of that venerable Servant of God Ela, countess of Salisbury, who was so devoted to religion, that she founded two monasteries in one day, viz. that of the Carthusians at Henton in Wiltshire, and that of the Canonesses of S. Austin, at Lacock. In this latter leaving the world and all its vanities, she took the habit of religion, Anno 1236, was made abbess Anno 1240; resigned her office Anno 1257; and went to our Lord in a good old age, Anno 1261. [Dugdale.]” He also says there was once a parish church in Chester dedicated to a St. Ella, but that’s probably not her. “Dugdale” is referring to the author of Monasticon Anglicanum, of which more will be said below.

Anyway, Bishop Challoner was a bishop making a calendar, so… yeah, probably things got official there. A “Servant of God” doesn’t have a memorial day, though, so that would usually mean she was a Venerable or a Blessed.

Gabriel Bucelinus, the author of Menologium Benedictinum, lists Blessed Ela on February 1, with Henriquez as his source. Chrysostomo Henriquez, the author of Menologium Cisterciensis, calls her Blessed Ela, and also lists her day as February 1. But he’s notorious for thinking all sorts of people were Cistercians who weren’t. (Like St. Dominic’s brother Mannes, who was not only a Dominican but one of the first guys to sign on.) He also talks about a source called Catalogus Principum Feminarum, which supposedly listed illustrious Cistercian ladies, and he quotes from it; but alas, I haven’t found this book even on Worldcat. (Heroides Marianae, a book about illustrious women of rank who were also known to be Marian devotees, lists Ela twice, once for each religious house, because the author doesn’t realize that “Sarum” and “Salisburiae” are the same place.)

In this case, history tells us that Ela was a Cistercian fan, but the guys at Citeaux had put the temporary kibosh on chartering any more Cistercian monasteries for women, by the year that Ela decided to found a monastery for women. So she ended up founding a house of Augustinian canonesses, and later became one of them and their abbess too.

Anyway, Sir William Dugsdale’s big compendium, Monasticon Anglicanum, has most of the cool info about the houses she founded as well as Ela, including the story that William Talbot went looking around Normandy for where she’d been stashed by the De Vitre family. You also find out that “Ela” was her grandmother’s name, and that several of her descendants also bore it. “Ela” was either a short form of “Adela” or a transmogrification of “Helie” (her grandmother’s mom’s name).

Lacock Abbey surrendered its rights to King Henry VIII and was despoiled of its lead and lands and goodies, then given to some poor noble sap who had to make it watertight again. A couple of the Harry Potter movies were filmed there. It was used for corridors and the Herbology class.


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There is a fanfiction author out there who writes very engaging stories in a massive crossover universe. His main character is his self-insertion character, and of course this character has totally non-jealous serial sexual relationships with most of the main female characters. It has a lot of other elements, but “Chicks dig guys who rule the universe” is one of the main themes. (Albeit not consciously.)

So of course this guy inveighs against Trump. For saying that chicks dig guys who are rich and famous.

He also comes from a small population state, but hates the Electoral College. (His fanfic universe government does have checks and balances, but they involve science fictional devices and minor gods. Yeah. I think I would rather have electors.)

One of his commenters further failed to comprehend districting of Congressional seats, because large cities are supposed to rule us all.

These same people are always writing about how city neighborhoods and small towns all have their own priorities and needs, and their fanfic governments are small. But in life, they ignore their own beliefs in favor of drinking the Kool-Aid.

Oh, and the Clintons have never, ever done anything sketchy. Nothing. Sans peur et sans reproche.

People just do not pay attention to themselves.

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Happy St. Martin de Porres Day!

He was a short guy from Lima, Peru. He had a hard time getting into the Dominican convent, thanks to his illegitimate birth and mixed race, as well as not being very well to do. He fed the poor, answered the door, and scrubbed the floors. He also used his early training as a barber/surgeon to help the sick. He was a great friend of St. Rosa of Lima, with whom he shared a love of austerities, fasting, and mortification. You might have heard all this in school.

But he also got cats, dogs, mice, and rabbits to eat peacefully together; was frequently seen bilocating to Japan or the Philippines or Mexico to chat with absent friends; and once teleported an entire class of novices a few miles, so that they wouldn’t be late for lunch.

In short, he was a miracleworker and a locus of wonders.

Apparently he also helps the Cubs win. 😉

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Cubs Win! Cubs Win!

National League wins!

Curse, schmurse.

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