Thanksgiving in the US

On Thursday, 22 November, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving.  While, I’m guessing, no other country celebrates giving thanks for what one has on the Fourth Thursday of November (Even Canada celebrates Thanksgiving in October, which I’ve always attributed–perhaps wrongly–to the shorter growing season in the Great White North.), most cultures have some sort of thanks giving holiday.

Google has published an interesting article using the plethora of data they acquire through people asking questions like, “How do I cook a turkey?” or maybe, “Where can I buy a pre-cooked turkey?”, if they were caught short with the unusually early Fourth Thursday in November this year.  However, a couple of interesting trends emerge from Google’s analysis.  First, pretty much only the northeastern US actually roasts turkey.  I grew up in Massachusetts where those religious refugees, the Pilgrims, apocryphally celebrated the first Thanksgiving, and I can’t think of preparing turkey any other way than roasting.  What Google categorizes as “Fried”, I have to think must be deep-fried, and I would like to watch that happen, if only for the potential pyrotechnics.

Apple pie, another New England tradition, falls to third place behind pumpkin and pecan.  Pecan I’ll leave to the southerners.  I don’t even like nuts in my fruit cake.  The number one Thanksgiving pie is pumpkin, which I know some people (like my wife) love.  I find the very idea of making a pie from the same slimy thing I carve up for Halloween disgusting.

All of this is a long-winded introduction to a blog post I wrote almost four (four!) years ago:  As American As Apple Pie?

Enjoy!

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A preview, of sorts

As I was writing this afternoon, I discovered that this paragraph had appeared on my computer screen:

“And what about me, Nicodemus?” asked Jane.  “This is the second time in this book series that I’ve been locked in a dungeon!”

I didn’t mean for Jane Boffin (née Faraday) to suddenly become so meta, but there it was.  I’ll go back tomorrow, repair the broken fourth wall, and rework the scene, toning down Jane’s impertinence just a bit. (She is imprisoned in a dungeon after all.)

This book (the third I’ve written in the Airship Flamel Adventures series) has been listed on my NaNoWriMo page as having the working title of “There Be Dragons Here”.  Although that phrase is encountered in the novel, the story has evolved away from the pirate-y connotation that phase implies. I’m still deciding on a final title.  There will be dragons though.

Stay tuned.

Happy Birthday, Michael Faraday

Today, Sept. 22, is the great British scientist Michael Faraday’s 226th birthday.

Faraday’s contribution to science are many, and it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that before Faraday, electricity was batteries, and afterward, it was Edison and Tesla and all the motors, transformers, and generators they unleashed upon the world.

Faraday’s relationship to science can be summed up in two images:  First, Faraday at work at the lab bench in the basement of the Royal Institution, and second, Faraday presiding over a Christmas Lecture–specifically designed for the layman, and for children in particular.

M_Faraday_Lab_H_Moore

 

Faraday_Michael_Christmas_lecture

Professionally, I work in a field that is the direct descendant of Faraday–electrochemistry–so Faraday has always been a bit of a hero for me.  For more information of Faraday’s life and contributions, see here.  I’ve even written Professor Faraday into one of my novels as a major character, “The Secret Notebook of Michael Faraday“.

How the Victorians Built Britain

An interesting take on popular history television shows. I wish we could get this program(me) here in the States (not absolutely sure we can–must check), but I’d probably alternate between gazing at the screen in rapture and yelling at it in frustration. Really, how hard is it to get facts straight?

London Historians' Blog

A guest review by LH member Laurence Scales, of the new Channel 5 series. 

Feeling a bit lost at present on Saturday nights without a Swedish murder to mull over I turned to Channel 5 and its series, ‘How the Victorians Built Britain’, fronted by Michael Buerk The viewer is invited to bask in the glow of beautifully restored steam engines, magnificent dams and tiled Turkish baths. Land of Hope and Glory is playing in my head even if you cannot hear it. Yes, Victorians were wonderful in many ways. We should all know, of course, that they were frightful in many others. Victorian novelist Thomas Hughes invented ‘rose tinted spectacles’ and we are definitely wearing them here.

It may be that a few more things have been restored to their original glory today, but I doubt that otherwise this series would stand much comparison with a repeat…

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Art Deco Locomotives

Right about the time that diesel locomotives were gaining ground on the older steam locomotives, some railroads redesigned their steam engines.  By streamlining their design, the railroads hoped to keep the steam engines running.  In some cases, the re-design was made so that the older steam engines would match the look of the diesel locomotives. In others, doubts about the power that could be obtained from diesel engines was the reason.  For whatever reason, the result was a collision between traditional engineering design and the leading art movement of the time, Art Deco, to create some amazing examples of railway design.

A description of all that the Art Deco Movement encompasses would take much more than a single blog post. (See the Wikipedia article for a good introduction though.) Suffice to say that Art Deco is in a way a reaction to the earlier movement, Art Nouveau.  While Art Nouveau features themes from nature and sinuous curving design elements, Art Deco encompasses more severe geometric forms.  Art Deco’s features celebrate the exuberance of the future and its new technologies. One word that is often used to describe Art Deco is streamlined, and that is the exact reason for the redesign of steam engines in the late 1930s: to make them look fast and luxurious. Ironically, little if any performance improvements were realized as the additional weight of the streamlining offset any advantage in lowering wind resistance.

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On-line Resources for Writers

On-line resources

This page is based on a talk I gave at the 2018 Clockwork Alchemy con entitled “On-Line Research for Steampunk Novels”. During the course of writing my novels, I’ve discovered a number of great on-line resources that I found extremely useful in researching the Victorian Era, its technology, society and history, and of course, its cockeyed offspring Steampunk.

This list should be helpful for writers of both historical fiction and fictional history as we all want to get the details right–except when we don’t. Because my steampunk novels revolve around Victorian Britain, this list is starting off biased in that direction–but there are plenty of other ways to write steampunk.

I’ll keep the link to this list at the top of the front page of the blog and I invite you to leave your favorite on-line resource in the comments, and I’ll add it to the list (with appropriate credit, of course!).

The Harrison Clocks

Since Google has honoured John Harrison with the Google Doodle today, I thought I’d repost this blog post from almost three years ago.

Airship Flamel

A recent post on the Two Nerdy History Girls blog prompted me to remember the wonderful book “Longitude” by Dava Sobel chronicling the history of John Harrison and his lifelong pursuit to develop an accurate chronometer.

In 1714, the Royal Navy had a problem.  Although it was a rather simple procedure to determine the latitude of a ship at sea (by sighting angle of the the sun at noon or Polaris, the North Star, at night), it was exceedingly difficult to determine a ship’s longitude.  After several maritime disasters resulting from faulty navigation, Parliament passed the Longitude Act which offered monetary rewards for methods to determine longitude at sea.

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