16 days…

The anniversary of the collapse of the Surfside condo building in Florida is fast approaching (June 24). I’ve been following the investigation. It was just so shocking that a building could collapse suddenly and with so little warning. Now, we know there were warnings. And it seems that someone noticed something not quite right a few weeks before.

First, a bit of background. In the Miami area, buildings have to undergo inspection at the forty year mark. As the Surfside building, Champlain Towers South, approached that birthday, they hired an engineering firm to come out and do an assessment. Morabito Consultants report was alarming. For various reasons, it wasn’t acted upon immediately. Repairs and shoring were postponed. The condition of the building continued to deteriorate.

The Miami Herald reported this week, that there were new warning signs just a few weeks before the collapse. (I’d link the article, but it’s behind a paywall.). One of the planters on the pool deck had sunk and cracked. This was concerning enough that someone called Morabito again, to look at the development. Whomever it was that Morabito sent out, took some pictures, and decided the cracks were root intrusion. In reality, it was the slow-motion start of the collapse which would end 16 days later.

It’s so agonizing to know that crisis could have been averted even then. But I think the Morabito representative just couldn’t grasp the meaning behind what he/she was seeing. No one wants to think the worst is imminent. I wonder now how that person is coping. It’s really a perfect recipe for guilt.

Most of this information comes from the YouTube channel “Building Integrity”. I’m linking the video on this specific part of the collapse below. The entire series on Surfside is well worth watching. The channel host, Josh, is an amazing teacher who can break down technical concepts and explain them in Layman.

A burning need to know: bamboo v. rayon


Just lovely. It seems that a couple of big name stores were mislabeling some of their textile products. If you happened to buy something labeled as bamboo from Walmart or Kohls in the last 10 years or so, you might want to check if it’s actually bamboo or not.

And how, pray tell, you ask might one discern without a microscope and your very own Abby Sciuto? You do a burn test. I first heard about these when we played in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). In the SCA, you try to make your costumes/garb as close to period as possible. Some folks take this more seriously than others. But generally, if you can use natural fiber cloth, the look is much more believable, whether you used a sewing machine or sewed by hand.

Medieval clothing can take up a lot of yardage, so to save money, it’s not unusual to buy up unmarked bolts or household linens at thrift shops. But to double-check the fiber content, people can ask for a swatch, take it outside and burn that sucker. Natural vs. synthetic is an easy determination. The natural fiber will smell of hair (woolens) or burning paper. Synthetics smell acrid and frequently melt.

So, yes, you can figure out if that garment or tablecloth is actually bamboo. You’re going to need to snip off a piece from a discrete area of the garment and burn it in a safe place. What you do from there, is entirely up to you.

Run, baby, run

Do girls still go through a horse crazy phase? It used to be a right of passage. I think the typical run of things was all things horsey until the girls start to become women and then it’s boy-crazy. Except, I never really went through the boy-crazy phase. Don’t get me wrong; I liked boys, just not the boys I knew. There were only a few I would have considered dating out of 400 in my high school class. In result, I stayed horse crazy longer than most.

I’ll admit to being rather conflicted about horse racing. The horses are really started too young. If you’re not in the know, you usually wait until a horse is between two and four years before you ever think of getting on their back. It takes that long for the muscles and bones to mature enough for the load.

Racehorses are competing at two years old (or less). The Triple Crown (Derby, Preakness, and Belmont) is for three year old horses. They’re competing at a top level when most other horses are just getting trained to carry a rider. And I get that there is going to be some natural selection/breeding going on that favors Thoroughbreds that mature early. But I think training them so early leads to more injuries and fractures which can result in death.

That all said, I usually watch the Kentucky Derby. I missed watching it live this year, I’m sorry to say, because it was a heck of a race. The biggest long shot, who was dead last near the Clubhouse turn, made the best closing sprint I think I have ever seen. He churned through the field, weaving through traffic without a stutter or check in stride. I can’t believe the stamina he had to still be pouring it on as they passed under the wire. Simply amazing stuff. I can’t wait to see him run again in a couple of weeks.

Hopefully, in a couple of years, he’ll be retired and enjoy standing at stud for a decade or more.

See no evil…

Ah, yes. Strange news stories. My favorite part of the Jay Leno Tonight Show was Monday night “Headlines”. People would send him funny headlines or poor product placements from their local newspaper. I always meant to send in a box of Midol (you know, medicine for periods). On the back it says “do not take if you have difficulty in urination due to enlargement of a prostate gland”. Hmmm. If you have a prostate, you’re not going to bleed once a month.

Anywho. It seems some evidence disappeared from police custody in a murder trial in India. The evidence envelope with several items from the scene, including the murder weapon (!) was stolen. And that’s not SO strange. But the police say it was stolen by a monkey. Monkeys are little thieves. We were warned when we visited Thailand, not to trust the little kleptos.

Reading that far into the article, I assumed that a monkey got into the station somehow, raised unholy hell, and skipped off with a bag of loot. Nope. Not even close. Apparently, the police had no room for it at the station and were storing evidence under a tree. As in, outside. Are there no storage units in India?? I don’t know what the justice system is like in India, but I have to assume, they’re going to have to drop the charges.


Do you believe in love?

When you’re writing, you stir up feelings and memories. You try to draw from your own experience to make your characters more nuanced and relatable. Never more so than in talking about romantic love. We’ve all charted different courses in our romantic lives. Our attitudes can range from TRUE LOVE to it’s all just a biochemical reaction in our brains to perpetuate the species.

Deep down we want/crave/need love. We want someone to care for us and someone to care for. I tell my kids it’s easy to fall in love. It’s harder to stay in love. Where does that lasting regard and respect come from?

In the movie “Ever After” there’s a scene where an older couple are reunited when they thought they’d been separated forever. I’ve often said it’s the most profound scene in the film. Yes, Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott make a lovely onscreen couple. The story is a delightful take on the Cinderella tale. However, to be nearing the end of your life and want nothing more than your spouse at your side, to be overjoyed at an unexpected reunion…. Is that not a better representation of love than two young attractive people declaring their love for each other?

Now that I think of that scene further, it’s a taste of heaven, too. Don’t we all long to run into the arms of those loved ones who have passed before? That one little 30 second scene hits on a couple of levels. Profound, no?

Well, that’s enough sentimental rambling for me. I blame the red wine.

Wheels keep on turning

In the US, I never had to worry about summer and winter tires. Most of the places I lived, it didn’t snow more than a flurry, if that, in winter. However, everywhere we’ve been in Europe, there are rules about summer and winter tires.

I went in today to get the tires changed out. There was a stack of tires in the garage and I just grabbed four and plopped them in and drove to the tire place. sigh. It would seem I was a little distracted when I did so. You see, I am in the middle of writing a short story and the scene I wrote this morning was suspenseful. I was still kind of half in that world most of the day. (I do a lot of plotting in my imagination.) So, when I was grabbing tires, I wasn’t checking that I had a matched set of four summer tires. I managed to grab the spare winter tire, too. Tomorrow I’ll have to rectify the situation so we actually have four summer tires on the car instead of 3 and 1.


At least labor is cheap here and it won’t cost more than a few dollars to change out that last tire to the right one.


If you’re going to write realistic fiction, you have to do research. It’s inevitable. A few months ago I was doing research on burn tests of fabrics. This is most often done with unlabeled fabrics to see what the fiber content is. The color of the flame, odor of the burning swatch, and the burned remains give clues as to the composition of that mystery fabric. I think I spent a few hours online figuring out what was right for just a few lines in a story. Time spent learning is time well spent (probably).

This weeks research is on the merits of various non-lethal weapons used in law enforcement. I sense a sharp learning curve ahead. I’d heard of rubber bullets and bean bag rounds. And, of course, we’ve all seen the “don’t tase me bro” bro. Wish me luck, because this is a little out of my usual line.

I started off with saying it’s necessary for realistic fiction, but I think it’s fairly true of any writing. Even high fantasy or uber sci-fi needs to have a basis in your reader’s real life experiences, some basis in reality. If you’re characters are going to do human things like drink wine, sword fight, or leave the gravity well of a planet, there is research to be done.

I like that I’m learning things I usually wouldn’t think about. I’m really grateful I have people of whom I can ask questions and learn from. On that note, if you like to write, you should really find a good writer’s group. Even if you only ever see each other online or once a month, it’s good for you.

Pinky and the Brain

I don’t think I’ve written about my cats yet, which is … shocking. I’ve grown up with cats; we always had them around. Currently, I have a couple of rescues from Elbonia. They’re both black. Coincidentally, all the cats I’ve had as a grown up are black. Weird.

Brain is an older, quite possibly, senior cat. He likes sitting in warm laps and wet food. For some reason, he thinks he needs to anchor himself to that warm lap with claws.

Pinky is about 3.5 years old now. We found him when he was young enough that I could almost pinpoint his birthdate within a week. He and his litter mates had their eyes open, but only just. Pinky is sweet and lovable and dumb. He has jumped into a bathtub full of water three times now. The first time is an understandable accident. The second time is odd. After that, it’s just funny. That is, unless you happen to be in the tub when he decides he has made a terrible mistake. Ow.

Now, I do let my cats outdoors. I know that can be controversial, but I think the outdoors offers opportunities for enrichment which cut down on behavioral issues when they come back inside. A few months ago, Pinky showed up at the back door with a very recently dead bird in his mouth. He clearly wanted to bring it in. I watched him with it through the window for a few minutes and he clearly had no clue on ‘how to cat’.

I picked up the Brain and took him outside with me saying something like, “You have some big brothering to do”. Well Brain saw the bird, looked at Pinky, snatched the bird, and promptly ran off with it. I shrugged, “Eh, close enough”. Brain enjoyed his dine and dash (dash and dine?).

I suspect that Pinky learned more than I thought from this ordeal. Pinky has always been trim and sleek. He’s gotten a bit rounder over the winter. I’m going to have to keep an eye on the yard for feathers.

Ghosts of Malta

This anthology was put together by friends of mine. Some I’ve met IRL, some I haven’t, yet. Great people and great writers all of them. Anthologies are like boxes of chocolates, aren’t they? Some of the nuggets you’ll like, some you’ll love.

The prompt on this anthology was wide open asking only that the stories involve Malta and be entertaining. Expect a range of takes, genres, and styles. And enjoy!

Norway and Not-Bunnies

We took the family to Norway for spring break. And, shockingly, it is spring in Norway. Snow was rarely seen and only in patches in the shade. We saw lots of little spring flowers in bloom and the trees budding out.

One of my favorite things was a fjord cruise. I love being out on the beach or on boats. Water makes me happy. It was the very beginning of the season for these cruises, so we were very nearly the only passengers. Landry and the kids even got to go up on the bridge and see how the ship is steered.

The only real downside to the trip was how expensive everything was. We usually let the kids get souvenirs for five dollars or the equivalent thereof. But that really wouldn’t have gotten them anything in Norway. Instead, we got them warm winter hats. I was even able to find a nice pair of natural fiber gloves and matching hat. I have a pair of wool(?) gloves I bought years ago, but they’re getting ratty. However, I’ve continued to wear them, because even when wet, they are warm. You don’t get that with synthetic fibers.

We took the kids to a little reptile zoo in Oslo one day. Landry had discovered that we could go at feeding time. That turned out to be a little traumatic for Constance. She absolutely adores bunnies. Do you see where this is going? The largest python they have only gets fed about once every five weeks. That meal is therefore quite large. Constance was horrified to see the (I don’t remember if it was a reticulated or a Burmese) python eating one of her favorite animals. She turned away from that enclosure and resolutely ignored it the rest of the visit. Nerdling teased her about that, as little brothers are wont to do. She said quite adamantly that it was a rabbit, not a bunny.