Even More Rain

This weekend, the weather has been keeping with the theme of rain, rain, and more rain. It started raining this afternoon and is supposed to rain all night long. At least tomorrow will be sunny.

Meanwhile, enjoy this picture I took on Friday night (I am happy to say it did not rain on Friday). I’m pretty sure that bright object above the tree in the center is Venus. It was so bright that even my phone camera was able to pick it up.

I hope that’s Venus.

I don’t actually know much about astronomy, though, so for all I know, that isn’t Venus. It still was fun to see, though. I’m going to go work on some writing for the rest of this evening as the rain continues. Stay dry, everyone!


The 1918 Flu Pandemic In Russia

I’m a historian by training and even if I’m not officially using my degree (I mean, aside from the writing skills, research skills, and presentation skills I learned while completing my degree—I say this to emphasize that humanities degrees do help you in the workplace, everyone!), I love encountering random historical things. I mean, there’s a reason this blog is called Fluent Historian. I wouldn’t have called it that and kept that name if I weren’t a huge history buff.

Anyway, one of my recent discoveries is a fascinating photo essay on The Atlantic called The 1918 Flu Pandemic: Photos From a Century Ago. It contains thirty black-and-white photos from 1918 and 1919, when the so-called Spanish Flu swept across the world and killed 20 to 40 million people. That’s more than the casualties of World War I (15 million). That could be more than World War II (66 million) as well (it’s hard to tell since casualty figures for World War II vary, as do the figures for World War I)*. Nevertheless, it’s a ton of people.

The photo that caught my attention is the second one. Here’s a direct link to it. And here it is, below.

Courtesy of the National Archives

According to the article, the caption from the National Archives reads: “February, 1919. U.S. Army at Archangel Front, Russia. Funeral of member of crew of U.S.S. Ascutney. Three members died in Archangel and many were sick with influenza.”

As morbid as this sounds, I find that to be so fascinating. For those of you who aren’t as obsessed with the Russian Civil War as I am (and that’s probably most of you, because my obsession knows no bounds! 😉 ), that picture is from the doomed Allied intervention in Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution. After Lenin and his nasty band of followers seized power in 1917, the Russian Civil War broke out. You see, a large amount of people realized the Bolsheviks and their leadership, especially Lenin, were a bunch of nasty pieces of work and didn’t want to be ruled by such people. During the war, the (largely) pro-monarchist Whites fought the Reds (Bolsheviks). There were also the anarchist Greens, the anarchist Blacks of Ukraine, and even a group called the Blues. As you can see, identifying yourself by a color was all the rage.

Anyway, Allied forces also intervened in the war, though I would argue their involvement was too little, too late. The flu pandemic was sweeping the world during this time—even though I know about both the Spanish flu and the Russian Civil War, I hadn’t specifically thought of them as occurring at the same time, even though they obviously did. And as we can see from the photo above, American soldiers were sent to fight in Russia, with some dying and being buried there. Just a fascinating bit of history for you this week.

*Note: Casualty figures for the flu come from this Stanford site. The ones for World War I and World War II come from Matthew White’s excellent book Atrocities.

Rain, Rain, and More Rain

We get a ton of rain where I live, but this winter and spring has been a tad ridiculous. It rains multiple times a week. In some places, the ground seems to have become perpetually muddy. As I type this late on a Friday night (I just finished working on some fiction writing), it is pouring outside.

A typical cloudy day back in March.

I guess the good thing about rain is it sounds peaceful at night. And it makes for good reading and writing weather. That’s what I’m going to go do right now: read.

Happy Friday, everyone!

The Great Digital Photos Organization Project

I wrote a lot early last week, then paused in my writing (yet again). This time, though, I wasn’t reading or feeling sad and unable to write. I was doing something else: I decided to embark on a project to organize my digital photos once and for all.

I have a lot of pictures. A lot. My mom bought me a digital camera in 2006 and I used it for years. (I still have it, actually.) Then, the iPhone came out and I took pictures with my phone, too.

All this to say that I’ve accumulated a rather large photo collection over the years. I used to do a good job of going through and deleting bad pictures and renaming the ones I kept so that I could actually find what I’d taken pictures of. (It’s pretty hard to tell which pictures are of your family and friends and which are of your cat when they’re all named “IMG_1001” and such.)

Somewhere along the line, I’d sort of given up organizing my photos. I kept taking pictures, though, and my collection ballooned. One reason why I don’t post a ton of pictures, either on this blog or on my social media, is I can never find anything I want! Sometimes I’ll know I have a good picture of a flower that I’d like to use, but good luck finding it. I have almost ten years’ (!) worth of photos on my computer. I haven’t checked to see how many photos in total I have, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s ten thousand, minimum.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to organize this mass of digital imagery once and for all. After much thought and research, I’ve decided to use the Mac Photos application with a referenced library. (A managed library is the default.) That way, I can preserve my file structure, but will still be able to browse my photos in chronological order. Best of all, the Photo application will scan my photos for faces (it found my cat’s face in addition to human faces!) and will index everything so I can search for a topic (like “cactus” or “snow”).

I made a lot of progress on my photo organization project last week. It’s going to take a while to go through and delete what I don’t want and move everything I do want to keep into the right place. But I’m hoping to have a completely organized catalog of photos by early next year, which will be amazing.

Yarn Bomb!

This weekend, I decided to organize my yarn collection, once and for all. I don’t have a ton of yarn… but I don’t exactly have a paltry amount, either.

This was the result when I had all of my yarn out in my living room.

Click to see larger.

Now, I know this isn’t a yarn bomb per se, but it does look like part of a yarn shop exploded there.

So yes, I did organize my yarn. I allocated some of it to patterns I want to make. (I have a bad habit of buying random yarn I like without a specific pattern in mind, which leads to the yarn just sitting around and accumulating without being made into something.)

I also made something last night. Yes, this cowl can be made in an entire evening, it goes so quickly. It’s crocheted, which helps. I crochet a lot faster than I knit!

It reminds me of the desert!

We had off from work on Friday due to snow. The snow was so beautiful that I went outside to admire it. We had a good 3-4 inches, from what I’ve heard. Of course, it’s almost all melted now, but it was gorgeous on Friday.

A Cute Bird

One of the local library branches near where I live has parakeets. Yes, you read that right. There are actual parakeets at this library and they are adorable. They live in a cage in the children’s section and surprisingly enough, the kids seem to behave around them. The librarians help keep an eye on them, from what I’ve seen.

One of the birds is so adorable that I had to take a few pictures of him. He chirped the entire time.

Isn't he cute?
Isn’t he cute?

One of the many reasons why I always go to this branch is so I can see this little guy. Seriously, if the librarians didn’t keep such a close watch on him, I’d be tempted to slip him into my pocket and take him home with me! Too bad I need to get some writing done today—otherwise I’d go visit him later!

A Fascinating New Website: ‘A History of Russia in Photographs’

This link comes from Paul at the excellent Royal Russia blog, one of my favorite websites to read since it combines two of my favorite things (history and imperial Russia). There is a new website available called “A History of Russia in Photographs.” Now, the site is in Russian and I don’t see an English option, but you can still look at it even if you don’t read Russian. The first time you go to it, there’s a button you have to click on a little pop-up window welcoming you to the site. The button is brown and says Перейти к просмотру and if you click on it, the site loads. You can click on a year on the timeline at the top of the page and see photographs from that year.

This site looks really cool and I can’t wait to explore it further once I have some time this weekend!

A Tsar In Imprisonment

Last week, I posted about a photo of Tsar Alexander III and his family. In the photo is Nikolai Alexandrovich, the tsar’s son who later became Tsar Nikolai II (more commonly known as Nicholas in English). The photo I want to talk about this week also has Nicholas in it, but many years later, towards the end of his life. (It should be noted that he was in pretty good health at the time of his death and probably wouldn’t have died for many more years, had he not been shot in the head by a firing squad.)

Click to see larger.
Click to see larger. Source. Courtesy of Beineicke Library at Yale University.

In 1917, Nicholas made the difficult decision to abdicate the throne. Originally, he was going to abdicate in favor of his son, Alexei (pictured above in the photo), but since Alexei had health problems (he had very severe hemophilia, which could not be treated at this time) and he feared that the boy would be separated from his family, he abdicated in favor of his brother Mikhail, who was next in line to the throne after Alexei. Mikhail wanted no part of being tsar, though, and so he refused to take the throne.* After ruling Russia for three hundred four years, the Romanov monarchy came to an end.
Continue reading “A Tsar In Imprisonment”

A Tsar’s Family

I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction about the Romanovs recently. I think they’re my favorite dynasty and they ruled my favorite country (which is the Russian Empire), aside from my native country, of course.

Last night I was reading about the Romanovs on the internet (because apparently reading books about them isn’t enough!) and came across a photo of Tsar Alexander III and his family. Alexander III was the father of the last tsar of Russia, Nicholas II. Here’s the photo.

Click to see larger.
Click to see larger.

When I read the caption on the original site of who everyone was, it kind of made me sad. I just finished reading Virginia Rounding’s excellent book Alix and Nicky in which all of these people were talked about. The photo was taken in 1888. Thirty years later, by 1918, many of these people were dead.

Alexander III is the man seated in the middle with the little girl on his lap. He died unexpectedly of a kidney disease in 1894 at the age of forty-nine, leaving his eldest son Nicholas to become the tsar of Russia. By all accounts, poor Nicholas didn’t feel up to the job. Alexander’s wife, Maria Fyodorovna, is standing behind him. She’s the woman on the left with her hair piled on top of her head. Surprisingly, she survived the Russian Revolution and ensuing Civil War and returned to her native Denmark (she was a Danish princess before she married Alexander). She died 1928 at the age of eighty.

Now we come to the tsar’s children. The boy on the left standing in front of Maria Fyodorovna is Mikhail (or Michael, if you prefer the English version of the name). He had a bit of a falling out with the family when he married a woman he wasn’t supposed to marry (she was married to someone else when he began having an affair with her and eventually she got divorced so she could marry Mikhail). I can’t fault him too much, though, since her name was Natalia! Anyway, poor Mikhail was executed on Bolshevik orders in 1918, about a month before his doomed older brother, the tsar, was executed.

Standing behind Alexander III is Nicholas (Nikolai in Russian, but everyone in the English-speaking world seems to call him Nicholas). He was the oldest son (and oldest child) of the tsar and therefore inherited the throne. I was thrilled to see him in this photo because I’ve never seen him this young! He’s nineteen or twenty here and doesn’t have that characteristic facial hair he had later in life. He also died in 1918, along with his wife, children, and four very loyal servants. They were victims of the Bolsheviks too, of course. He was fifty years old.

The little girl sitting on Alexander’s lap is Olga, his youngest child. She survived the Revolution and ended up living in Canada, where she died in 1960 at the age of seventy-eight. Her sister, Ksenia, who’s standing next to Nicholas in the photo, also survived. Ksenia ended up in England and died there in 1960, aged eighty-five.

Finally, the young man seated on the right is Georgy. As Nicholas’ younger brother, he was tsarevich (heir to the throne) until Nicholas had a son, which wasn’t for a while. (Remember, Nicholas had four daughters before he finally had a son.) Unfortunately, poor Georgy died of tuberculosis in 1899 when he was twenty-eight. Nicholas found out the news and had to tell his mother, who was understandably devastated.

Anyway, I hope that sheds a bit of light on this photo. It’s just sad to think that when they posed for it, the family didn’t have much longer to be together—and obviously, they didn’t even know it.

A Trip To Arizona

Dear readers, I have been remiss in my blogging. Earlier today when I walked past a car with Arizona license plates (I don’t live in Arizona, so I don’t see that very often), I was reminded of a trip I took to Arizona last year that I never told you about. I went to Tucson for a few days and had a great time. Here’s some photographic evidence of the trip.

Tucson 1 This is a cactus in the hotel parking lot. I’ve lived east of the Mississippi River my entire life (except for college and grad school, but I don’t know if that counts because I knew it was temporary), so seeing all the cacti was kind of amazing. There were so many, everywhere! There was one particularly fat one by the side of the road that blocked my view as I tried to make a right turn. It may not sound that funny when I write it, but trust me, I was completely cracking up in the car when it happened. I wish I’d been able to get a photo of the cactus, but unfortunately, driving and taking pictures with my phone do not mix…

Tucson 2

There’s another view of the hotel parking lot. I don’t usually think of hotel parking lots as particularly exciting, but I’m telling you, the cacti made it very fascinating.

Of course, a trip wouldn’t be complete without shopping, so I went to the mall one afternoon. It took me forever to get there because of all the lights. I think there was a way to get there on the interstate (I-10 if I remember correctly) but I was too unmotivated to figure it out. The mall was really nice. I bought a drink at Starbucks and wandered around for a while.

Tucson mall

My one piece of advice to you if you want to move to Tucson is this: do not, I repeat, do not live anywhere near the Air Force Base. My hotel was near the Air Force Base and believe me, those planes are LOUD. The first time I heard one, I had just stepped outside to walk to my car and I thought we were under attack or something! Trust me, you don’t want to be anywhere close to those planes when they’re flying. I do have to admit, though, that they were pretty cool to see. I wish I’d been able to get a few pictures.

Anyway, as a result of this trip I can’t wait to go back to Arizona. I’d actually love to move there, but unfortunately there seems to be a lack of jobs in my field. Hopefully I’ll get lucky and something will open up in the next few years so I can move out there. And then I can post cactus pictures on my blog all the time until all my readers are sick of them. 😉

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Note: I’ve tried to create a little gallery of these photos plus two extras (also taken in the hotel parking lot) using some nifty WordPress features. I hope it actually worked!