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The much-needed change of the seasons

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to a friend in Texas and he lamented the sheer monotony of the weather there.

Coupled with COVID precautious, which essentially leech the fun out of just about everything, he felt as though he was stuck on a treadmill, re-living Groundhog Day, as the metaphor goes.

Being a Michigander, he asked how the weather was and I said the change of the seasons was underway, with the first harbinger of fall showing up in cooler nights.

Since then, the weather has taken a more decisive turn, dropping into the 60s during the day and touching the 40s in the evening.

This is what I consider Ideal Weather.  I love it.

Like just about everyone else, I figured the disease would be bad, but short-lived, as such things historically have been.  What I did not foresee is the political leadership deciding to make the precautions indefinite.  It's profoundly disappointing.

Yet, there are some bright spot.  My diocese reports that not a single case of COVID spread can be traced to Mass attendance.  Not one over months.  So maybe we can loosen things up, perhaps?

Also, I'm glad to see Big Ten football is coming back.  I was all-in on the college game a few years ago before burning out, but now I like the background noise and the occasional game.  Plus, the sports pages are a welcome change away from the howling madness of contemporary politics.

Above all, for me autumn is about tradition, times gone by and fond memories.  It is reflective and comforting.  See it locked up and shut down is particularly hard to take.

We are only getting a glimmer of light, but sometimes that all we need.  Like the distant star peeping through Mordor's gloom, it reminds us that evil can never fully triumph: somewhere, light will still shine unsullied.


Behind the curve on Bleeding Fool

The publication of Long Live Death left me a bit distracted, so I forgot to link to my two latest posts over at Bleeding Fool.

Those who remember my fondness for North and South will be amused to see that I've broached the topic over there - albeit in a shorter, funnier format.

Going back almost a month ago, I did a fun nostalgic romp on Zardoz.  Embrace the strangeness while you still can!

Apologies to anyone who missed out, now you can catch up!


A little reorganization around here

In response to some queries, I've added a new category to help people who share my interest in the Spanish Civil War.

I call it:  "Spanish Civil War."

Speaking of which, I'm still right on schedule, producing 5,000 words a week.  I don't have a projected deadline because I'm not sure how long the book will actually be.  Unlike with a novel, I don't have a story arc that needs completing, I'm instead trying to pull pieces of information together and I often find something new when I'm looking up something else.

Which is to say, I keep hopping backwards and forwards, and also breaking up chapters as I get more information.

For example, I originally was going to have one chapter on foreign involvement.  I now have five, each taking a deeper look at the issue.

I personally believe you need at least 40,000 words before you can call writing "a book."  So it will be at least that long.  The page count will be bigger because I will have to add a bibliography and index - two things that will I'm sure take time.

I'm also thinking of doing a sequel to The Vampires of Michigan as my next project (sorry Beowulf fans!) but we will see.


Memorial Day in semi-lockdown

I haven't commented here on Michigan's lockdown situation because the topic typically conjures of visceral reactions.

I bring it up today only because it's unavoidable.  There are no memorial services, no parades, none of the usual observances.

This I find difficult to take.

Michigan is sweltering under a heat wave, and it seems a lifetime away from the dark, cold days of early March when we were told millions would die of this new pestilence out of the East.

Would that we could loosen things up as fast as we cinched them down.

In any event, remember our Fallen and those who mourn for them.


Happy (Quarantined) Easter!

Amidst all that's going on, it's important to remember that the tomb is still empty.

With church services outlawed, our family has been going through the various liturgies as best we can.   If nothing else, my children have a commanding knowledge of the scriptures that are traditionally read this time of year.

I'm one of those Catholics who, now and again for perfectly awful (but I pretend they're good) reasons, skips going to mass.   Sometimes I go during the week to compensate.

I'm keenly feeling the absence.  It's just another element of the environment that leads to a general sense of irritation.  The only consolation is that the weather has been getting better and everyone in my family is okay (so far).

I hope you are similarly blessed and wish you and yours the happiest of Easters.  The doom and gloom will pass, because in the Big Story story, the Good Guys win.

Happy Easter!


Days of Disasters Passed

Though it seems far longer, Michigan's anti-pandemic measures are not even a week old.  The colleges went to remote classes a week ago, school was out last week, but subsequent orders regarding bars, theaters, churches and now nail salons are merely days old.

Things are moving quickly, but slowly.

Winston Churchill wrote that the thing that scared him most during World War II was the Battle of the Atlantic.  The heroism of Royal Air Force pilots and the unflinching courage of the British people could not prevail against the primordial forces of starvation.

There were no dramatic turning points to that battle, just lines on a chart.

That's where we are today - watching lines on a chart to see if we are winning or losing.  The moments of courage, fear and loss can tug at our hearts, but the real battlefield is an impersonal spreadsheet.

As I watch civil authorities struggle to pull resources together and fight an impersonal and implacable enemy, my mind goes back to the "war" against another, similar enemy.

In that case, it was an oil spill.

I guess that's what happens when you get old - you think you've seen it all before.  And maybe you have, but back then there were some people saying it was a sign of certain doom and others claiming it was nothing but hype.

The risk is when you think you've seen it before, and it looks like it, but you didn't.  There's something new, and doing things the same old way might not work.

I'm not one for overtly public professions of faith, but I hope you and yours are doing well and keeping your spirits up.  


Thanksgiving after a health scare

One of the kids hurt her leg this week so we were off to the hospital. 

Strange to think that not even three months ago I was sitting there wondering what was going on with my heart.

It turns out, not much.  A unique combination of a virus and overexertion caught me sideways.  I'm a bit more cautious about both now.

Naturally, having a scare like that leaves one with a greater appreciation for the little things in life, and so this Thanksgiving I'm thankful for just being here.

I hope everyone enjoys their holiday.  Happy Thanksgiving!


A very snowy Veterans Day

Today I will continue my tradition of playing "Taps" out at Veterans Memorial Park (that's the big monument in front of the Hall of Justice).

It's never a good performance because playing a brass instrument in the COLD is tough.  Doing it with snow flying only adds to the degree of difficulty.

Still, the forms must be observed, and I'm honored to do it.  In fact, I started playing "Taps" while a student at MSU and it never occurred to me when I was doing it back then that I'd be a career military guy.  Strange are the fates.

I encourage my fellow vets to avail themselves of some excellent deals today, and of course - thank you!


Veterans Day 2018 and a third-generation bugler

This morning I got up - and as I've done every year since 1991 - played "Taps" at precisely 11 a.m. to mark the end of World War I.

For 17 of those years I've been uniform, carrying on a family tradition of sorts.

I've played "Taps" at the funerals of both of my grandfathers, rendering them final military honors for their service during World War II.

I will likely play it for my father, who was a reservist during the 1960s. 

My father's grandfather was a bugler during the Great War, seeing combat duty in France and later serving in the Army of Occupation.  He wrote an account of his military service and I was interested to see that he and I visited some of the same places in Europe during our military careers. 

People today have lost much of their sense of history.  Ours is a generation with an obsessive compulsion about the present and the near-future.  We forget the past and ignore the future.

But the past continues to shape our future and it's crucial to look back to where we came from to have an idea of where we might go.

In a lot of ways, we're still working out the problems that emerged a century ago.  The collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the resulting chaos in the middle east, the legacy of colonialism in Africa and even the fall of the Manchu Dynasty in China are still driving events.

Three generations after my great-grandfather marched in the victory parade for the War to End All Wars, they're still with us. 


The futures we didn't get

My latest project on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is moving at a crawl. 

Actually, that's not true - the pace is a crawl, but it's moving in fits and starts.  A week ago I cranked out more than 3,ooo words in a single evening.  Since then:  nothing.

I admit, part of that was Halloween, which takes up extra time.  A week from now I might have written 10,000 words.  It's hard to say.

What makes this project different from the others is that it isn't escapist.  It doesn't take place in outer space or on another planet.  It's based on real-life experience.

On the one hand, that makes it easier to write because I know how it's going to end.  I know pretty much everything that I want to happen.

Which is also the problem, because I can't really surprise myself with character development or some new plot twist that reveals itself to me as I write.  That makes it inherently less creative.  My imagining is operating under constraints I haven't faced before.

I imagine this is one of the things that bedevils the writers of historical fiction.  You have to get the details right or the thing won't work. 

The plus side of this is that you don't have to think of everything - reality did that for you.  In a sense, my new book is historical fiction, it's just that the "history" was only eight years ago.

Still, looking at 2010 vs today, it's an interesting contrast.  I don't think the world changed that much in eight years, but my understanding of it has.

One big difference is the oil industry.  Back then people seriously believed that the world supply of oil was past its peak and we would be facing ever-greater shortages.  I actually reached out to a web site called The Oil Drum which was dedicated to tracking this.  Many of its commenters were petroleum engineers and industry specialists who pondered how to adapt to the coming scarcity.

It turned out that they were wrong.  The Oil Drum itself shut down in 2013.  The link above goes it its archive. 

But in 2010, theirs was a popular view and national policy was being made in accordance with it.

All of which to say is that certain futures can change remarkably fast, leaving us to look back only a few years later wondering "what were we thinking?"