July #TreeSquares Challenge #11: Last Year, During the Fires of September

Self was looking over the pictures in her archives. She was shocked to come upon the pictures of the backyard in September 2020. There were wildfires raging up and down the state. The Lightning Complex Fires in Santa Clara County, Santa Cruz County, and San Mataeo County began in August and raged through the first half of September. The air quality was so bad, and there were days she could distinctly smell smoke.

For today’s #TreeSquares Challenge, she’s posting these pictures as a reminder. She heard on the news that the fires raging now in California (there are quite a few) have burned four times as much acreage as the fires this time last year. Can you imagine if we get to September with worse air quality than what’s in these pictures. The heat so far this summer is so intense. Cross your fingers and pray.

July #TreeSquare Challenge # 5: A Corner of the Backyard

For today’s post, a corner of self’s backyard gets its moment.

Check out host Becky’s The Life of B for a gallery of beautiful trees!

July #TreeSquare Challenge #2: The Backyard

The Square Challenge is a lot of fun, so happy whenever she can post for it. The theme for July is TREES.

More about the challenge over at The Life of B.

This is self’s backyard, which is ringed by trees:

792 British Bombers

Really, WordPress? REALLY? Whole paragraphs of text disappeared just now!

Inferno, p. 78: The first plane to leave the ground, destination Hamburg, was “Sergeant P. Moseley’s Stirling of 74 (New Zealand) Squadron at 9:45 p.m.”

Lowe then goes on to describe each type of plane involved in the attack (Self absolutely loves these details):

The “Short Stirling” was a “gentleman’s aircraft” because “it was easy to handle, and capable of absorbing an enormous amount of punishment before it succumbed to flak or fighter fire . . . it was also relatively easy to escape from — which was fortunate, because its lamentable ceiling of only 16,000 feet made it the first target of all the German flak batteries.”

There was even a plane “made only of plywood”: the De Havilland Mosquito. It had “no defensive armament whatsoever but these . . . were so fast, and were capable of flying at such extreme altitudes, that they were in fact virtually untouchable.” There were eleven Mosquitos that took off with the main bombing force: “All of them would return to England the next morning, completely unscathed.”

The Rolls Royce of aerial bombers was the Avro Lancaster: “a huge, sleek machine capable of flying to Berlin and back laden with over six tons of bombs . . . Four Rolls Royce Merlin engines along its wings could carry it to a height of 22,000 feet and above, and at speeds of 226 mph.”

In fact, she has seen this engine. Four years ago, she went to London’s Imperial War Museum for the first time: Polished and gleaming, in its own display case on the ground floor, was a Merlin engine. At the time, she wondered why an airplane engine — even one made by Rolls Royce — deserved its own display case. Now she knows.

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Intelligence Briefing: “Window”

Such fortuitous timing: It is summer, it is hot, and she can’t work in her yard because at the moment it is filled with piles of gravel (She’s having her driveway re-done). What else can she do but read? And she has excellent reading material in Inferno: The Fiery Destruction of Hamburg, 1943, by Keith Lowe.

This book. THIS BOOK. Wow. Until this book, she didn’t think it would be possible for her to be so engaged in reading about the destruction of a German city during World War II (Because — depressing, right? Besides, a lot of other things happened during World War II. Such as the death of two uncles, all the way across the world, in the Philippines. And the horrible hand-to-hand fighting in the streets of Manila. Nevertheless)

What Mr. Lowe is really good at is painting a picture, putting the reader in scene. Just look at how he describes the night before the British aerial attack on Hamburg — important because, as the pilots were told, Hamburg was “Germany’s main center of submarine production.” There was distribution of a quantity of “brown paper packages” filled with “silver foil strips” called “Window.” Window was going to give the British aerial supremacy over the Germans. Window was going to win the war!


Intelligence Officer: “You will already have been told how to drop Window. It has been worked out as carefully as possible to give you maximum protection, but there are two points which I want to emphasize strongly. Firstly, the benefit of Window is a communal one: The Window which protects you is not so much that which you drop yourself as that which is already in the air dropped off by an aircraft ahead. To obtain full advantage, it is therefore necessary to fly in a concentrated stream along the ordered route.”

“Secondly, the task of discharging the packets of Window will not be an easy one. You are hampered by your oxygen tube, intercom connections, the darkness, and the general difficulties of physical effort at high altitudes. Despite these hardships, it is essential that the correct quantities of Window are discharged at the correct time intervals.”

The officer “went on to explain that Window was considered so important the Air Ministry was already developing machines to ensure a steady flow from the aircraft. In the meantime, however, it was up to the airmen themselves to maintain a machinelike regularity when dropping the bundles down the flare chute.”


Unfortunately, the dropping of “Window” did not exactly work out as well as visualized! The long strips of foil got tangled, especially at high altitude, and sometimes blew back into the plane, filling the interior with strips of foil that hampered the crew’s visibility . . . oh Lord, this was hilarious!

btw: Is there any system stupider than the new WordPress block system, which won’t let self indicate that the previous paragraphs are a quote. And if you try contacting WordPress customer service, they will tell you to e-mail. She really doesn’t know why they had to change the old system, when no one complained. And they applied the new system without giving anyone a heads-up. Who’s in charge of decision-making over there?

Anyhoo, they are a quote from pp. 74 – 75 of Inferno.

Stay cool, because self isn’t.

Prize for the Most Deadpan Sentence Ever

After days spent tramping around in a tropical rain forest, wielding a machete to force a path through impenetrable jungle, Wake Forest University Professor “Silman was eager to learn as much as possible about the tree, so that when a new taxonomist could be found to replace the one who had died, he’d be able to send him all the necessary material.”

That sentence is delivered with the same aplomb one would use in describing the activities of, say, Paddington Bear!

Sentence of the Day: You Know the Source

The ruins of reefs from the Triassic, for example, can now be found towering thousands of feet above sea level in the Austrian Alps.

— Chapter VII, The Sixth Extinction

When the Diagnosis is Bad

But in the last week, he’d renewed his friendship with Absolut Vodka. And he’d found that it went very well with Cheetos. Fucking Cheetos. He’d been through the McDonald’s drive-through twice, gorging on Big Macs and fries. He couldn’t believe how good this shit tasted. Took home Domino’s one night. Ate the whole goddamn pizza himself. Woke up at midnight with the worst heartburn of his entire life. Briefly wondered — and at some level hoped — it was a heart attack and things would be over now.

— p. 30, Find You First, by Linwood Barclay

Summer 2021 Read # 2: FIND YOU FIRST

Scorching hot day. Downtown, everyone’s in t-shirts. Yes, it is summer. Kids ran madly around the lobby of the Century 20. Self has been sleeping an average of four hours a night, thinking much of Dear Departed Mum. But today, she is determined to keep ambulatory. Hence, the movie (Raya and the Last Dragon), the books. After the movie, a stop at Go Poke. Movies are back, restaurants are back, even traffic is back.

Oak Flat: The Fight for Sacred Land in the American West was a great book. Her next, Find You First, is, according to Stephen King, “the best book” of Linwood Barclay’s career.

For self, all thrillers must be measured against the beginning of Eddie’s Boy, by Thomas Perry. Page one of Eddie’s Boy, there were already three bodies in the trunk of the main character’s Bentley and he hadn’t even broken into a sweat.

This one begins rather slow, with a loser grifter and his pathetic burner phone. Next is a young documentarian in an old folks’ home; sadly, the chapter does not slay. Then we have the millionaire/billionaire with the boring name of Miles Cookson, receiving a diagnosis of Huntington’s which is dementia mixed with Parkinson’s mixed with something else, and next he’s driving 90 in his speedster Porsche and being pulled over. A Porsche, btw, is a really really boring car. Leather bucket seats? So what else is new. She sees a lot of them around here, but it would be better to have a Tesla. Or some sort of hybrid luxury ride, like a Lexus SUV.

That’s all self has read so far. (Maybe the cop will try to kill the millionaire/billionaire? Let’s hope!)

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Apache Gold Casino, Arizona

Summer is definitely the right season to be reading something like this:

The casino sits at the edge of the San Carlos Reservation. Inside, the air is smoky and dim. Barry White plays on the sound system. Then Weezer. Slot machines ding, buzz, and simulate the sound of smashing glass. The gift shop sells straw hats and rhinestoned flip flops, nail polish and soda. Enlarged black-and-white photos hang in the hallway.. There is a picture of an Apache woman, head bowed, face in shadow, holding a child in the cradleboard. There is a photo of Geronimo, whose hand reaches for the pistol tucked into his waistband. The roulette and blackjack tables are empty, draped in heavy drop cloths. Retired couples and scattered loners gaze intently at screens, pulling levers and punching buttons. According to casino promotional materials, “At the Apache Gold Casino Resort, the magic of the ‘Apache Gold Legend’ lives on. Untold riches lie in this desert oasis, awaiting discovery.”

— Chapter 4, Oak Flat: A Fight for Sacred Land in the American West, by Lauren Redniss

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