Friday, May 24, 2013

A Long Time Ago, In A Place Far, Far Away

I suppose anyone doing genealogical research will discover, if they search far enough into the dark annals of history, that they are related to a religious fanatic who slaughtered hundreds of his neighbors.


Oh, it sounded romantic at first. 8th Chief of the Clan -- who if you piss us off we will smite you down to your last living soul -- And, of course, it was a long, long time ago when community relations weren't as civilized as they are now.

 And, of course, there are more than one version of how this all occurred, so perhaps I shouldn't be to quick to harshly judge my fanatic murdering forebears.

As I read the account of how old Alasdair prayed for seven days for a sign from God before he smothered over 300 people I felt a deep internal wince. At least he won't be joining us for Thanksgiving dinner.

On the other hand, apparently I am genetically predisposed to be cranky with my neighbors.

I'm okay with that.


The genealogy app (which I hate*) tells me, this particular miscreant is related through the father-in-law of the 10th great grandfather.

I guess that's not so bad. Everyone thinks their in-laws are psycho.

~ ~ ~

*Every piece of genealogy software I've tried has been a big glitchy mess.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Hot Time in the Old Town

Last Wednesday, an arsonist set nine fires in the woods around my community.

Local News Story, 2nd Day

Due to swift recognition of the perpetrator by firefighers and fast-action by local law enforcement, the suspected arsonist was arrested early the same day.

Suspect in Custody

Our fire department's Chief and I were first on scene and I ended up on the working end of a shovel for a while while the Chief managed the county-wide first response over the radio.

I don't think I'll ever forget the odd sense of bewilderment I felt as I looked over my shoulder from throwing dirt on flames to see a string of smoke columns erupt behind my back. 

I thought, how is the fire over there? I heard our Assistant Chief yell through the smoke -- someone's driving down [the road] setting fires!

Spent the rest of the day and half the night in the staging area as on scene medic (my usual job) where I watched the guys for heat stress, handed out snacks and cold water. I heard it over and over from firefighters -- we're used to people making dumb mistakes and accidently setting the woods on fire -- no one could comprehend someone setting intentional fires.

I had one scary moment. I was dragging a hose, laying down a wet line. the Chief was at the truck running the pump, talking on the radio. I'm connected to him via the hose and I have a radio. I hear gunfire. I have flames at my feet and smoke in my face and I can't even see the fire truck behind me. I yell, "Someone's shooting at us!" I crouch down behind a burning tree. Nothing else happens. (Except, of course, the big freaking forest fire.) I stand back up and start the wet line again. More gunfire. Okay, a foot-wide burning pine tree is not enough of a hiding place for my fat self. I duck down again and decide I'm not moving until the Chief takes care of whoever is shooting at me. I hear him yell that it's lost ammunition

The area is a local favorite target shooting spot. People leave behind live rounds by accident. Fire sets them off. Okay, I think and start the hose again. About five feet later it ocurrs to me, hold on, that still means bullets are flying around out here, but I decide to be Scarlet O'Hara and think about it tomorrow.

I can't wait for my vacation.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Pencil Test

California Republic Stationers recently added a new version of the Blackwing pencil to their line. Called PEARL, it is a pencil in the style of the famous and, alas, long gone, Eberhard Faber BLACKWING 602.

This new pencil joins the Palomino Blackwing and the Palomino Blackwing 602. Their advertising says the PEARL falls between the previous two in degree of hardness (or softness, take your pick.)

Being a reasonably obsessed pencil fan, I ordered a box as soon as they were available. Wish I hadn’t.

Not that the PEARL isn’t a nice pencil. It’s an okay pencil and as aficionados of the original BLACKWING 602 are inclined, okay it not enough.

I did the requisite tests comparing the PEARL to the other two Palominos as well as the Palomino HB (which is a lovely forgotten option in the race to clone the BLACKWING,) a BLACK VELVET and two versions of the original BLACKWING 602 (2 and 5.)

Tossing aside the notion of exactly how many times should this particular hair be split, we are definitely in the Goldilocks realm now.

1st came the Palomino BLACKWING which Net reviews said was TOO SOFT. My opinion, this one lays down a beautiful dark line. Carry a sharpener, soft’s not a problem. Although I noted at the time SOFT is not a quality of SMOOTH, so though nice, this pencil did not compare to the original.

Next came the Palomino BLACKWING 602. Reviews were mixed, but to my hand this is as close as one can get to the original. And that, my friends, is saying something. This pencil is not TOO SOFT. It is not TOO HARD and remarkably it is very smooth. Almost as smooth as an original EF BLACKWING 602. So close I would say, don’t pay $40+ on eBay for an original. Get 12 of these for about $20 and be happy.

And now we have the PEARL falling somewhere between the two, neither TOO SOFT or whatever. I noticed a little crumbling but the biggest difference was, this pencil is not as smooth. 

I was surprised. I changed to a better paper – from a nasty old yellow legal pad to some nice Rhodia and got a little better result, but so what.

 Do we need a middling middle grade?

Yes, it’s pretty. The white lacquer stands out. The BLACKWING style looks cool. As a reasonably obsessed pencil person, I'd say, this is one too many, close but no cigar.