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The start of the ladies hen night tradition.

There’s a sea chanty that repeatedly asks what you do with a drunken sailor early in the morning. It came to mind as I heard this story.

So what do you do if you’re a Scandinavian princess, locked in a tower and guarded by snakes? What do you do when your royal parents give your hand to a prince against your wishes?

If you’re princess Awilda, you get your best girlfriends to rescue you and you run away to become pirates.

Not much is known about Awilda. She lived in the 5th century, and her father was Synardus, king of Gotland. For whatever reason (we’re thinking to increase his swagger) King Synardus locked Awilda in the aforementioned tower of his royal palace and guarded the place with the aforementioned snakes (after all, nothing says “my daughter is marriageable” than huge “keep out” signs).

According to legend, Alf, the crown prince of Denmark (who probably looked like Chris Hemsworth in Thor) was so taken with the whole princess in a tower thing that he fought his way through the snakes to ask Synardus for Awilda’s hand in marriage. And, like Mjolnier to Thor, Synardus looked at Alf and said: you are worthy!

I wouldn’t say no.

But Awilda wasn’t impressed. So, according to legend she and a group of her ladies dressed as men, stole (commendeered!) a ship and sailed off to become pirates.

As luck would have it, the very first ship the lady marauders attacked had just lost their captain. The defeated guy pirates took one look at the victorious lady pirates and said: you’ll do!

Awilda and her coed Scandinavian pirate crew commenced raiding all over the Scandinavian coast. Whereupon the king of Denmark said “Pirates? Here? This will not stand!” (Or something equally kingly) and sent Alf the snake fighter to get rid of the pirates.

Alf and his men caught up to Awilda and her band of pirates and defeated them, but his skill in battle impressed Awilda. When Prince Alf confronted the pirate captain, she revealed herself to be his fiancée (probably the same way that Eowyn unmasked herself to the Witch King, by declaring “I’m no man” and jerking off her helmet to reveal flowing blonde hair).

And then she stabbed him in the face.

Alf and Awilda married right there on board the ship, according to legend and the two ruled happily as king and Queen of Denmark.

Hey, I may not be making this up, but someone else might have.

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

There’s Always Room For Pizza

Hubby and I love Chicago style pizza.  Like, if he hadn’t married me, he might consider popping a knee to a deep dish pie.  So when I planned July’s date night – A showing of Mystic Pizza, and a couple pizzas of his choice, Chicago style deep dish was going on the menu.

Now what makes Chicago style pizza different isn’t just that you bake it in a cake pan. ( I used a springform pan. The kind you use to make cheesecake in.) the sauce is thicker, the toppings are in reverse order (cheese on bottom, sauce on top). And the dough is laminated with butter (like croissants, puff pastry or cronut dough). So the crust is very buttery and flaky.

It takes longer to make than the ordinary hand-tossed dough I make at least once a month for the kids. But oh so worth it.

The recipe that I used makes two crusts, so for the second pizza, hubby and I made a dulce de leche fruit pizza. First I baked the crust in the oven. Then I made the dulce de leche by putting a whole can of sweetened condensed milk into a pressure cooker, filling with water and cooking for 40 minutes.  The result is tasty, and rich.  We actually used low-sugar sweetened condensed milk, and I was glad for it because the resulting desert was so rich. How rich?  Richer than Trump before he funded his own election campaign.  Richer than Scrooge McDuck swimming in his own vault of money.  Pretty darn rich.

I poured about half the can of dulce de leche on the pizza and topped with about three cups of blueberries. The result was heavenly. Possibly, this is one I could make using crescent roll bread or leftover puff pastry. (Psh. Whenever is there leftover puff pastry?)

My pizza recipe is here.

And the blueberry pizza recipe is here.

 

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

The torch has barely been lit on the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as of this writing. Already the news media is focused on the sewer-like conditions of the swimming venues, the possibility of everyone and their grandma getting the Zika Virus and the slum-like housing that the athletes are supposed to stay in (as opposed to the slum-like housing that everyone else in Rio must live in, if you believe any movie set in Rio).
 
 
 
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Like the movie Rio.

 
It seems like the go-to story for modern Olympic coverage is about how awful conditions are, or how the venue falls apart once the Olympics are over. Compared to the glowing reports of LA, Lake Placid or that one place in Scandinavia when we were so focused on Tonia Harding.
 
But awful Olympic shenanigans (totally the name of my next cover band: Tracy and the Awful Olympic Shenanigans) aren’t reserved for the 21st century.  Way back in 1904, the Olympics were pretty wonky. 
 

The last time anyone ever thinks the World’s Fair and the Olympics are two great tastes that taste great together – for good reason.

 
First, St. Louis stole the Olympics
 
These days there is a pretty significant bid process for the Olympics.  Prospective cities have to show the International Olympic Committee (IOC) everything from their proposed venues, to how they’ll cope with the sewage from all those extra tourists (hint: not by dumping it in the swimming venues).
 
There was a bid process back at the turn of the 20th century too. But the Olympics was in it’s infancy in those days.  There has only been two other games at that point.  Athens (the inaugural games) and Paris (held in conjunction with the World’s Fair). 
 
To host the first Olympics of the new century, Chicago got the nod.  But at the same time, St. Louis was on deck for hosting the World’s Fair (the Meet Me In St. Louie World’s Fair, which was kind of a big deal).  
 
St. Louis threw a bit of a tantrum (like a kid at Christmas who thinks his brother got the bigger gift) and said “either let us host the Olympics, or we’ll throw our own competing sporting event.” 
 
At which point Chicago, the IOC and everyone else involved threw up their hands in defeat and let St. Louis have the whole ball of yarn. 
 
Then St. Louis Half-Assed It
 
Now keep in mind that there was precedent in holding the World’s Fair and Olympic Games together.  Paris had done so-and done a decent job at it.  But the organizers of the St. Louis fair never planned the Olympic Games to be anything other than a sideshow for the World’s Fair. 
 
That kind of attitude might explain why the Olympic Games lasted nearly 5 months. The fair’s organizers tried to stretch the events over the length of the fair by hosting one event per day.  Additionally, non-Olympic events were promoted as Olympic events. This happened so often that later on the IOC had to rule on which events were actually Olympic events, and which were not (the ones that were hosted by the local YMCA were not). 
 
And forget the opening ceremony with a parade of nations and torch lighting. The fair’s organizer didn’t even bother to invite anyone to open the games. He chose to do it himself. 
 
Then Other Nations Gave St. Louis An Epic Side-Eye
 
Let’s just say that St. Louis wasn’t the transportation capital of the world in 1904.  Plus there was a war going on between Russia and Japan. 
 
Getting to the central United States from anywhere other than the United States wasn’t easy, cheap, or quick. So a lot of potential athletes just didn’t go. 
 
On the bright side for the US, this left mainly US competitors. The medal count was never so one-sided in favor of any nation before or since. (Even the Russians didn’t score as many medals in the 1980 Moscow summer games that half the world boycotted because of the Cold War.)
 
Although, some of the winners that were put down as Americans were actually immigrants who hadn’t established citizenship.  As recently as 2012 Norway was trying to get the IOC to recognize that two gold-medalist wrestlers from the 1904 games were actually Norwegian. 
 
Some Events Were Problematic
 
We’re not talking tug-of-war (which was a thing). We’re talking the Anthropology Days (sadly, also a thing). 
 
One of the unfortunate parts of the World’s Fair back in the day was the human zoo. Basically the organizers would bring in “uncivilized tribes” of the world and have them pretend to live in fake villages so that fair goers could come out and stare at them (it’s even worse than I made it sound). 
 
For Anthropology Days, the fair’s organizers recruited people from the human zoos for two days of events, gave them little to no instruction on how to do the various sports, didn’t give them any time to practice and then acted smug and superior when the various competitors did poorly (because: colonialism. yay?). 
 
The less cringeworthy events also had some flexible interpretations of rules (cheating) on the part of the competitors.  One boxer entered the competition using the name of another boxer (a local favorite) hoping to curry favor with the judges. 
 
And Then There Was That Marathon
 
The St. Louis Olympics marathon has gone down as one of the most bizarre races in history. Due to poor planning the race was held on a brutally hot day.  The race planners had people in car and on horseback drive ahead of the runners to clear a path. As a result the racers choked on road dust the whole way. 
 
 
 
 

I kid you not.

There was at least one racer that almost didn’t make it to the start of the race in time, Cuban runner and postman Felix (Andarín)Carvajal.  Carvajal was legitimately a race competitor, but lost all his money in New Orleans en route to the race (as you do). He had to hitchhike to St. Louis and arrived with nothing but the clothes on his back. The race was delayed while someone cut away the legs of his wool pants to make running shorts.
 
During the marathon, Carvajal stopped to talk to spectators and to eat some green apples from an orchard. The apples gave him stomach cramps, so he lay down to nap (like the hare from that one story).  After his nap he got up and finished, taking fourth place. 
 
The person who crossed the finish line first was Frederick Lorz (which looks like Lolz, appropriately enough). Lorz dropped out of the race after nine miles due to exhaustion.  His manager gave him a lift in a car, but the car broke down after 11 miles. Lorz decided to run the rest of the way to the stadium. When he ran across the finish line, everyone there assumed he was the winner.  Lorz said: uh . . . Sure.  Why don’t we go with that? 
 
After the medal ceremony, someone in the know said: hey wait a minute, didn’t you get a ride in a car?
 
To which ole’ Fred said: uh . . . Lulz?
 
Despite Lorz claiming that the whole thing was an elaborate joke, the Amateur Athletic Union wasn’t laughing, and slapped Lorz with a lifetime ban.  They lifted it a year later when Lorz said he was really, really, really sorry. Lorz went on to win the Boston Marathon in 1905.  But all anyone remembers is that he maybe cheated at the Olympics. 
 

Don’t do drugs, kids.


The actual winner of the race was a British-born Cambridge brass worker named Thomas Hicks.  Hicks won the race (carried across the finish line by his trainers) while being so doped up on strychnine that it nearly killed him (illegal today, but back then strychnine was a common drug used to revive flagging athletes).
 
Two other runners, South African students Len Taunyane (competing as Len Tau) and Jan Mashiani (competing as Yamasani) had not planned to compete in the race, but were at the fair as part of the human zoo. They finished 12th and 9th respectively, though Jan/Len had been chased a mile off course by aggressive dogs. 
 
So next time you hear someone complain about The problems Olympic athletes face, it could always be worse.  At least they don’t have to compete in cut off shorts while being poisoned by their coaches and chased by aggressive dogs. 

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

Wander Over Yonder!

Wander Radio Productions, a variety show podcast has asked to re-air the I’m Not Making This Up Podcast as a segment on their show.  

Their podcast is a reboot of an older show, so hopefully it’ll have a bit of a ready-made audience.  The show is a variety radio show format, with short episodes weekly and a bigger episode once a month.  

My segment will appear on the once-monthly longer show. 

Their website is http://www.wanderradioproductions.com

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

I’m On Stitcher Now!

The I’m Not Making This Up Podcast is on Stitcher in addition to iTunes.  So if that’s your preferred means of Podcast delivery, you can get my podcast there.  And if you like it, leave a review.  That’s how I get love from the podcast overlords and find new listeners.

The link is here.

And as always, the podcast is on iTunes too.

 

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

IllinoisShark1Herbert Cope and his fishing partner Dudge Collins knew they had a big catch in their fishing trap.  Maybe some kind of Muskie or Catfish.  But when they hauled it in, they never expected a 5 foot long shark.

They were after all, in Illinois.

 Research links:

Sharks In Illinois

The Strangest Shark Story Ever

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

I’ll be at Glichcon this weekend

So Glichcon is this weekend in Springdale, and I’ll be in attendance.

My scheduled panels are:

1:00 Saturday – story storm

2:00 Saturday – dos and fonts of panting and plotting

But Glichcon tends to have a very open paneling system in that I’m allowed to sit in on any other panel I want.  So I plan to sit in on several more panels on Friday and Saturday. 

Plus, Yard Dog press will be there with books Saturday.  So if you are going to be at Clichcon this weekend, see you there! 

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

What’s Cookin’?

 

So I haven’t blogged about the dinner and a movie date night.  Mainly because I haven’t done anything as spectacular as the Beef Wellington James Bond date.  But for the sake of completion, I’ll talk a bit about the last couple of dates. 

In May Hubby and I watched Casablanca (Here’s Dining With You, Kid). We tried Moroccan food, including chicken tagine that was surprisingly bland, couscous and an out-of-this-world lemon cake.  Seriously! Hubby and I polished off the cake within 2 days! I won’t bother linking the dinner.  But you can find the lemon cake here

Then, Little Man had his second birthday, and I made a pigeon cake to go along with his birthday party, which was themed after the book “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.” 


For June, Hubby and I watched Pirates of the Carribbean.  For our dinner, I made an old favorite: Bimini Bob’s Burgers. 

There’s a bit of backstory to this.  Last year Hubby and I and the progeny vacationed near Gulf Shores. For the most part, we cooked in our condo.  

Eating out is always a bit of a challenge for us.  If the food is only fair, you feel cheated because you know you can do better for less than what you spent on dining out. 

But we’d been out all day and cooking wouldn’t mean eating with any speed.  So we went to a restaraunt called Bimini Bob’s and had their specialty burger.  (Which is a beef patty seasoned with Carribbean Spice blend and topped with a pineapple and a slice of Swiss) and a side of sweet potato fries.

Not only was the food good, but it gave me a new food to try to make at home. 

Desert was so rich that Trump couldn’t afford it.  It was so rich, Scrooge McDuck swims around in it.  It was so rich, I couldn’t eat more than half a slice. 

I’m talking about a coconut Tres Leches cake. Now the recipe is cupcakes, but I made it as a bar cake, and it worked just fine. 


Yum! 

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

Despite what Alannis said, irony is not like rain on your wedding day.  But irony just might be all those guys on the internet who claim that women ruin everything. Especially when “everything” happens to be things that were invented or shaped by the rest of us cooties-having women. (Google “women ruin” to get an idea of what exactly “everything” encompasses.)

So with this in mind, here are a couple of thumbnail biographies of awesome women who invented or shaped some very cool things.

1.Mary Shelly – Mary Shelly and her social circle, which included her husband Percy, Dr. Polderi (inventor of the tragic sexy vampire archetype) and Lord Byron (model for the tragic sexy vampire archetype) were vacationing near Lake Geneva during the “year without summer.”  To stave off boredom (which presumably came from being stuck inside due to the whole lack of summer) the group held a storytelling contest.  Mary’s story – Frankenstein– became the first science fiction story.  Making her the mother of all science fiction. And speaking of lord Byron …

Not Felicity Smoak.

2.Ada Lovelace – Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace (née Byron) was the only acknowledged daughter of Lord Byron(his other unacknowledged kids included a daughter with Mary Shelly’s sister, and possibly another daughter with his own sister.)   Ada’s mother was so afraid that little Ada would turn out like dear old daddy that mommy dearest made sure Ada studied math to squelch the “Byron demon.”  Ada later met and befriended Charles Babbage (famous inventor of the first computer) at a party. While collaborating with Babbage, she wrote the first computer program. And while we’re on the subject of computers …

3.Grace Hopper – Grace Brewster Murray Hopper already had a PH.D. In Mathematics when the United Stares Navy opened up to women for positions other than nursing or paper pushing in WWII.  Grace volunteered for the WAVES, and became a programmer for the MARK I computer.  When you write computer code, you can thank Grace Hopper – who influenced the development of computer programming into languages rather than 1 and 0 code to make programming easier.  When you debug your software, you can also thank Grace, who removed a moth from the inside of a Mark II. She tried to retire twice, but the Navy just kept calling her back into service.  By the time she finally retired at age 80, she’d been promoted to admiral and was the oldest active duty commissioned officer.  The people whom she was a hero to nicknamed her “Amazing Grace.”  And speaking of heroes …

Wayne, Bruice Wa . . .it! Wrong story.

4.Emma Orczy – while super hero comics started with Superman, heroes like Batman drew on established fictional characters like The Scarlett Pimpernel, a swashbuckling vigilante who wore a mask to protect his secret identity and acted like a foppish coward to throw suspicion off of himself.  His creator, Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála “Emmuska” Orczy de Orci, possibly drew from her own childhood in creating Pimpernel.  Orczy lost her childhood home and had to flee Hungary during an uprising.  Possibly she envisioned The Scarlet Pimpernel as the type of hero who might have defended her family during her childhood. Orczy also created the first fictional female detective in an earlier story. And speaking of entertainment …

5.Hedy Lamar – actress Hedy Lamar is better known as an exotic temptress in movies such as Sampson and Delilah, but the Austrian-born actress was also a prolific inventor.  Some of Lamar’s inventions include a tablet similar to Alka-Seltzer, an improved traffic light and technology that today’s Wifi networks still use.  So next time you pair your phone with your Bluetooth, thank Hedy Lamar.

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

This is the last of my series of rescued Firefox News articles. As I’m posting these more than a month ago, this is past self Hoping future me will have gotten off my can and written something else for next week. 

— Tracy 

The RMS Queen Mary

She’s a war hero and a celebrity. She’s been the subject of books and the star of both TV and movies. Some people say that she’s a haunted lady. 

She’s also a boat. 

The Queen Mary, which is now a floating hotel in Long Beach, California, is considered the most haunted structure in America. But how did she get that way?
In 1930, The Cunard shipping company began construction on the RMS Queen Mary as part of a ship building race with Germany’s Norddeutsche Loyd line. However, construction was halted due to the Great Depression.
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Cunard applied for a loan from the British government to finish the ship. They were granted one that would not only finance building the Queen Mary, but also her sister ship the RMS Queen Elizabeth. The condition for the loan was that Cunard would merge with the White Star Line, the company famous for building the RMS Titanic. Once the two companies merged, they completed work on the ship, and it was launched in 1934.

In 1936 the Queen Mary beat out a rival ship, the Normandie, to hold the record for speed in Transatlantic crossing. It briefly lost the record back to Normandie in 1937, but reclaimed it and held it from 1938 to 1952.

In the pre-World War II era, when air travel had yet to establish dominance, speedy travel by large, elegant steam ships was the most practical way to cross from Europe to the Americas. Passengers who could afford to travel in luxury would pay for the comforts that the finest ships could offer. In this distinction, The Queen Mary did not disappoint. First Class passengers could enjoy an indoor swimming pool, salon, ship’s library, children’s nursery, first class dining.

The ship’s grandeur attracted noted passengers, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Winston Churchill, Greta Garbo and Clark Gable.

All of this changed during World War II. During this time, Allied commanders pressed the ship into service as a troop transport ship. The ship’s speed would allow her to outrace German submarines. She was given a coat of grey paint to better camouflage her. This, along with her elusiveness during wartime, caused her to earn the nickname The Grey Ghost.

In addition to the paint, she was refitted inside to carry significantly more troops. The pools were drained and standee bunks were installed. Troops slept in shifts.

Her use as a troop transport was so integral to the Allied war effort, that Hitler offered a $250,000 reward and Germany’s highest military honor to any captain who could sink the vessel.

During this time, two notable incidents occurred. On October 2, 1942, the ship accidentally sank one of its escort cruisers, the HMS Curacoa.

While traveling, the ships traveled in zig zag patterns for safety. The Curacoa passed in front of the Queen Mary and was struck mid-ship. The Queen Mary cut the Curacoa in two. Due to orders, the transport ship couldn’t even stop to lend assistance. Other ships in the convoy were able to rescue survivors, but the accident resulted in 338 casualties.
The Queen Mary’s bow was crumpled from the incident..

The second incident occurred in December of the same year. The ship was transporting 16,082 American GI’s from New York to Great Britian when it was struck broadside by a rogue wave. The ship tilted dangerously, and nearly capsized. The incident inspired the book and movie The Poseidon Adventure. The ship also served as the backdrop for the movie.

After World War II, the ship was briefly used to transport European war brides and their children to their GI husbands in North America. Then it was refitted, and once again became a Transatlantic passenger vessel. It served the Cunard line from 1947 to 1967, when Cunard sold her to the city of Long Beach to finance the construction of the Queen Elizabeth 2.

Once the city of Long Beach began to convert the ship into a hotel and floating museum, reports began to circulate of ghostly inhabitants.

The RMS Queen Mary Today

In the past 60 years, the ship has had at least 49 reported deaths on board. Official statistics vary, but the Queen Mary is said to be haunted by at least 130 known spirits. These include the ghosts of passengers, crew, and soldiers.

Some of the more famous haunted areas include the first and second class swimming pools, where sightings of ghostly women in 1930’s era bathing costumes, splashes, and wet footprints have been reported.

In the second class poolroom in particular, the ghost of a child named Jackie, who is said to have drowned during a transatlantic crossing, has been spotted.

The changing rooms off the first class swimming pool is another haunted area. There seems to be a vortex of negative energy, or so several psychics have claimed. .

Other children have been spotted in the third class playroom, where it is said that if you listen closely, you can hear the sounds of disembodied crying.

One particularly haunted area is the ship’s engine room. There, Door Number 13 is the site of an unlucky accident, where a crewman was crushed to death during a routine drill. Since then, many have reported seeing the ghost of a workman in coveralls walk toward Door 13, and then vanish.

Additionally, the cargo hold is said to be haunted in the vicinity of the area that was damaged when the ship struck the Curacoa.

The ship’s officials have capitalized on the ship’s notorious haunting by offering ghost tours of every stripe. While some are straightforward, others offer dramatizations of the hauntings to make the tours seem more eerie to patrons. In addition, a haunted maze is hosted on the ship. During Halloween, the attraction is greatly expanded.

 

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

About Me

I'm the author of the Tranquility series, which is a series of urban, rural, urban fantasy mysteries that aren't really urban.

Think Green Acres meet The Hardy Boys, Jeff Foxworthy meets The X-Files or Eureka meets The Beverly Hillbillies.

The latest in the series, Bride of Tranquility is a murder mystery set in a haunted hotel during a Renaissance wedding.

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