Stately

Barrett Manor

Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

2017 Catmas Card

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


The 2016 Catmas Card has arrived! And with it, I've redesigned the Catmas Card pages. The design only dated to the year 2000. How bad could it have been? 

It's fun looking at the archives to see both how my modest graphics skills have improved over the years. The execution of our ideas depends not only on those skills, but the mood of the cats. And sometimes my archive of cat pictures comes in very handy. And then there are the ideas. Sometimes it's tough to figure out an idea. This year one hit me over the head like a falling Christmas tree. I hope it worked.

Enjoy! 


Physical cards should go out on Monday.


Filed under: Catmas   Cats         
12/9/2017 4:54:50 PM
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Updated Nostalgia Section

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


I've been hard at work on some web site updates. The first major update is in the Nostalgia section. From here on out I'll try to post updates to the journal so they make the feed.

Here we have downtown Arlington, Texas, circa 1961. 


You can view the entire post here.

Filed under: Nostalgia   Housekeeping         
12/7/2017 6:21:47 PM
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Preaching to the Choir? Or Pissing People Off?

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


I'm either preaching to the choir or I'm gonna piss a lot of people off with this post. Let's see what happens. 

Every time I see a story about Roy Moore in our local paper (or sometimes shared out here on FB) there's a group of usual suspects who start yammering on about Bill Clinton. You know what? When Bill Clinton runs for office again or if someone else steps forward to accuse him of new sexual improprieties, then let's talk about it. I'm all for it. But in the context of Roy Moore, discussing Bill Clinton (or Al Franken or Joe Barton) is distraction. Neither Clinton, Franken, or Barton is running for the Senate in Alabama right now. You know what? Even talking about Donald Trump's "p*ssy grabbing" is moving the spotlight away from Roy Moore and the election in Alabama.  

And that's the deal. The spotlight needs to be on that election. Further, if I lived in Alabama and could vote in this race, the latest allegations wouldn't have made any difference. Roy Moore has been removed from the bench twice. Some people say he was just standing up for the Constitution, but I ask those same people if someone had posted a quote from the Quran in front of a judicial building, what would their reaction be? What would their reaction be if a judge directed public officials not to perform interracial marriages? Or marriages between people of two different religions? Funny, when I ask those questions I get crickets. Or sputtering. Or more talk about Bill Clinton.  

There are reasons that we don't have a state-sponsored religion. These people say that "Christian" is our religion, as if some vague label did the job. No, go read a damn history book or two. England practically tore itself apart more than once in conflicts over the one true version of Christianity. Our founders wisely realized that religion is personal business, and not the business of the state. 

Many Americans are morally guided by their religion, and that's not a bad thing. But do you want lawmakers to demand your circumcision, gentlemen? Or to impose rules on what you must eat and drink? Of course, you don't. And there's the slippery slope. There are many interpretations of the Bible. If you don't believe me, do what I did and get a job at a Christian radio station listening to "preaching and teaching" programs all day. Or just spend some time listening. There was little agreement on anything from the steps to salvation to diet, to the Rapture, to who was qualified to teach and preach. And they all got their guidance from the same book. 

I'm not putting down sincerely held religious beliefs. I'm just saying that there are many interpretations of the Bible, and why should one rule our system of laws over another? Our founders understood this. Why can't we?

Filed under: Politics            
11/27/2017 9:53:37 AM
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Had This Been An Actual Emergency...

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


I've been reading that a national EAS test is scheduled for later today. That brings back some memories. I worked in radio in the early-mid 1990s, back before there was digital anything. I was doing an air shift during a national test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This was back in the days of the Civil Defense. I had to open (dun, dun, DUN!) The Red Envelope. It was a direct simulation of what to do in the event of a national emergency. They sent us all instructions ahead of time, and we were all standing around the wire machine waiting for ten bells, which was the signal for a national emergency. They sent the code word, and then I had to grab the envelope, open it, and start the test.

 

As you would guess, there was a script to follow for a standard test. This one was similar, except we inserted the word "national," which they'll be doing today. Our EBS test announcement was recorded, but I had to read this one live because it was a national test. Hoo, boy. I had never opened one of these envelopes before we had instructions to return them, sealed, to the station manager. I think we got a new one every quarter. I don't know if that was our protocol or that of the CD. The face of the envelope was printed with dire words in all caps proclaiming BAD THINGS might happen if we dared open the envelope except during an emergency. So I opened the envelope and remember reading more dire warnings to double check that the code word was the same as the one we had received over the wire. It was, so I went ahead.

 

We had to activate the system for a test once a week. There was a little box under the console with a button, a speaker, and a little headset. The button was to activate the tone. We had to watch the clock and push the button for the specified number of seconds. The way this worked was that there was a cascading stream of stations. One station in the area would be a primary (that was KRLD). When they ran a test our box would sound an alarm. That was fun when they ran a test during one of our station breaks! We had to log the test. Sometimes the National Weather Service would ask them to activate the EBS system in the event of a tornado warning. We only had to log that. We were never to activate our own system unless there was a test or an emergency and we were instructed to do so. Yep, that meant opening The Red Envelope. That never happened when I was on the air. And I lived in dread of making a slip-up (even when we passed along a watch or warning that came down the wire) and saying "Godless Tornadoes." As one does, of course.

 

So you may be wondering about ten bells. Back in the day the wire machines were essentially low-res dot matrix printers connected to a phone line. We had to replace the ribbon once in a while. Ewww. There was a bell (much like a typewriter bell) inside. They'd send a code down the wire to make the bell ring anywhere from 1-5 times. 1-2 rings was "hey, you may want to look at this." It was mostly normal alerts which were anything from the latest stock market numbers to non-critical story updates to announcements ("hey, the president his holding a scheduled press conference today. We'll move details as we get 'em.") Three bells was important stories and updates. Four was breaking news, but not exactly a bulletin. Five was an honest-to-goodness we're-not-kidding-here-you may-want-to-break-into-programming bulletin. I heard one while I was on the air. Ten bells was The Big One. Or a test for same.

 

Anytime I heard three or four bells that was a signal to check to see what was going on. We had no idea if it was a national or local story until we went and read the copy. Five bells was "holy crap, this ain't good." In this era of breathless reporting of breaking news every time someone farts (I suppose that would be breaking wind news), I'm going to translate this to a Trump scale.

 

1 bell: Trump is doing nothing. We just wanted to let you know. BTW, here's the latest numbers from Wall Street.

 

2 bells: The president tweeted again. This time it was about Justin Bieber. Nothing political. Go about your business. BTW, he might tweet something important. We'll let you know.

 

3 bells: He's at it again. This time he's calling us Fake News because we reported that a cat had been run over on a residential street and it turned out to be a dog instead. BTW, there's a multi-car accident on the freeway which has traffic backed up for miles. And the mayor is making a major announcement about the homeless situation. We also heard Mueller has issued another subpoena.

 

4 bells: Yes, we've confirmed the subpoena. Also, an old movie star has died. There's been a major earthquake near the old Texas Stadium site. Speculation is that God is upset that His Team got moved and He can no longer watch when they close the dome on the new stadium. Details forthcoming.

 

5 bells: Alert! Congress has actually done something! Also, a major celebrity or former president has died. That accident on the freeway turns out to be a hazardous spill, and a five mile radius is being evacuated. Someone has declared war or followed through the declaration with an attack.

 

10 bells: Someone's got their finger on The Button. Or it's just a test. Carry on.


Filed under: Humor            
9/27/2017 8:54:31 AM
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Know Your Enemy

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


I'm going to make a confession. 

When I was in high school, I read "Mein Kapmf." I wrote a paper on Adolph Hitler.

There was a reason I did that, and when the teacher understood my reasoning she wholeheartedly approved of my research topic. I wanted to figure out how he got to power in the first place. How good people could let this happen. (The answer is complicated. The paper was long.)

I once came upon a book in German, where, hidden in plain sight among many innocuous things, was the text of one of Hitler's speeches. I laboriously translated the speech. You now what? He was seductive. He told people what they wanted to hear. He - and his speechwriters - knew just the correct words to get the crowd on his side and to his cause. He was passionate, and that passion was infectious. Like the plague. 

I thought we'd never see that here in the United States.

Boy, was I wrong. 

Mark my words, Hitler was not a good person. Nor were the people he surrounded himself with. He was evil. And yet, I'm going to ask you to consider reading "Mein Kampf." And doing some research into that era of history. Because, as has often been said, those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. That book is hard to read through the lens of history, and you may want a bath or six when you're finished. But you'll gain insight into his thinking and the thinking of some of his followers today. For they are his followers, no matter how much they disavow it.

This is the very the same reason some very good people who hate racism, who decry fascism, delve into those vile underground web sites that promote these things. History must not repeat itself. As Sun Tzu swrote, "know your enemy."

There are no statues in Germany to honor Hitler or his regime. There are markers that tell stories. There are memorials to those who died fighting his cause, or died just because of his hatred, and the hatred he whipped up among his populace. 

Don't let that happen here. Please. Know your enemy. Know your history so it doesn't repeat. My friends, you are good people. And good people don't let this evil happen again.

Filed under: Politics            
8/17/2017 9:47:46 AM
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Thunderbolt And Lightning, Very Very Frightening

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


We had just settled in to watch some telly Saturday night, when:

FLASHBANG!

If the house itself didn't get hit, something close by certainly did. There was no damage to the house. We have a large tree in the front yard, so that was obviously a worry.

However, we did lose several bits of electronic equipment including the router, the printer, a monitor, the receiver, and the sprinkler timer. The printer had two levels of surge protection, so I was most upset over that one. Turns out that HP has a procedure for resetting the power supply after a power surge, but that didn't work. 

Paul and Ami found some good deals on most of the other equipment, and I set out to look for a new printer. I've always had a multi-function with a paper feeder so I could scan large documents. When the last printer died we ended up with a really sweet deal on a large format printer. I've had a lot of use out of the large scanning bed, so I wanted another if possible. Did a lot of shopping in person and online and found a wide format printer for just $30 more than the regular format one, so I trundled down to MicroCenter to make the purchase. 

I grabbed a cart and went to the printer area, and found they didn't have any boxes on the floor, much less a display model. The web site had indicated two in stock. Maybe they'd sold. A helpful (honest!) salesguy offered to go back and check. "May I follow you with the cart?" (I remembered that the previous one came in a large box and we had used a handcart to get it inside the house.)

"Oh, no. I can get it."

Famous last words. Five minutes later he returned, panting, and asked for the cart. I so wanted to say, "I warned ya, but did you listen to me? Oh, no. It's just a teeny little box, isn't it?"

The box was larger than I had expected. It just barely fit in the cargo area behind the seats in my car. Got it home, and Ami helped me get it on the cart and inside the house. Then I made a quick run to the grocery store for fixins for a fast meal. 

I came home to find Paul had put the printer in place and he was setting it up.

This thing is huge. It's a freaking Death Star.

hp_7740.jpg

And that's a harmless little stapler on the desk.

That, the cable box, and the stuffed cat are there for scale. Damn, I should have added a fish. For scale. I'm here all week. ;-)

So it's been Monday here since Saturday night. And how did I celebrate? By stripping the bed down and turning the mattress. I'm such a masochist.


Filed under: Technology   Pictures   Life      
8/14/2017 11:18:56 AM
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What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


Well. This was our first vacation in a Very Long Time. I think it's been thirteen years. That's a lot of years of schedule conflicts and family emergencies. The planets and the calendars finally aligned, and we decided to get out of town while the gettin' was good.

We went to Canada!


We had a great time, but it was pretty warm up there. However, we got to walk around and explore and see lots of interesting things. One day we we drove out to Hamilton to see where some of the exteriors for Murdoch Mysteries were filmed.


I'm not going to fill this with vacation snaps, but if you want to see more, you can find them here. These pictures were all shot with my DSLR, and I expect we'll add a few cell phone shots to the mix soon.

But now it's back to work!

Filed under: Pictures   Life         
8/7/2017 9:48:47 PM
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Making of the Missy Costume Part 1: The Hat

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


It all started as a joke. I'd volunteered to take on running the Prop Alley for this year's WhoFest, and Roybn (one of the chairs) said, "you can be the Prop MASTER!" After some thought I decided that no, I should be the Prop MISSY. And so a costume was born.

One thing I like about Missy is that she's "a certain age." Well, The Master isn't exactly young, but it's nice to see characters that aren't in the 20-30 age group. Missy is also sassy and outspoken. I like that. So I had to do Missy, even though I'm of oh, a "certain size."

(Image via IMDB.)

Missy is an evil Mary Poppins. Which I also like.

The first thing was the hat: 

(Image via BBC America)

I started with a hat from Amazon:
MissyHat1.jpg

While the brim is correct, the crown is totally the wrong height. I cut the top off, removed some height from the brim, and sewed it back together. 

MissyHat3.jpg

I ended up with this, which I steamed and reshaped.

MissyHat2.jpg

This is a a collection of vintage and new flowers, cherries, and grapes. I ended up not using any of the grapes and added some more flowers.

MissyHat4.jpg

MissyHat5.jpg

This is the end result. I'd like to fabricate a better hat pin, but I was running out of time.

Next up: The dress.



Filed under: Missy            
5/27/2017 10:22:17 AM
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Hey, Look! A Story Publication!

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


Well, this has been on Amazon for a while, but since the press release has hit the virtual street I guess I can officially announce that I will have a story in The Further Crossovers of Sherlock Holmes from Moonstone Books, edited by Richard Dean Starr.

I'm the B-list author in with some serious heavy hitters like David Gerrold and Bill Crider. Also prolific Holmes author, A-lister, and good friend Brad Sinor has a story in this book, and I'm really happy that we get to be in print together.

My contribution, The Lady Detective, crosses Holmes with Loveday Brooke, a lady detective who made her debut in 1894 in stories by Catherine Louisa Pirkis. She is widely considered to be the first female detective written by a female author. Miss Brooke was also rather forward-thinking for her time. She had to be, as an upper-class woman who was left penniless and without friends by "a jerk of Fortune's wheel." At the time there were few career choices for women, so this was a bold move. 

The stories are in the public domain, and you can read them here.

So book cover or it ain't happening, right? The cover artist is Timothy Lantz.

FurtherCrossovers.jpg

And yes, the eagle-eyed among you have spotted the typo in the listing. I'm told the publisher will fix it.



Filed under: Sherlock Holmes   Writing   Publishing   The Further Crossovers of Sherlock Holmes   
4/17/2017 9:16:42 AM
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Playing With The Camera

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


It's been far too long since I wandered out into the back yard and shot some pictures. I get rusty with the camera if I don't get out once in a while.

Here's the pick of a bad lot:

040617_roses_800.jpg

Roses at the side of the house.

040607_berries_800.jpg

Dead berries.

040607_2cicadas_800.jpg

Two cicada husks. This one may be my favorite of the batch.

Back to real work!



Filed under: Pictures            
4/6/2017 10:08:58 AM
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