Category Archives: Uncategorized

AtoZChallenge: E is for Exotic

by Lillian Csernica on April 5, 2018


Steampunk is a genre full of wonders. Jules Verne and H.G. Wells,  our literary patron saints, created quite a legacy for those of us who want to write about airships and steam trains and submersibles and the amazing people who crew them.

Most steampunk fiction is set in Victorian England. Now and then you will find some in the United States. 1848 saw the Gold Rush bring people to California from all over the world. The Chinese laborers who built the railroads made a serious contribution to the spread of steam power. The abrupt rise in population created a demand for transportation, accommodation, and recreation.


1853 saw U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry arrive on Japan’s doorstep with four ironclad steam-powered warships. The Tokugawa Shogunate had no serious navy thanks to closing all ports to foreigners aside from the Dutch who were restricted to Dejima off the coast of Nagasaki. Perry’s “kurofune” or black ships opened the eyes of the samurai class to the wonders of the West. The Tokugawa’s isolationist foreign policy had left Japan lagging far behind.

When the Emperor Meiji resumed power and the Shogunate fell, Japan became a crossroads of competing European influences. The Emperor hired a Frenchman to design the educational system, a Prussian to help with the military, and then borrowed one million pounds sterling from Queen Victoria to bankroll the railroads.


“View of the Steam Engine at Tanakawa, Tokyo, 1870” by Ichiyosei Kunitero II

Steam power caused a dramatic change in the life of every Japanese citizen. The samurai class in particular were hardest hit. Bushido, the Way of the Warrior, was now a quaint system of physical and mental discipline. Rifles, cannon, pistols and two centuries of military training made the samurai obsolete.


In times of drastic cultural change and political upheaval, when the Old Guard is willing to fight and die to preserve their way of life, one finds a rich source of material for stories. Japan is an exotic land full of surprises for Dr. Harrington and his family. The key to a good story is conflict. By dropping a Victorian physician into an environment where he knows nothing of the language, the etiquette, or the political and religious beliefs, I’ve created the potential for conflict at every turn.

I hope you enjoy Dr. Harrington’s adventures in Kyoto.






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Reblog: Steampunk Fun in Burlingame

Airship captains, mad scientists and other sundry characters gathered for a weekend of steampunk cheer as Clockwork Alchemy invaded the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport hotel in Burlingame, Calif.

Source: Steampunk Fun in Burlingame


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ME Moments & Other Oddities

I happened across this and found it both startling and reassuring. So this happens to other people too. How bizarre, but what a relief!

As the Fates Would Have It

Some days I feel like I am going out of my mind. No, maybe not quite that far. Perhaps the best way to describe it is that I feel like I’ve stepped into another reality or universe. I don’t even know when it began as I’ve felt odd since around 2012, but I remember the day it finally occurred to me – it was early December of last year (2017). I’d been watching random stuff on Youtube and I came across a video talking about the Mandela Effect or ME.

What is the Mandela Effect?

The Mandela Effect is a phenomenon in which a large group of people remember things differently than how they appear now. The term was coined after Nelson Mandela because a large group of people remember him dying while he was in prison in the 80s or 90s, even though he died in 2013. This group…

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Reblog: Obstacles That Stop Us from Decluttering—And How to Overcome Them

Years ago, Cas Aarssen would spend hours looking for lost items, cleaning up and tidying up, and dusting items she didn’t even like. Sound familiar? Sometimes, we get so entrenched in our routines that we don’t see the belongings that no longer belong in our homes. Or we feel too busy, too overwhelmed, too exhausted to tackle a big project like decluttering. We think it’ll require energy and effort we just don’t have. Another obstacle to decluttering is actually letting items go. ‘We are especially reluctant to declutter things that were expensive, have sentimental value or things that we perceive as being useful ‘someday,” said Aarssen, an author and professional organizer. ‘Unfortunately, almost everything can land in one of these categories and by holding onto too many ‘useful’ items, we are making the spaces in our homes ‘useless.” We also don’t get rid of items because our stuff starts to represent different possibilities. And that stuff ends up replacing our actual habits. For

Source: Obstacles That Stop Us from Decluttering—And How to Overcome Them


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The Benefits of Solitude

For creative people, solitude is essential. Here are some excellent and inspiring thoughts on the nurturing power of solitude. Thank you, Kara!

Faith Over Fear

There is nothing I love more than sitting at home, alone on a rainy day, coffee in hand, reading a book or listening to music (which for me means about 90% Lana Del Rey, 10% other artists, lol) while I write. Besides a day spent at the beach or exploring a beautiful place in nature, this is my favorite kind of day. For most people, this kind of day is dreary and boring. And I get why they would feel that way. But for me, spending time alone is one of the best feelings in the world.

If you are an introvert like me, living in today’s fast-paced society can be mentally exhausting. You may frequently wonder what is wrong with you, asking yourself, “Why don’t I like doing what everyone else likes doing? Why don’t I want to go out and party every weekend?” It is easy…

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Journalism: a statement of principle

Caitlin Kelly has my sincere respect and gratitude for fighting the good fight so long and so hard.


By Caitlin Kelly

IMG_20170411_131322486My husband’s team Pulitzer prize…

Some of you might be readers of The New York Times, a newspaper some consider the best of the U.S. press, and my husband’s former employer of 31 years. I also write for them, freelance, several times a year.

The paper now has a new publisher, a member of the same family that bought it in 1896.

He, A.G. Sulzberger, wrote this:

The Times will continue to search for the most important stories of our era with curiosity, courage and empathy — because we believe that improving the world starts with understanding it. The Times will continue to resist polarization and groupthink by giving voice to the breadth of ideas and experiences — because we believe journalism should help people think for themselves. The Times will hold itself to the highest standards of independence, rigor and fairness — because we believe…

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Too Much of A Good Thing!

by Lillian Csernica on December 28, 2017


This has been the year I got serious about weight loss. 80 pounds gone! A great relief, both to my joints and to my various doctors. I knew the holiday season would present an obstacle course of temptations and trials. It would also bring many lovely gifts from the people who know me too well. A life without books, cats, and chocolate would not be worth living.

Here, then, is an account of all the goodies bestowed upon me.


My Christmas stocking: (Yes, I’m about to turn 52 and my mother still stuffs my stocking.)

  1. Nutella with pretzel sticks.
  2. Necco wafersNecco wafers
  3. European solid chocolate Christmas ornaments.
  4. Two milk chocolate elves

Homemade Ghirardelli brownies

A Harry & David Tower that includes fudge, baklava, chocolate-covered cherries, cookies, and chocolate-covered popcorn they call Moose Munch.

A box of Mrs. Fields cookies.

A big red metal bucket full of four dozen Mrs. Fields cookies.

A Ferrerro Rocher Chocolate Set, dark, hazelnut, and coconut. (18 candies total.)

A Russell Stover Box, the Nuts & Chews.

Homemade Christmas cookies and a bag of homemade spiced nuts.

A Ghirardelli gift set.

Another box of Moose Munch.


Have I eaten all of this? Good heavens, no! Have I put a dent in some of it? You bet. Those Ghirardelli brownies didn’t last 24 hours. My husband and younger son did have their share. I confess the Moose Munch is all gone. We watch a lot of movies during winter break, and Moose Munch is the perfect snack.


Soon I must go back on the wagon. Last January saw me commit to the California Medical Weight Management Program. This January I shall continue that commitment. It’s fine to whoop it up during the holiday season, especially when my friends and family were kind enough to give me the really good stuff!

Seamless Christmas borders


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Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – How To Be One of Santa’s Elves by Lillian Csernica

Sally has been kind enough to run one of my blog posts about the nuts and bolts of answering letters to Santa Claus. Thank you, Sally!

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Last Saturday we found out more about the wonderful job that Lillian Csernica takes on very Christmas as an official Santa’s Elf.. This week she takes us through the process of becoming one of these very special volunteers.. Obviously the information is related to the United States but I am sure there are similar organisations in your specific country.

How To Be One of Santa’s Elves by Lillian Csernica

I’ve been a volunteer for the local post office answering Letters to Santa Claus for almost ten years now. During that time I’ve read requests that range from outrageous (in the funny sense) to really sweet to downright heartbreaking. When adults grow up and leave the magic of childhood behind, I think many of them forget that in the minds of children, Santa Claus can be the court of last resort. I highly recommend the movie “Dear God,” which is all…

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Reblog: Your Autistic Teen and Family Holiday Gatherings

Little kids with autism grow to be teens with autism. As is true with all adolescents, pressures both inside their bodies and in the social world can make them sometimes be irritable and reactive. Parents who live with them adapt and adopt new strategies for supporting their children over time. Relatives who see the kids intermittently often aren’t prepared for what it means to interact with a bigger kid who can’t be as easily directed or managed as when they were young. This is especially true if some of the teen’s behaviors are socially awkward or even potentially frightening. Christmas is a time of year when many families have a big family gathering to celebrate. Parents of teens with autism and their extended family members are often torn: The teen is a loved member of the family who should be included, but will including him be disruptive to the family or even harmful to the teen? If you are a parent of a teen with autism, you are already well aware of the need for preparation

Source: Your Autistic Teen and Family Holiday Gatherings

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A goody bag from the funeral director

This is absolutely wonderful. Thank you, Jessica, for sharing this one of a kind experience.

Words and Fictions

I wasn’t well last week, so this post replaces the advertised programme. I said I’d continue blogging about Lisbon writers. But Fernando Pessoa and Joe Saramago demand full attention. When your head and eyes ache, you burn with temperature, and you’re not feeling fit for human consumption, their wonderful words do little more than swim around like the ubiquitous Lisbon sardine.

By Saturday I could venture out, and a local shopping street again gave me a lesson in fundamentals. Once the lesson was about multicultural London; last time it was about birth. This lesson, as if to remind me there’s always someone iller than oneself (my cold had reached the self pitying stage), there was a beautiful pair of black horses, kept still by two top hatted gentlemen in morning coats with an elegant engraved glass carriage behind. All you need for a traditional East End funeral. Funeral 2a better

I prepared to…

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December 1, 2017 · 2:51 pm