NOLA Book Club!

NOLA Book Club!

NOLA Book Club is off and running.

nola book club

NOLA Book Club!

I’ve been wanting to do this for some time. With the Christmas and New Year’s holidays approaching, now is the time to kick off NOLA Book Club.

The Concept

This is quite the selfish concept on my part. I’m always looking for challenges to my literary tastes. I grew up on a steady diet of science fiction and fantasy. So much of that genre, particularly “hard” SF stories, were written by white male authors. Fantasy, less so, but the authors are almost all white. Same for the non-SFF fiction I read. So, I want to expand.

Now, if you’re like me, you need to be pushed outside your comfort zone. I procrastinate a lot. The best way for me to get things done is with deadlines. That’s why teaching works so well for me. I have to show up to start class.

The Club

While I have a good routine when it comes to reading, NOLA Book Club offers an expansion of that routine. Additionally, this concept gives me the chance to meet and engage people. I’ve kicked this idea around with Mandy Pumilla of Royal Brewery for a while now. Mandy hosted a book event for me at the brewery a couple of years back. It’s a great place to sit around and talk.

Since sitting around and talking in person won’t happen for a while yet, NOLA Book Club will start virtual, most likely on Zoom.

First Book – January 2021

For the club’s first book and discussion, we’ll read We Cast A Shadow, by Maurice Carlos Ruffin. Maurice’s book is a great start because:

  • It’s good
  • Folks interested in the club may have already read it
  • A re-read to get started means we can start the February book read early
  • Did I mention it’s a good book?

Maurice is the kind of author that I might not have read, if I didn’t know him personally

So, We Cast A Shadow is a great start. It’s easily acquired, both as an ebook and real paper.

First Meeting

We’ll target Thursday, January 21, 2021, 6pm, for our first gathering (via ZOOM)

NOTE: This date and time are a target. Once we have a core group, this is subject to change.


NOLA Book Club will run here ( I’ve got my personal site set up as a WordPress “network” site, so it will be easy to move it to its own website as the project grows.

Twitter: @booknola

ZuckerBook: NOLA Book Club

We’ll use hashtag #NOLAbookclub on social media.

Joining NOLA Book Club

How to join the club:

  1. Read the book!
  2. Join us on 21-January to discuss our first book.
  3. Suggest books and participate in club discussions on social media

And here we go!

Birthday Month Thoughts

Birthday Month Thoughts

Birthday Month celebrations, maybe it’s time to change?

I‘m sure you also have friends who declare their “birthday week,” or “birthday month.” I usually roll my eyes and wish my friends all the happiness in the world. I’m way too introverted to celebrate my birthday on that day, much less for seven or goddess help me, thirty days. The novel coronavirus changed my thinking on this a bit.

You know this quarantine/social distancing/lockdown hits hard when introverts develop a need to get out. My regular dose of #peopling, a #daydrinkin lunch once a month or so, morphed into #Zoomdrinkin. I miss seeing those four to six friends. Those little zoom images are some comfort, but, yeah, no.

Additionally, I declared “office hours,” where, when I checked in at a coffee shop, anyone was welcome to pull up a chair. Didn’t matter what I was working on, I’d put it aside for a little human interaction. Now? On the occasions when I go to a coffee shop, I’m outside and don’t-come-near-me. I look forward to that changing at some point in 2021.

Which brings me to my birthday, which was last Monday, 2-November. Between teaching out of town and elections, the boys at uni, celebrations almost always happened on weekends. Friends? Maybe when we had #daydrinkin several weeks later.

So, I resolve to change this in (hopefully) 2021. If we get to a more-open situation with covid, November becomes my “birthday month.” I want to do things in reverse, though. I want small-occasions with friends. Coffee, lunch, maybe sitting at my “thinking spot” along the lakefront. It shouldn’t be about me as much as about us. Catching up in person. Hugging more than we would normally, to make up for almost two years of this distancing nonsense. Early morning at Blue Dot. Mid-morning at a coffee place. Lunch. Stuff in the afternoons, on days when I’m teaching. Make it so, Number One.


Black Waterman Hemisphere #FountainPenFriday

Black Waterman Hemisphere #FountainPenFriday

My black Waterman Hemisphere is the most expensive fountain pen I own.

black waterman hemisphere

Black Waterman Hemisphere

Our second #FountainPenFriday features my most expensive pen, a black Waterman Hemisphere. As mentioned in first installment of this series, I lose pens. I leave them lying around and forget to pick them up. I’ve been known to walk away from dinner at the bar of a restaurant like Marcella’s in Columbus, Ohio, leaving the pen sitting there. It’s why I regularly carry pens that cost less than twenty dollars.

Keeping a good pen

Black Waterman hemisphere

Refillable cartridges allow the writer a wider selection of ink colors.

I belonged to a chapter of Business Network International (BNI) in the early 2000s. Writing occupied my time, both course development for clients and working on the streetcar book. Since attending BNI meetings became part of my regular routine, looking professional was important. A good pen projects a professional appearance. While the risk of losing a pen always dogged me, attending events around New Orleans made it easier to keep track of them. Hanging on to a fountain pen is actually pretty easy. When asked, “May I borrow your pen?” the answer, “All I have is a fountain pen” facilitated a polite way to decline. So, I splurged and bought a hundred-dollar pen.


black waterman hemisphere

Refilling with basic blue Waterman ink.

Stores like Office Depot offered a decent selection of fountain pens, Waterman’s selected provided me with choices within $100-$200. Paranoia about losing pens ruled the moment. I chose one on the lower end of the price range.

My black Waterman Hemisphere is skinny. Hemispheres fit nicely in a shirt pocket. Ink cartridges served me well at first. After a while, however, desire to change it up more nudged me into bottled ink. I bought a couple of refillable cartridges at the store. Now I could alternate between blue and red. As you saw last week, I’ve branched out beyond Waterman ink, thanks to my friend (and next week’s #FountainPenFriday guest blogger, Jeff Rochlin, host of The Relief Valve Podcast.

My black Waterman Hemisphere sits on my desk these days. That’s a good place for it, since most of the work is via remote now. And I still don’t take it with me out of the house much. I might lose it!

Rosewood BMHS Pen – #FountainPenFriday

Rosewood BMHS Pen – #FountainPenFriday

An inexpensive Rosewood BMHS pen kicks off our #FountainPenFriday series

rosewood bmhs pen

Rosewood BMHS Pen

rosewood bmhs pen

Every year, Brother Martin High School hosts their “Extravaganza,” an evening of food, drink, music, and dancing, wrapped around a huge silent auction. Prior to the Extravaganza itself, the school holds a “patron party” a couple of hours before the main event. Since this party was a gig for the Crusader Jazz Band, we paid up. We didn’t want to miss our now-26yo kiddo (class of 2012) playing a band gig!

rosewood bmhs pen

Because patron party attendees put up extra for more food, more drink, and the Jazz Band, they receive a party favor. It’s usually some sort of branded memento. A few years ago, that memento was a small desk set, with a rosewood pen and letter opener. Both items were laser-carved with the school’s shield and name. Somewhere along the line, my firstborn (class of 2006) swiped the rosewood BMHS pen that came with the set. One Fall, I mentioned the theft to the family. Wife went out on Amazon and bought me a rosewood fountain pen to once again complete the set.

Inexpensive Fountain Pens

I’ve been in love with fountain pens since my University of New Orleans days. I was pen-less one day, right before a test. So, I went to the UNO Bookstore to pick up an inexpensive pen. I chose a plastic UNO-branded Paper-Mate pen. It was on sale, and when I got to class, I discovered why. It was a fountain pen! While that wasn’t exactly what I wanted, it worked. I hung on to that pen for twenty-five years, losing it in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

When I began traveling extensively, delivering computer training in different cities, I didn’t want to bring an expensive pen with me. So, I bought cheap fountain pens like that UNO pen. Lose one? I’ll survive. Over time, I upgraded a bit, opting for heaver pens of better quality. As eBay grew in popularity, I discovered it was easy to buy cheap, serviceable pens.

Completing the set

I keep the rosewood pen here on my desk at home. Since it was a gift, I’d hate to lose it.

Familiar #NaPoWriMo 11

Familiar #NaPoWriMo 11


Were you really that small
At one time,
You silly Maine Coon?
I wonder, glancing at photos
Of a friend’s newly-gotcha

We gotcha-ed you
At almost four months,
You silly Main Coon
When a tiny furball
Would curl up in a lap.

Then your mane grew out,
And your bird-chirp started,
You silly Maine Coon,
Distinguishing you from the
Ginger kitty who came home
With you on the same day.

Any wistful thoughts of
Tiny kittens vanish,
As the internal motor winds up,
Volume increasing,
Chirping for attention.
Demands for cuddles require
Immediate response,
Reminding me that you are
My Familiar,
You silly Maine Coon.

©2020 Edward J. Branley

Train Ferry #NaPoWriMo 11

Train Ferry

Good-bye waves
Before 7am
Are fewer, as
Early travelers depart
Loved ones at home,
Allowing them to return
To bed,
After the Traveler
Gets up and dressed.
For the trip west

Grab the suitcase,
Hop on a streetcar
Whose mule is steady
And awake, already
Hard at work.

Board the train,
Settle into the compartment
For the trip west,
Amidst the organized chaos
That is business travel.

Tune out the sounds
Of the locomotive.
Ignore the smell
Of burning coal.
Focus on the riverfront
Loading, unloading
Moving the goods in demand
Around the country.

The turn of the wheels
Brings on a light transe
All too quickly broken
As the train slows,
Approaching the ferry landing.

Relative quiet.
Locomotive and cars
Roll down the landing
Onto the boat.
Smells from the dock
Give way to fresh air as
The crossing begins.

Again, the sensation is
The loading process reverses.
Locomotive leaves the boat.
Train re-connects.

The Journey West
Begins in earnest
From Algiers.

©2020 Edward J. Branley

Appropriation #NaPoWriMo 10


Songs about gay sex,
Songs popular in discos,
Songs sung by a lesbian
To her partner.
All end up co-opted by
White conservatives
Blissfully unaware
Of their origins.’s

Sometimes it’s the tune,
Sometimes the lyrics, that
Transcend origins, sparking
Deep feelings
In people who would burn,
Destroy the songwriter,
Because they don’t live
Their life
In lockstep with them.

Striking the feels isn’t
Usually how it works.
Ofttimes, a song gets appropriated
By people so arrogant
They believe everything belongs to
Them and Theirs

Earlier generations of Americans
Called it,
“Manifest Destiny.”


Personal Log 20200526 – Ops Center, 1862

Personal Log 20200526 – Ops Center, 1862

Personal Log 20200526 has me preparing for more computer classes.

Electrical box at N. Carrollton and Wisner, painted by Jane Brewster.

Personal Log 20200526

I’ve been fortunate during our slowdown/lockdown/shutdown period. People take training when they can’t go anywhere. That’s obviously good for the trainer. Tip of the hat to the folks that market training from Hitachi Vantara’s Global Learning group. They seized the opportunity. Pitching customers, rounding up groups, grabbing Technical Consultants with too much free time.

It helps that Hitachi dropped a new suite of management software at the start of the year. We prepared for this in the fall. The folks implementing that software know to sign up for classes. Problem is, a lot of their bosses pull the plug on their people being away from the phone for more than fifteen seconds. I may have eight to ten folks signed up, and we start class with six. I suppose there’s an argument for that as a positive, as the other two to four end up in a later class.

Either way, I’m keeping busy.

Working under quarantine

“Busy” means sitting in front of the computer, talking to my own screen, using WebEx. Still making my own coffee, which is the biggest downside to the deal. I feel my people-watching skills atrophy, as we keep this up. Even on a teaching day, I got an hour to an hour and a half of sitting out on the coffee shop patio. While I didn’t mind the (relatively) close contact of the nearby regulars, now, well, not so much. I take this high-risk condition seriously.

I managed to go out to see the trains go by a couple of times this past week. Since Friday was a “lab day,” where I didn’t have lectures scheduled, Watching the Sunset Limited make its way past Central Avenue in Old Jefferson is theraputic. I’m back to trying different locations for train watching. Sitting out and watching trains pass by the Canal Blvd. underpass is easy. Now, I’m going into City Park, and back over to where the tracks cross Bayou St. John. Time to get some cemetery perspective this week, I think.

History work

Two things coming up. I pitched Derby the idea of doing a “panel discussion” via Zoom. We’ve we’ve got the subject matter worked out. I want Mark Bologna to be the moderator, as if it was a classic panel at a symposium or gathering. Mark will lend some gravitas to the thing that goes beyond Derby and I sitting at yet another coffee shop.

I also need to set up something with Ryan Bordenave! He’s such a fount of downtown knowledge. Every time I post a photo of Canal Street, Ryan’s got something to say about it that enhances the discussion. Setting that up is on this week’s to-do.


The poetry goes well. In fact, a couple of photos that Derby’s shared on social media sparked some of the verse. I’m behind on posting them here on the website. Too many WordPress rabbit holes that are more fun to go down.


Today is 26-April. It’s the day that sailors and marines from the USS Pensacola took down the “state flag” of Louisiana that was used during the “secession year” from the US Mint on Esplanade. They hoisted the US flag in its place. Then a man named Mumford pulled it down. Butler had him executed for that offense. Mumford is recognized as a martyr to the (Lost) Cause. It’s important to remind those folks that he pulled down the flag (well, a version with fewer stars) that they, their fathers, and their grandfathers went off to Europe, the Pacific, and the Middle East, to fight under. Way too many folks grew up on a diet of the Lost Cause as fact. I’ll keep plugging.


Writing Under the Q Flag #NaPoWriMo 9

Writing Under the Q Flag #NaPoWriMo 9

Writing Under the Q Flag

Get up.
Get out!
Fresh air on
The coffee shop patio.

Handshakes become
Elbow bumps, eventually
Turning into cautious waves
From six feet away.

The solitary runner
Continues her routine
But what of the writer,
Used to that particular table
On the coffee shop patio?

Sitting at the table
At home,
In the kitchen,
Making her own coffee.

The lack of activity,
Of cars,
Even the bloody garbage truck!
The quiet of the kitchen
Dries up
Inspiration and motivation.

TV off.
Computer goes to screen save.
Phone on desk
In the other room.

Chair by the window
Pen in hand.
Slow realization
There are things
In the neighborhood
Equally inspiring.