A Strange November

This is the mildest start of November I've ever seen.  It is no unusual for Halloween to be balmy (or freezing), but the long streak of warm weather is uncanny.  I keep running into people who smile at the weather and then shudder at the thought that we'll be "paying for it later."

Perhaps.  Sometimes there are mild winters.  A succession of these added fuel to the global warming movement (which was strange, since mild winters are a good thing - more please!).

I don't like to bring up current politics, but I will note that while huge sums of money are being spent on campaigns (my mailbox is hit with glossy fliers every single day), no one seems really interested in it.  The "yard sign wars" are the most restrained I've seen.  I don't know if it's people not caring, the campaigns not spending money or what, but the political signs have robust competition from contractors and the virtue-signalling Yard Sign Calvinists.

(Speaking of which, after decades of pondering, I've realized a similar term describes the hatchback covered with leftist bumper-stickers - Bumper Sticker Calvinism.)

My little burg's most common sign is in favor of the library millage renewal, which will certainly pass.

I'm not going to complain about either, and I'm approaching Election Day with more calmness than a felt a month ago.  I must keep reminding myself that God ultimately decides who wins, and if "my cause" loses, I should embrace that cross and also ask myself what lesson we are being taught.

In the meantime, I need to keep going on walks and even take a few bike rides while I still can.

Time for a new 40k discussion forum?

For two decades, I got my 40k fix at one of two discussion sites.  First there was Portent, which started in the 1990s and was for a time the premier news and discussion site for all things Games Workshop.  Sometime in the Aughts, the proprietor had enough, and sold the site to some of the administrators.  That became Warseer.  There was a seamless transition - new accounts were needed but everyone kept their handles and so things went.  I eventually lost interest in being "current" in 40k, but continued to chat with 2nd edition enthusiasts.

I also developed Conqueror: Fields of Victory on Warseer, and the site hosted a "sticky" threat where one could actually read how it came about and discussion about what mechanics it should use.

Alas, a few years ago there was an attack on the site that knocked it down for months and when it came back, most of its users had gone away.  Since then, a few straggled back, but it was mostly a ghost town, a vast site populated with conversations that were frozen in time.

Further complicating efforts to revive it, the site owners refused to authorize a much-needed reorganization, nor were they punctual about updating site credentials, which meant users had to click through warnings to even get there.

It's been down for a bout a week now, and while it has not year reached the "site not found" stage, I fear the end is not far off.

It's a reminder that the internet is by its nature a very temporary thing, and a beloved site with thousands of users can vanish in the blink of an eye.  Warseer may yet come back, but I think it will only continue its zombie existence. 

A large part of the problem is the competition by facebook (the site has a page) but I have no interest in giving my content to tech billionaires.  I guess I should check to see if any of the other contemporaries are still out there.

Peak Color in Michigan

A busy week has left me scant time (or energy) to write, but happily I was able to enjoy the height of the fall color season.

This is one of the things that makes autumn so poignant.  The season doesn't just signal the transition from summer to winter, it is constantly in motion, each day reflecting an irreversible change from the day before.

This is entirely unlike winter and summer, where the seasons sort of settle in.  Spring is also a time of transition, but even the most spectacular floral bloom cannot compare the majesty of an entire forest painted red and gold.

There is also the sadness that peak color is immediately followed by the "little death" of winter.  No sooner to the branches blaze than the leaves fall away.

This is why "color tours" exist, and our family conducted its own miniature version last week, savoring the peak color at the Straits before watching it follow us home.  Halloween is close and in these parts it's even money on whether comfortably warm or bitterly cold.


June is upon us!

Okay, this post is only six days late, but I've been very busy doing Important Stuff which does not include writing.

I digress.  June marks the opening of summer in Michigan.  It's technically late spring, but everything is greened out and the oppressive humid heat has not yet set in.  School is winding down, and the weekend festivals are underway.

Are these a thing in warm-weather climates?  I honestly don't know, but in Michigan every weekend from May to September is some kind of festival.  Traverse City is famous for the Cherry Festival and Holland has the Tulip Festival.  There are art festivals in Ann Arbor and East Lansing.

Then there are the lesser festivals - the Mint Festival in St. Johns and the Potato Festival in Posen.

It sometimes seems that if you just drive the back roads in any given direction during the summer, you'll stumble into a festival for something.

Michigan winters suck.  Yeah, we have decent amounts of snow for skiing and sledding and such, and sometimes crystalline skies, but much of the time it is relentlessly overcast.

That makes summer that much more enjoyable - a 90-day party that winds down with the coming of fall, which is the crown jewel of the state.  Fall in Michigan is magnificent, but also fleeting.

Summer is about sustained fun, and it's just getting started.

Winter Weather

There is something invigorating about sub-zero temperatures.  Maybe it's the imperative to keep warm, or find some extra blankets.

There's also the abstract shapes of blowing snow, drifts forming and shifting, that mesmerizes.

The time after the new year is often depressing, with little sunlight and bitter cold, but I find it refreshing in a way.  With deep cold one also gets bright clear blue skies, which are unusual in Michigan winters.  Usually, it's a sullen overcast with few gleams of light, but when the mercury reaches single digits, the sun comes and and throw a blinding light off the snow.

I don't know that I will ever be able to leave winter behind.  After nearly a half-century here, I understand why people want a break, and I'm much less eager to drive through the snow and ice as I used to be.

Slush and freezing rain I can do without, but the profound quiet of winter is something I don't think I could live without.

Goodbye 2021, Hello 2022

While I try to look on the positive side of things, it is difficult for me to look back at 2021 fondly. 

Setting aside the political environment and deteriorating economy, there has been a great deal of anguish for those near and dear to me.   It is very easy to look at the year as an unmitigated disaster and wallow in the comforting but self-defeating waters of pessimism.

That is why it is so important to seek out good news.  In fact, there is a lot of goodness out there, if one only looks a little deeper.

For example, 2021 saw the birth of my grandson, hopefully the first of many.  He is an absolute joy, milder in temper than his sister, and rapidly gaining on her in size.

Despite the constant drumbeat of pandemic, none of my elder relations succumbed to the disease and while our holiday gatherings were postponed yet again, there is hope that someday we will be together again.  This also encouraged me to spend time with my other, less reclusive relations, which was something that otherwise wouldn't have happened.

Spiritually, I have gained a deeper understanding of my faith and that has been a great blessing.  I think for all the pain of 2021's challenges, our family is closer than it was a year ago.

All in all, I think what we should all strive to do is remember the joy and leave behind the pain.  Too often we do the opposite, clinging to disappointments when we should let them go, remembering them only as an obstacle we faced and survived.

Here's to a blessed new year.


A Day 'Up North'

Michigan has several geographic descriptors that mystify outsiders.

Some are pretty easy to figure out.  The "U.P." is the Upper Peninsula, and its inhabitants are "Yoopers."  When one speaks of going "north of the bridge," this is the Mackinaw Bridge, which links the two peninsulas together. 

There is no "L.P.", however.  That's "The Mitten," and everyone is happy to give you directions by pointing on their hand.

The Thumb is an obvious geographic feature, but one of the more ambiguous ones is "up north."  This vast expanse is essentially everything north of...something.  Typically Lansing, but no one thinks of Flint, Bay City or Saginaw as being really "up north."  They're too urban.

Most Michiganders look forward to a weekend or even a day spent "up north," and yesterday the family spent went up to Traverse City and spent the day (and evening) at a resort before returning south.  (There is no term for southern Michigan.  It's basically not "up north.")

There is something about being there that is simply relaxing.  It is rural, filled with natural beauty and things move a little slower.

Which is why we keep coming back.



I experience a certain amount of sadness when Halloween is over and November comes around.  When I was young, it was the natural denouement of having a bag full of candy after a night of costumed fun.

As I got older, however, I realized that it was also the division between the two phases of autumn.

The first phase is marked by a bite in the evening air, a welcome chill that helps you sleep with the windows open.  The weather is still warm, but the leaves are starting to change and you get that familiar nostalgia for the Good Old Days.  As someone who spent eight years in marching band, early fall has a particular resonance, and I look back with fondness on the anticipation and consummation of the football season.

The second phase, however, is less benign.  The weather worsens, the sky darkens, daylight fades and everything takes on a glum, bare appearance.  Late autumn is truly depressing: brown grass, bare trees, and cold rain.

There is a reason that the onset of winter is actually anticipated in northern climates.  A fresh blanket of snow covers up the drab detritus of the past summer and the soggy ground becomes hard once more.  The time for skiing and sledding is once more at hand, and Christmas is closing in.

But in between, it's a pretty depressing landscape.  That's the part I dread.

Geek Guns ain't dead yet

While I don't normally do "link posts" to my work over at Bleedingfool.com, some of my readers might be interested to know that I added a new installment to the Geek Guns series, this one centering on Dirty Harry's .44 Magnum (Smith and Wesson Model 29).

The feature ran for 23 straight weeks before I took a break, and while I don't have a follow-up series planned, I will continue to add new installments as the opportunities present themselves.

The primary challenge is of course access to iconic weapons.  For example, I'd love to do a feature on the Colonial Marine weapons from Aliens, but I don't know anyone with a Thompson submachinegun (which is what those were).  I guess I need to hang out with a wealthier crowd.


We Apologize for the Interruption of Service

For the last couple of days this site was inaccessible due to an unanswered renewal notice.  You'd think that having multiple services from the same vendor for the same sort of thing would be consolidated into one, easy to make payment.

But you'd be wrong.

Partly due to the Lovecraftian web of cut-outs, blind trusts and shell corporations that I use to manage this site and partly due to my own laziness, one of the renewals lapsed and we were down.

Happily, I've just made a deal to keep the Empire out of here forever renew the site for multiple years.

So at least we have that, which is nice.