Sunday, December 30

This week in the Civil War: Dec. 30, 1862

Fighting in Mississippi and Tennessee

The run-up to New Year's Day 1863 brings no pause in the fighting 150 years ago in the Civil War. On Dec. 26, 1862, Union divisions approaching from the Yazoo River crash into Confederate forces in swampy terrain as they undertake an audacious bid to seize the rebel-held city of Vicksburg, Miss. The fierce battle of Chickasaw Bayou, or Walnut Hills, erupts. When Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman orders his forces to advance, his units are thrust backward by the Confederate defenders. Sherman was hopeful of capturing Vicksburg outright, but the battle leaves heavy Union casualties and dashes any Union hopes of a swift victory. The fighting, however, marks the start of the Vicksburg campaign, which would be renewed by the Union months later in 1863. The New Year would be only hours old when more fighting erupts, this time at Stones River near Murfreesboro, Tenn. Confederates under Gen. Braxton Bragg camp Dec. 29, 1862, not far from Union forces, and combat opens late on Jan. 1, 1863. Union fighters repulse at least one Confederate attack before the rebel forces withdraw in early January from the area near Murfreesboro.

Monday, December 24

A Visit from St. Nicholas

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Attention all hands!

Oh, is my good friend Phoebe going to swoon when she hears that Nichelle Nichols is one of the scheduled guests for the upcoming Phoenix Comicon!

photo by EofA/used with permission
As you might recall, Phoebe is the original Uhura fangirl.

Nichols, an actress, singer and voice artist who broke racial barriers on Star Trek: The Original Series as Lt. Uhura, will become the last of the surviving main cast to appear at Phoenix Comicon.
Incidentally, Walter Koenig who played Ensign Pavel Chekov on Star Trek: The Original Series is also scheduled to appear at Phoenix Comicon.

Woo hoo!

Sunday, December 23

This week in the Civil War: Dec. 23, 1862

A Confederate Christmas raid in Kentucky

This week 150 years ago in the Civil War, a Confederate cavalryman with a knack for raiding and disrupting Union rail and supply lines, embarked on his famed Christmas raid into Kentucky. He was Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan. Morgan and nearly 4,000 Confederate cavalry troops under his command left Tennessee on Dec. 22, 1862, beginning a mission to harass and disrupt Union troops and supply lines in the key border state. All told, his troopers destroyed miles of railroad tracks, cut telegraph lines, burned supply depots and briefly occupied several Kentucky towns along the way, capturing and then paroling numerous Union troops. By Dec. 28, 1862, he approached a key objective: two tall railroad trestles of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. After an artillery barrage on two nearby Union stockades, Morgan captured hundreds of prisoners and burned the trestles. Then, after New Year's Eve, his forces retreated into Tennessee. Many in the South would boast of his daring. By May he would be lauded by the Confederate Congress for his heroic service to the secession. Still later in the war, he would be captured and imprisoned by the Union. He would later escape, making his way back behind Confederate lines, only to be shot and killed in Tennessee in 1864.

Wednesday, December 19

My beautiful balloon

American Girl
Oh my goodness.

American Girl temporarily posted photos of the upcoming American Girl of the Year collection.

Saige Copeland is American Girl's 11th Girl of the Year. Saige and her collection is scheduled for release on Jan. 1, 2013.

For me most of her collection was uninspiring until I spotted Saige's hot air balloon!

I think I have died and gone to dolly heaven.

First was Caroline's Skiff.

Then came the Our Generation R.V. Seeing You Camper.

Now a hot air balloon!

What is a steampunk doll to do?

Except get one of each, of course.


Monday, December 17

Lights Across the World

We have been grieving for the people of Newtown, Conn., after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 and, like most, we have been wanting to do something, anything.

A college friend of Momma's just wrote on Facebook,

It was suggested to me earlier that we should all take down our Christmas lights in honor of the memory of the children of Newtown... for how can we, in all conscience, be happy in the face of such horrific tragedy?

And I said- DO NOT take your Christmas lights down!

Instead: Light every Goddamn light you have! Light up your tree, your house and your yard with the brightest, the merriest and most colorful lights you can find! Fill your speakers with the the happiest, funniest, most wonderful music you own! Dance, Sing, Hug, laugh, smile....giggle, be silly... make cookies, wait up for Santa...

If you want to honor children... be one of them!

Hear, hear!

So we spreading Lights Across the World on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012 - the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year.

Spread the word and honor the children!

Sunday, December 16

This week in the Civil War: Dec. 16, 1862

The sinking of the USS Cairo

This week 150 years ago in the Civil War, the Union lamented another kind of loss beyond its defeat at Fredericksburg. On Dec. 12, 1862, the USS Cairo — an ironclad river gunboat — was struck by two torpedoes and sank within minutes on the Yazoo River, about 10 miles north of Vicksburg, Miss. No one died but the sinking of one of the most feared gunboats was an embarrassing loss for the Union. The 175-foot vessel bristled with heavy weaponry, its guns menacing from turrets set about on all sides. A young crewmember, George Yost, later remarked: "Nothing of the Cairo could be seen 12 minutes after the first explosion, excepting the smokestacks, and the flag staff from which still floated the flag above the troubled waters." The ironclads played a crucial part in the Union's Western war aim of seizing and dominating the inland waterways that carried trade, people and foodstuffs through the heartland. It would only be rediscovered and salvaged in 1964, then put on display. Another ironclad, the Cincinnati, would be sunk during the siege of Vicksburg in 1863 by Confederate forces firing from bluffs lining the river bank. Also this week, the Macon Telegraph of Georgia clamors for information on the outcome of the fighting for Fredericksburg, in which the Confederates under the command of Gen. Robert E. Lee prevailed over a bigger Union force. "It is said our loss is 1,800 and the enemy's five times as much," the paper reports. "Somehow, we feel almost, as sure that Lee has got those rascals, as if we saw them already in his grip."

Saturday, December 15

Five golden rings

Wow, 50 years ago today Grandmomma and Grandpoppa got married!

The historic origins of wedding anniversaries date back to either the Holy Roman Empire or medieval Germany, when husbands crowned their wives with a silver wreath on their 25th anniversary and a gold wreath on the 50th.

The symbols have changed over time. For example in the United Kingdom, diamond was a well known symbol for the 75th anniversary, but this changed to the now more common 60th anniversary after Queen Victoria's 60 years on the throne in 1897 was widely marked as her Diamond Jubilee.

Later, principally in the 20th Century, commercialism led to the addition of more anniversaries being represented by a named gift. The origins of the current gift conventions date to 1937. Before that, only the 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, 50th, and 75th anniversaries had an associated gift.

Friday, December 14

Our hearts are broken today

“The majority of those who died were children — beautiful, little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.

“They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, wedding, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children.

"Our hearts are broken today.”

President Barack Obama
Dec. 14, 2012

Wednesday, December 12

Cloaked in mystery

Sew Fun Doll Clothes
It is so nice to have so many talented seamstresses at my command.

Look at this beauty Cher at Sew Fun Doll Clothes whipped up for me.

The cape is burgundy premium velvet (photos show it a little 'redder' than it really is) with gold satin lining. The trim around the opening and hood is a narrow gold and burgundy braid trim.

It features an Urban Threads design of Santa's Dirigible carrying Santa's sleigh embroidered on the back.

I wonder if I can get one in green for Clementine....

Monday, December 10

The Analytical Engine

If you are reading this on your computer please join me in wishing Ada Lovelace a happy birthday.

Ada Lovelace (the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron and his wife Anne Isabella Byron) was an English mathematician and writer chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage's early mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine.

Babbage was invited to give a seminar in 1842 at the University of Turin about his analytical engine, a proposed mechanical general-purpose computer. Luigi Menabrea, a young Italian engineer, and future Prime Minister of Italy, wrote up Babbage's lecture in French, and this transcript was subsequently published in the Bibliothèque universelle de Genève in October 1842.

Babbage asked Lovelace to translate Menabrea's paper into English, subsequently requesting that she augment the notes she had added to the translation. These notes (which are more extensive than Menabrea's paper!) were then published in The Ladies' Diary and Taylor's Scientific Memoirs under the initials "AAL."

Her notes on the engine include what is recognised as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine. Because of this, she is often considered by many to be the world's first computer programmer.

Lovelace's notes on Babbage's Analytical Engine were republished in 1953. The analytical engine has now been recognized as an early model for a computer and Lovelace's notes as a description of a computer and software.

Interestingly, Lovelace was a character in the steampunk novel The Difference Engine, by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.

The Difference Engine has attracted the attention of scholars and was nominated for the British Science Fiction Award in 1990, the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1991, and both the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Prix Aurora Award in 1992.

Sunday, December 9

This week in the Civil War: Dec. 9, 1862

Battle for Fredericksburg, Va.

This week 150 years ago in the Civil War, the North and South battled for Fredericksburg, Va. Midway between the federal capital of Washington, D.C., and the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va., Fredericksburg was a strategic point for both sides. On Dec. 11, 1862, Union troops sneaked forward under the pre-dawn fog to begin building pontoon bridges crossing the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg, drawing Confederate fire. Union commander, Gen. Ambrose Burnside, then ordered a bombardment opened up on the city. The fierce bombardment lasted nearly two hours as thousands of shells and projectiles rained down on the city. Amid the bombardment, Union soldiers crossed in boats to the other side and block-by-block street combat began – a rarity in the conflict. The full body of federal forces crossed the Rappahannock on Dec. 12, 1862, and Burnside ordered a series of deadly and ineffective frontal assaults on two heights in the city, leaving thousands dead and wounded. Even though Union forces briefly pierced the main Confederate line, they were repulsed By Dec. 15, Burnside had canceled the offensive and his battered and beaten forces retreated across the river. The fighting engaged some 100,000 Union troops and more than 72,000 troops under Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. When it was over, there were more than 13,000 Union casualties and some 4,500 others on the Confederate side. After the Union's defeat, Burnside would be replaced a month later at the head of the Union army by yet another general.

Saturday, December 8

Steampunk shenanigans

Momma and I have heard Steam Powered Giraffe before, but we've never seen them, so it is yet another reason we're looking forward to Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention II in March.

Steam Powered Giraffe (SPG) is a musical project formed in San Diego in 2008 that is popular in the steampunk subculture. The act combines the visual of robot pantomime with sketches, pop culture references, improvised comedic dialogue, and original music.

More than just a band, Steam Powered Giraffe is an experience that must be seen and heard by the entire family.

The robots of Steam Powered Giraffe are like nothing you've ever seen. The malfunctioning joke-spewing metal men play a collection of original Vaudeville inspired tunes fused with modern flare and executed in a super-sleek, one-of-a-kind performance.

The act combines the visual of robot pantomime with sketches, pop culture references, improvised comedic dialogue, and of course, original music.

From their heartwarming nostalgic melodies to their funky cabaret rock, Steam Powered Giraffe's songs are memorable, infectious, and as unique as the robots themselves.

Friday, December 7

Sleep Steampunk Addie

Momma and I are excited to be a part of the Marketing Team for Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention II in Tucson, especially since we shall get the opportunity to hear some of our favorite steampunk bands, including the quintessential Abney Park.

Abney Park (named after Abney Park Cemetery in London, England) is a steampunk band based in Seattle that mixes industrial dance, world music, and steampunk-influenced lyrics.

Formerly a goth band, Abney Park transformed themselves in early 2005 into a steampunk band. As part of that transformation, Abney Park invented fictional identities of themselves.

Since steampunk is largely derived from science fiction and fantasy literature, the band also created a fictional backstory to explain the shake-up in membership and who they were now, and to set a stage for their new music.
Abney Park comes from an era that never was, but one that we wish had been. An era where airships waged war in the skies, and corsets and cumberbuns were proper adventuring attire. They've picked up their bad musical habits, scoundrelous musicians, and anachronistically hybridized instruments from dozens of locations and eras that they have visited in their travels and thrown them into one riotous dervish of a performance. Expect clockwork guitars, belly dancers, flintlock bassists, middleastern percussion, violent violin, and Tesla powered keyboards blazing in a post- apocalyptic, swashbuckling, Steampunk musical mayhem.

Sometimes called the "quintessential" steampunk band, Abney Park has been featured in major news media and has performed at numerous festivals, including World Steam Expo, Dragon*Con, Steamcon, and Wild Wild West Con.

Their music has also appeared in several movie soundtracks,  and their song Sleep Isabella was used in the HBO series True Blood Season 5 episode We'll Meet Again.

(For a mere $500 Captain Robert will work with you to alter the lyrics of Sleep Isabella to be about your loved one. Then he will re-sing this song, and create your own custom version.)

In keeping with the season, Abney Park just released a Christmas album, Through Your Eyes on Christmas Eve.

I cannot wait until March!

Thursday, December 6

It's beginning to sound a lot like Steampunk

Someone asked me what Momma and I are listening to right now to keep us in that holiday steampunk spirit so here's our current playlist:

Abney Park: Through Your Eyes on Christmas Eve
  1. Through Your Eyes On Christmas Eve
  2. O Holy Night
  3. We Three Kings
  4. Jingle Bells
  5. Santa Claus is Coming To Town
  6. Winter Wonderland
  7. Baby, It's Cold Outside
  8. The Little Drummer Boy
  9. 'Zat you, Santa Claus?
  10. Twelve Days Of Christmas
  11. Dance of The Sugarplum Fairy

Max Raabe: Vom Himmel Hoch, Da Komm' Ich Her
  1. Vom Himmel hoch
  2. Adeste fideles
  3. I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
  4. Süßer die Glocken
  5. Still, still, still
  6. Kling Glöckchen kling
  7. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
  8. Stille Nacht
  9. Schneeglöckchen
  10. Leise rieselt der Schnee
  11. O Tannenbaum
  12. Fröhliche Weihnacht überall
  13. In dulci jubilo
  14. Last Christmas
  15. Ein Engel steigt hernieder
  16. Advent Advent

Do you have any suggestions for us?

Li'l Wil


My very own Li'l Wil Wheaton Plushie for a mere $19.95.

Which came first? The Internet or Wil Wheaton? No one knows for sure, but rest assured top men are working on the answer. TOP. MEN. Since the actual Wil Wheaton lives inside the Internet, you can't actually possess him. OR CAN YOU!? You can't, but you can own your very own soft, diminutive effigy of Wil that may or may not be a horcrux containing a tiny piece of his soul. I'm just saying, give your Li'l Wil a hug and I bet somewhere in California the real one lets out an audible sigh of contentment. Set it on fire and... well, you paid your money. Do what you want. 
Wil dared Joel via twitter to draw him as a plushie. Almost a year later the little guy exists in meat space. Call it the slowest replicator ever, but living in the future is pretty neat. I know you can't wait to knit him a tiny sweater. Spacesuit or evil clown; it's your choice.

Maybe I should get two and sign HIS tummy and send it to Wheaton.

What think you?

Wednesday, December 5

Take Five

Jazz legend Dave Brubeck, designated a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, died today - one day before his 92nd birthday.

Dave Brubeck (Dec. 6, 1920 – Dec. 5, 2012) was an American jazz pianist. He wrote a number of jazz standards, including Take FiveIn Your Own Sweet Way, and The Duke.

In 1958 the Dave Brubeck Quartet made the first of many international tours. The U.S. State Department sponsored the Quartet’s performances in Poland, India, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq. Exposure to many different cultures was reflected in the group’s repertoire that sometimes incorporated exotic elements.  

The 1959 recording Time Out experimented in time signatures beyond the usual jazz 4/4. To everyone’s surprise Time Out became the first jazz album to sell over a million copies and Blue Rondo a la Turk and Take Five (now in the Grammy Hall of Fame) began to appear on jukeboxes throughout the world.

Brubeck experimented with time signatures throughout his career, recording Pick Up Sticks in 6/4, Unsquare Dance in 7/4, World's Fair in 13/4, and Blue Rondo à la Turk in 9/8. He was also a respected composer of orchestral and sacred music, and wrote soundtracks for television such as Mr. Broadway and the animated mini-series This Is America, Charlie Brown.

Steal of the day

Wow! They're sold out already!

While Momma is busy doing her victory dance, let me tell you that today (while supplies last!) you can get Cécile, Marie-Grace or their Canopy Bed for $50 each plus $7.95 shipping!


Use this link and enter JILLOFFER as the promotional code.

Don't panic. It will show in your cart as full price, but if you enter that code and the credit card it will show the discount price before you hit the final confirm.

Now get busy. The world needs more Cécile dolls!

It's nice to know so many of you listen to Me.

Tuesday, December 4

It's tartan to look a lot like Christmas

My darling Clementine's Christmas outfit arrived this weekend and I couldn't wait to share it with her.

Doesn't she look divine?

She, of course, is thrilled to wear a tartan like me.

Of course.

Just please don't make the common mistake of calling this a plaid dress. 

A tartan is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colors. Tartans were originally made of colored, woven wool, but now they are made in many other materials including taffeta (my skirt) or satin (Clementine's skirt and jacket). 

A plaid is a pleated cloth worn with a kilt, made from the same tartan and worn over the shoulder and fastened at the front.

Monday, December 3

Running out of steam

Mortimer Mort
"What was that sound?" you ask? That was my Steam Team wailing in collective anguish.

Alas, while I was rejoicing in the arrival of my darling Clementine, members of my Steam Team have been mourning Wilde Imagination's announcement that there are no plans (at this time) to continue the Imperium Park line.

I guess we shall have to get creative ourselves.

According to the Imperium Park website: 

Theodora and Phineas live with their Uncle, Professor Kingsley Avery Knightsblood. A brilliant scientist, Professor Knightsblood took in his niece and nephew after their parents were killed in a skirmish with a Beastealiax patrol when the children were six and eight. Both Theodora and Phineas adore their uncle.

Albus Dumbledore
Personally, I think that Mortimer Mort from Wilde Imagination's Evangeline Ghastly line will make a fabulous Professor Kingsley Avery Knightsblood.

I don't know who Albus Dumbledore will be yet, but I'm sure we can figure something out. 

Sunday, December 2

Tinsel and lights and outward show

Clementine and I got to help Momma decorate the house tonight with some of those new-fangled electric Christmas lights.

Christmas lights originated with the use of candles to decorate the Christmas tree in upper-class homes in 18th-century Germany. However, candles caused a lot of fires.

In the United Kingdom, the Savoy owner Richard D'Oyly Carte equipped the principal fairies with miniature lighting for the opening night of Gilbert and Sullivan's opera Iolanthe on Nov. 25, 1882. (The term "fairy lights" for  electric Christmas lights has been used ever since in England.)

The first known electrically-illuminated Christmas tree was by Edward H. Johnson, an associate of inventor Thomas Edison. He had 80 red, white and blue electric incandescent light bulbs the size of walnuts especially made for him which he displayed on his Christmas tree on Dec. 22, 1882 at his New York City home.

By 1900, businesses started stringing up Christmas lights behind their windows. Christmas lights were too expensive for the average person so electric Christmas lights did not become the majority replacement for candles until 1930.

In the United States, it became popular to outline private homes with Christmas lights in the 1960s. By the late 20th century the custom had also been adopted in other countries, especially Japan.

This Week in the Civil War: Dec. 2, 1862

Battle of Prairie Grove, Ark.

This week 150 years ago in the Civil War, Confederate and Union forces continued their fight for supremacy in Arkansas. Confederates led by Maj. Gen. Thomas Hindman moved to put his sizeable force between two Union divisions in hopes of smashing them. But rival Union commanders fought back against the Confederates, who set up defensive lines along a ridge at Prairie Grove. Attacks and counterattacks followed and at one point it looked as if the rebels would triumph. But then sunset brought a halt to the fighting with neither side a winner. Nonetheless, Hindman was forced to withdraw from the region, leaving the Union in control of a large swath of Arkansas. Elsewhere, newspaper reports spread word that Confederate leaders were rejoicing over the discovery a large cache of salt in the earth that can be used for any number of purposes, including preserving food. "The rebels are said to be rejoicing over the discovery of (the) immense bed of rock salt at Obelisk, Ala.," the Daily Illinois state Journal reported on Dec. 2, 1862.