Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Great Depression

One of the things I do is study history. Take a look what I've written. Probably over is either historical or it's made up of stuff taken directly from history. One of the many things that interests me is the Great Depression. I want to understand why, and how, it happened. Not only that I want to understand how people got through it all. A couple of the stories I've written are actually set in the time and there's a couple of post apocalyptic stories that are set in similar economic environments.

   I've read this through a second time and I don't agree with everything in it though it does a good job of laying out many of the causes of the Great Depression. About the only thing they aren't mentioning is mortgage securities that were called in. They were very similar to those ones that AIG was producing in the 2000's. You take a bunch of mortgages, package them together, and turn them into a security. 
   Back when I was investing I had a tendency to shy away from them once I learned what they were made up of. Usually there was junk packaged in with really good securities. The junk was of course loans that were given to people who couldn't conceivably continue to pay on the note if their finances took a turn for the worst. I can't believe looking back some of the mortgages that were written. Closer to 1927-28 they were basically sub-prime garbage but National Bank, and several others didn't inform the investors what they were really investing in. Doesn't that sound familiar?
   When people couldn't pay their mortgages the banks went after the securitizations which most of those investors couldn't cover the difference in value. Most of them ended up going bankrupt. BTW, roughly 18% of all houses were foreclosed on. We we lucky in 2007 since we didn't have protectionists in the Senate, House, and the Presidency.
   As a result of the mortgage meltdown of 1929-32 a lot of people lost their homes. They had no place to go. The result was the Hooverville which was named after the President of the time. Mostly they were shanty towns and most towns didn't want them put on the front page of the paper. If you look elsewhere you'll see things written about the bonus Army. They lived in one of the shanty towns in Washington, D.C. They'd all lost their houses because they couldn't find jobs. This particular web site is pretty informative.
   Hopefully you learned a lot today. I'm off to watch more of The Roosevelt's on PBS.

Fall colors

We're starting to have the yearly color change. The temps get cooler than they were during the summer and soon the trees will lose their leaves. Probably next week I'll take a trip on the river trail and get some images I'll post here on the blog. Here's one for now.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Star Voyager

(Quite often I will start out a new book or story in first person point of view. During rewrites I'll change it to the more normal third person viewpoint. This piece is no exception and it beginning to look like something. The initial bits of this I wrote down right after a dream I had during a nap. I've been adding small bits over the last few days. I'm kind of looking forward to seeing where they land and what they're going to do.)

I’d been the first to wake up. We were supposed to land on Europa and drill into the ice covering. It would be the first time the moon had ever been explored by humans. At least that’s what they wanted. For two days I checked the readouts and looked the hull over.

When I first awoke the air smelled stale. I got used to it though and now began to try to ignore it.

I thought I could feel a shudder under my feet. It was almost imperceptible and I knew I shouldn't be feeling anything out here between Mars and Jupiter. My pulse quickened and my wrist health monitor began to go off. I peered at every single thing near me in the ship. Looking around I couldn’t see any reason so I couldn't explain it. There has to be a reason? Am I going crazy?

They had done a great job of making us hyper aware during training. Then again, I realized, I might be a bit paranoid which the shrinks explained to us might happen the expedition. The hull hadn’t been breached or I'd see anything loose being pulled toward the opening in the skin. There hadn’t been any burns either to add acceleration or change direction. The craft should have been floating along in the void. In two days I’d be waking my fellow astronauts sleeping soundly and in about a week we should all be reaching Europa.

Then I looked out the small window in the side of the space craft. All of the stars I could see appeared as streaks. I ran to the monitors and gazed at them barely able to understand the words “No Signal” blinking back at me. “What the hell?” I muttered under my breath.

I should be on the earth side of Jupiter so there shouldn’t be anything to interrupt the signal I realized. Flipping to the telemetry readout to double check where I was at. It showed me where the craft should be in relation to the rest of the solar system. I should still have ten million miles to go but that wasn’t what was happening. The numbers on the distance readout were changing so quickly they were blurring. And they were growing larger.

Right now I longed to return to earth but it wasn't possible to do so. The spacecraft was being pulled to some new place inexorably. Then it hit me. Why don't I spin the craft around and execute a burn of a few seconds? "After I try this I'll get both of you up," I said to my still hibernating crew members even though they couldn't hear me.

My first thought was that I would need to see any results quickly. Hitting the blue button on the console the images on the LCD screens changed to the exterior of the craft. Streaks of light I knew were stars filled the image.

I sat down at the console and grabbed the pair of small joy sticks. In order to turn the craft I knew I should be able to hit both red buttons on the ends and then move the sticks in opposite directions. Closely staring at screen I hoped. There was no response in the craft.

It still hurtled at too high a speed to wherever it was going. Breathing a heavy sigh I let loose of the joy sticks and mulled it over. I want a drink! Unless I could convert my urine to alcohol that wasn't happening though. The equipment would only turn it into water that I would be drinking once more.

My two crew members were just coming as the streaks on the screen became visible as individual stars.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Terror By Gaslight

This week, after what has seemed an interminable wait, Terror By Gaslight is coming out and I'm excited. I think all of the authors involved in the project are. Write something as creepy as you can possibly can and all of the authors have I'm quite certain. It will be perfect for Halloween. 

It's going to be a great addition to my expanding library of books I've had something to do with. One of my short stories will be in it and it's entitled, "A Spiritus Renascentis." It's one that will have you looking at turn of the century photography in a whole new creepy, and rather disturbing, light.

Here are the covers of the print and e-book. It should be available in physical bookstores and online. I believe you can order the print copy on Amazon right now.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ride (poem)

With the wind in my hair
Each moment I’m aware
The thrill and the movement
My body forward bent
Even steady breathing
Wheels below spinning
One with this machine here
No traffic can I hear
All disappears around
Except for my breaths sound
I push on and beyond
Every care dead and gone


Most that know me also know I ride a bike as my main transportation. Quite often it feels just like this. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Viking ship building

   Viking shipbuilding wasn't done quite the way we would do it today. Most of the ships were what's called clinker built. The boards of the hull were split, then shaped with draw knives to fit, and then were riveted together. Around eighty trees were used in the process of building a single ship.
   Once the hull was completed you then made the framework to fit inside. Right over the keel between the middle framework pieces you'd install the mast fish which would hold the bottom of the mast in place. Ropes would secure the top of the mast. Any stresses were transferred to the hull as a result.
   Of all things a Viking ship builder did it all by eye and by feel. They'd have a basic plan in their head only and nothing was written down. They were quite the craftsman I think.

   In this video they are splitting a tree into boards, shaping them, and installing them. They are even using the types of glue and flax caulking that would have been used. This video is about 5 minutes.

   This video shows much of the process in less than two minutes.

   It's been fascinating contemplating all of the process. I've done some woodworking over the years and some of the projects have been pretty cool. Some of the projects closest to how the Vikings would have accomplished it were railings that were made from deadfall branches. I had to use a draw knife to clean off the bark and had to create notches to join the pieces together.
   Today if we were going to build a ship we'd most likely make a framework first and then attach the hull. It's a totally different process.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Viking Ring Fortresses

    I was doing some research for Long Boat when I came across the ring fortresses built by King Harold Bluetooth of Denmark. As usual when I come across something that might pertain to a story I file it away. It occurred to me that one of the scenes probably happened at one of the ring forts. Here's my attempt in our garden. Note, it's not very large as I was just trying to envision the structure of the fort.

     There were six of the ring forts built in Denmark. They're all built on the same general layout. Here's an image of one of the actual ring fortresses and the image is courtesy of Wikipedia.

     Around the outside ring there was a ditch that was filled with sharpened stakes. Your only entrance would have been through those notches in the big dirt mound ring. Around the top of the dirt mound was a road. It would have been difficult to gain entrance if you were an invading army. You also didn't have much of chance if you were in the local populace and you tried to overthrow those who were your overlords. Yes, Christianity was forcibly introduced at that time. Many liked their old gods and didn't want the new one. I guess I can understand that.
     If you look at it from above you of course notice a general cross shape. It also crossed my mind that the four openings could also represent the four cardinal directions. Each of those were ruled by gods in Norse mythology. Therefore Christianity might be more easily accepted by the local Danes was what I was thinking. I may be a bit off there but I would like to see further studies done on the concept.