Author Archives: suburbanbanshee

Actually, the Dakota Stole That Land….

The Lakota/Dakota/Nakota/Sioux actually used to live in Minnesota and Wisconsin in the 1600’s. Unlike their Iroquois cousins, they were pushed out by other tribes during the fur wars instead of doing the pushing. But in response, just like their Iroquois cousins, they conducted a long invasion of other tribes’ territories, brutally killing those who didn’t flee. North and South Dakota were one of the latest places they invaded.

So yeah, either land claims last forever and Standing Rock is somebody else’s sacred land; or land claims go by conquest and negotiation, and there is no problem having a pipeline travel across land owned by other people.

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Canine Laryngeal Paralysis

This is a scary one.

It turns out that in older dogs of large/giant size, they can have a common condition where their vocal folds no longer open and close normally, but remain partially closed on both sides of the throat. This is called canine laryngeal paralysis, and obviously it makes it difficult for the dog to get a good full breath. Dogs start sounding wheezy and getting over-tired from mild exercise. Since panting is what cools dogs, this almost makes them less able to keep from overheating.

The other problem is that if the dog starts barking hard or trying to breathe faster, it actually closes off their airways more. You have to calm the dog down so that he can breathe, and cool him down so he doesn’t overheat. (Unless the dog is getting overly cold, which can also happen with breathing problems. So use your senses.) Sometimes vets give sedatives or cortisone to help out.

Well, it turns out that our family dog has this condition. She’s pretty old for an Irish wolfhound, and Mom took her to the vet at the first sign of weird breathing. (A lot of people don’t recognize anything wrong until the dog is in full-blown respiratory distress.) The usual treatment is a cheap, minor larynx surgery on just one side of the vocal folds. (It’s called “tieback”, so you can guess what they do; and it only takes two sutures to do it.) But wolfhounds don’t do well with anesthetics, so we will be going with non-surgical treatment for now.

So, yes, if you have a large dog and have been told not to use a choke collar — laryngeal paralysis is why you don’t. But it can still happen anyway, and nobody knows just why it happens.

If you ever hear your dog making wheezing or honking sounds, or having trouble breathing at night, have your vet check it out. Cats can also get “lar par,” and so can horses. (But horses usually get it on just one side, so it’s bad but not life-threatening.)

This page has sound videos of two dogs with severe “stridor” from laryngeal paralysis.

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An Official Computer Geek Servant of God!

Carlo Acutis, a devout Catholic young man who died of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 15, is being proposed for canonization by his home diocese in Italy.

Carlo had many hobbies and skills, and expressed his devotion in many ways. But he was best known in the Italian blogosphere for creating an extensive catalog of all the world’s approved Eucharistic miracles. He and his parents visited many of the sites, at his request, and he created a “virtual museum” website about the miracles, as well various other forms of presenting the information. Here in the US, the Knights of Columbus use a translated version of his presentation package to give Eucharistic talks.

So yes, currently his title is the Servant of God Carlo Acutis. A diocesan bishop can do that.

The next step is for the Vatican saints office to study his life, and determine whether he exhibited “heroic virtue.” If he did, he will be declared “Venerable.” After that, there will be more study, more promoting of interest in him, and an inquiry as to whether anybody has received a miracle through his intercession. If his life still looks good, if it can be seen that people are privately devoted to him, and if there is one approved miracle, he will be declared a “Blessed,” and his home diocese can say Masses on his day and promote public devotion to him. Then there will be more study, and more checking to see whether God shows His favor by doing miracles in response to Carlo’s intercession. Two more approved miracles, and he can be canonized into the list of saints.

All I can say is, “Go, Carlo!” I’m only sorry I didn’t get a chance to know him back in the day.

Here’s the website for his canonization cause. As is fitting for a computer guy, it’s also available in English and many other languages.

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Water Clock: Bowl in a Bucket

In Roman Britain (and at least one place in medieval Ireland), they used a simple water clock consisting of a thin metal bowl and a bucket of water.

You filled the bucket to the same place every time. Then you put the bowl on top of the water. Drilled into the middle of the bowl’s bottom was a tiny, tiny hole. As time passed, the bowl slowly sank into the water. Once the bowl sank completely, you knew that the given time had passed. This kind of clock was used in Persia by villagers to time the use of irrigation canal water to particular plots of land.

This is called an “inflow” type of water clock (or “clepsydra”).

The “outflow type” is when you have a bigger vessel filled with water, and you have holes to let the water out.

With both types of clocks, you can have lines to show how much time has passed when the water has gotten to a particular line.

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Vathara and Amente/Amenti

Friend of this blog C. Chancy (aka Vathara) spent NaNoWriMo writing a first draft sequel to her fantasy novel, A Net of Dawn and Bones.

I was pretty confused by some of the stuff going on in that book, mostly because I don’t follow the Egyptian/Coptic patristic literature and am not super-knowledgeable about its interrelationship with older Egyptian pagan beliefs.

Basically, the Copts mapped the Hebrew idea of Sheol and the Christian ideas of Hell and Purgatory onto the Egyptian land of the dead, Amenti.

So here’s an example. The Investiture of the Archangel Michael is mostly an orthodox Coptic book, but it has a few of the Gnostic concepts mentioned. (Not all of which were necessarily unorthodox theology, either; there was some mysticism terminology going on.)

In this book, Jesus describes the fate of normal sinners as to be taken to “the firmament” (ie, the waters above and below the world) and through it, into a place in the west where several punishment realms exist (fire, darkness, etc.). But these realms are purgatorial, because after time is served, the sinners are brought to Heaven and join the just. This is somewhat similar to the “stations” that are used as a Purgatorial concept in much of Eastern Christianity, except those are usually pictured as being “up” toward Heaven. It is also similar to the Islamic concept of Gehenna being a temporary prison and punishment for souls. (In some flavors of Islam.)

Anyway, pre-Christian sinners are told at one point (before Jesus’ death) that they will have to stay in Amenti until the Son, the one who has stood surety for them, comes and gets them. (Referring to the Harrowing of Hell between Jesus’ death and Resurrection, of course.)


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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!


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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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