Geography and Mindset: How far out do the borders need to be?

I was glancing over a piece I wrote a few years back, about “Is Russia European or Asian.” In it, I pointed out that the western border of Russia gets pushed as far west as possible whenever Russia has a strong ruler. Why? Geography plays a role, much as geography helped China for so long, then turned into a terrible limit (at least as far as the Chinese were concerned.) Geography is not destiny, but in the days before modern transportation and communication, it certainly played a role in cultural development. Continue reading


Augustine and Calvin, Please Pick up the White Courtesy Phone, Paging Augustine and Calvin . . .

Original sin. As I’ve written before, you don’t have to believe in the literal accuracy of Genesis or in the doctrine of Original Sin to find it a useful metaphor for why the world is less-than-perfect, and the people in the world likewise. The idea that at some point, humans went astray from the divine ideal and as a result the perfect world became corrupt, permeates a lot of Western and Islamic teaching, even among those who profess not to believe in traditional religion. Looking over events since June 2019, I’m tempted to call these past twelve months “The Year of Original Sin,” because that’s what’s been trumpeted by activists of various stripes. Not the Christian doctrine, but variations on it, often even harsher than the Christian version is claimed to be. Continue reading

Not the Words I Learned

I got volunteered for singing with a group at an outdoor July 4 sort of thing. (I left the room to visit the ladies’ lounge. Don’t do that during a committee meeting. I know better, but Nature had other plans. Anyway.) Part of it includes singing the five service anthems. The setting uses the almost-latest versions, some of which do not match the texts I learned.

Since I learned all five from WWII veterans, some of the changes rank down there with some of the changes made to hymns, in my opinion. Others just make me blink a few times. Continue reading

Texts for a Not-Exactly-Wedding

So, I’m working on “Familiar Vows,” a short-story about André and Lelia’s ceremony in Utah. Which is not technically a wedding, because she is not a member of the church. Without being a member in good standing and meeting a few other qualifications, Lelia won’t receive the recommendation for a Temple wedding. André said he would not push her about joining the church, and that stands. However, there are a few officially-approved options, and many Latter-day Saints couples who do have a Temple wedding have something else for friends and family who are not able to attend the religious ceremony.

That’s what André and Lelia plan to do. Provided that the Universe/Fate/whatever doesn’t decide to pull a fast one on them. This means planning something that does not include religious vows, but does have some religious elements in it. And that does not, most certainly not, use First Corinthians 13 in it, because Lelia and André (and Tay and Rodney) agree that 1) it is overdone and 2) it’s really not about the union of a man and a woman in holy matrimony. And not the verses from Ruth, either, for a similar reason. So, what texts do they consider? Continue reading

Teaching About Evil

Part of what I teach includes the history of the 20th century. That means the Armenian Genocide, the Holodomor, the Holocaust, Stalin’s purges, the Great Leap Forward, the Killing Fields, the Vietnamese Boat People, the Partition of India (and the 1970 creation of Bangladesh), the Cultural Revolution, and various smaller revolutions and upsets. There’s a lot of good and great things as well, but for some students, this is their first sustained collision with nasty people doing bad things.

They don’t like it. Continue reading

Back from FoolsCon and Tired

So, I got to rediscover that I’m not 18 and able to be wildly productive after two nights of badly interrupted sleep. The storms that came through Sunday and Monday mornings (as in 0100 and 0300 mornings) get credit for my feeling a bit fuzzy (Monday afternoon).

It got a bit moist Sunday morning.

“The water is wide, I cannot cross ‘oer . . .”

Continue reading

“There Was Movement at the Station

For the word had passed around/ that the colt from Old Regret had got away

And joined the wild bush horses./ He was worth a thousand pound/

And all the cracks had gathered to the fray . . .”

Thus begins one of the most famous poems in Australian literature, one of a few made into a movie (two, the first one sticks with the poem, the second, yeah, well, I like both of them, so nyah.) The title is “The Man from Snowy River” by A. B. “Banjo” Patterson. Patterson and Rudyard Kipling are probably the two of the best horse-poets ever, in terms of capturing the sense of motion and energy in horses. They are also both Romantics, in the sense of emotion and story. Continue reading

Friday News

Intensely Familiar is now available.

All is not well when André returns to the US after a six-month deployment. His wife needs help, he’s exhausted, and something strange stalks the mages of Riverton. Something that seems to know a little too much about some of the magic workers and their habits . . .

Author Note: This is a darker book than earlier volumes in this series (I know, I know). I chose to leave it that way. The next two volumes are lighter.