Dies Irae and a Red Moon

Oh, and howling cats. Monday evening was a touch creepy.

My chorus is doing a run-through of the Mozart Requiem in order to see who knows how much, where (new) trouble spots might be, and to get everyone used to singing from the same edition, since not all of us have used this particular publisher’s edition. It’s not a “serious” note-by-note work through, but more of a refresher so we can all get a sense of where we are and what we need to woodshed on our own before next fall.

By popular demand we finished the rehearsal by repeating the sequence that concludes with the Lachrymosa. This includes the Dies Irae. (The basses enjoy sounding grim and scary. They enjoy it a wee bit too enthusiastically for my comfort.)

So, we wrapped up just after sunset and scattered to our respective abodes. I drove home, checked the Day Job e-mail, and got ready to flop into bed. However, I glanced out the window and beheld a dark red moon. This is . . . not the normal color for said orb.*

I went to a different window (as one does) and looked again. A very creepy red moon remained caught in the still-bare branches of the tree. I informed Mom and Dad Red that there appeared to be a bad moon rising. They were rather impressed by the color.

As I got ready for bed, I heard howls. OK, this is where my imagination went into overdrive. 1) Singing about the Day of Wrath and Judgement, 2) with a red moon in the sky and 3) howls and wails greeting the moon. I wasn’t quite to the “on my knees reciting the mea culpa, Kyrie, and three acts of contrition” stage, nor was I diving for my silver knife and the garlic jar, but I was Not Happy.

The howling changed to a yowl, followed by a different feline yowling back. It was two cats disputed right-of-way on the fence. That’s normal. Very normal. I started to relax. When I looked at the moon again, it had faded to a tan-cream. I calmed down, told my imagination to go jump in the lake, and called it a night.

*A forest and range fire in New Mexico sent smoke over us, which tinted the moon. The rational part of my brain knew this. The brain stem and very, very old part of my brain completely ignored the rational bit.

Thursday Teaser

OK, I know which of you planted this. But I have 0 idea of where it is going. Maybe.

Lelia’s phone rang on Saturday night. She glanced at the number, boggled, and answered it. “Lestrang.”

A strained voice whispered, “Mrs. Lestrang, Carl. I need help, yours and your husband. Do you know any Healers?”

“Yes, a Healer mage and her apprentice.” Shit, this is not sounding good. “For you or for, ah, a relative?” André gave her a strange look, and she mouthed “Marine.” His eyes went wide and he flowed to his feet, easing closer so he could listen in.

“Thanks be. Um, relative. Can you stabilize a gate if I start it?”

“Yes, but where? Not the shop,” she warned. “It’s too hard to get people in and out discreetly.”

She heard a woman’s voice, moaning with pain. Carl said something in a different language, then “At the Healer’s please? In the name of the White Christ ye worship, I beg ye, please?”

“We’ll be there. I’ll warn her that you are coming. Magical and physical trauma?”

“Yes. Carl clear.” Silence.

Lelia turned to André. “Shadow, we need to get to Krimhilde’s now. I’ll call her and warn her that a patient is gating in close to her shields. A woman, double trauma. She’s with Carl.”

“Oh [bleep]. I’ll get our bags and meet you at the truck. Ears, get moving!” He barked orders. Tay and Rodney hurried to the utility room as Lelia put on her shoes and grabbed her own work bag, turned off the lights and triple checked that the stove and oven and iron were still turned off.

As André backed the pickup out of the garage, she called Krimhilde. The Healer answered on the second ring. “Lelia. What’s wrong?”

“Sprouts, an ally of ours just called. He’s gating in close to your place with a patient for you, magical and physical trauma, a female. I’ll catch the gate and stabilize it once he gets it started. The woman is probably human, but I can’t guarantee it. I’ll explain later. Shadow and I vouch for them, and we’ll do what we can to help.”

Pure professionalism came over the phone. “Female, magical and physical trauma, probably human. Bring them in outside the house shield, and then we’ll go from there. Is Shadow with you?”

“Yes.”

“Good. It’s been a while since I’ve handled major physical trauma, and I might need his skills to get the patient stabilized. I’ll be inside the shields, by the driveway to the house, waiting. Once the gate closes, I’ll let you in.”

Lelia nodded. “Can do. Driveway by the house, you come to us once the gate closes.”

“Sprouts clear.”

Lelia closed the phone and rested her eyes. She’d need all her energy to catch the gate and stabilize it. She’d never worked with Carl before. He’d be a sorcerer, so if André could help, it would be better. He knew the flavor of sorcery magic far better than she did. He stayed quiet, intent on driving. Their Familiars too held silence. Was that good or bad? They’re probably praying that he doesn’t hit anyone or cast a hex on another driver. When André reverted to “combat driving” mode, it got mildly interesting, for “passengers leave claw marks on the seats and headliner” levels of interesting.

André parked at one end of the driveway, blocking it and hiding anything that might happen between the pickup and the house. Lelia got out and helped Tay onto her shoulder. “I hope nothing is following them,” she murmured, drawing power from him and from the night around them.

“Yeah. Now you worry about that?” He wrapped his tail around her neck. “But yeah. I just hope he and the girl didn’t piss off his uncle, and this is the result.”

Oh shit. I didn’t— She felt gate energy starting to gather. She heard Shadow and Ears moving behind her. As soon as she saw the first hint of the gate’s form, Lelia sent shadow magic out and under it, weaving a support around the blue and brown pillars. She caught a glimpse of darkness and what might have been stone in a cavern or tunnel, then saw two people. Carl she recognized, and a fair-haired woman. The gate stabilized. “I have it, Marine, come through,” Lelia called.

Carl nodded, turned, and half-carried the woman across the threshold. Shadow met them and got them clear as Lelia took the gate, then released her magic and the other power back into the other plane.  As the gate closed, a shield to her right opened. “Amen, Selah, Deo gratias, amen,” Lelia whispered. She returned what magic she could to Tay, then staggered, moving clear of the others.

“Not a hellhound, but related. We weren’t the target, but we got caught between them and a wall,” Carl said. “Teeth and claws both before I could kill it. You’re closer than my uncle and the others.”

(C) Alma T. C. Boykin 2021 All Rights Reserved

Broad History of a Flat Place

A re-post from 2017. Some thoughts on people and places and how humans are Odd.

I’ve been on the road a great deal recently, traveling with friends or going to a regional history meeting. I’m following old routes, some of the time: rivers, chains of rainwater lakes, little swales in the landscape that catch water and gradually lead to canyons, then to the eastern low plains. Other routes belong to machines rather than ancient men, pathways laid in straight lines from city to city, diverting only to avoid the impossible, or to reach the occasional older market. No dramatic terrain meets the eye, no startling contrast other than that of sky and ground meeting somewhere far, far away. Continue reading

What Exactly is a Sufliit Fica, Anyway?

Like so many things dealing with faith and things of the spirit as well as things of the heart . . . it’s complicated. The literal translation of Arthur’s phrase is “child-female of the spirit/soul.” So adopted daughter would fit, but there are so many connotations within the clans that poor Lelia would probably toss her hands into the air and go, oh, sort books or try to get all the Familiar fur off of her wardrobe or something less complicated than trying to understand it all.

As series readers know, Arthur started out hiring Lelia because he needed a clerk and “shop girl,” or guy, who was part of the goth/ neo-Romantic scene and who didn’t ask too many questions. Did he see something else in her at the time? No, although after meeting Mrs. Smith-Rogers, he sympathized more with Lelia’s choice of the streets over “proper society.” Tay’s arrival complicated matters, but not excessively, and in some ways made things easier for Arthur in terms of mentally categorizing his employee. Then she proved to be a Hunter. That . . . took a bit of sorting out, and that’s when Arthur started looking at her in a different light. She moved from “employee” to “dependent/vassal” and then to “potential near-equal.” When he passed the information to the other clan Elders, they strongly encouraged him to keep a closer eye on her, something he was inclined to do anyway. After working together for that long, he’d become fond of her. He could trust her.

He recognized André as a Hunter the first time they met, which explains his somewhat hostile reaction, then acceptance as he came to understand that André was Lelia’s Hunting partner. That was good – it is not safe to Hunt alone. So when André disappeared, and Lelia decided to go looking for him, Arthur approved. He’d “read” in her that she was about to move up into being a full Hunter, and thus he had acquired the St. Michael medallion and approached Fr. Patel about blessing it appropriately. She had become more, far more, than just an employee. She was Arthur’s protegé, perhaps even the heir that had been denied him.

What Lelia didn’t know, and doesn’t know, is that when she went on the Great Hunt, Arthur spent the night worrying and praying. The brief call that she was back, successful, meant more to him than she wants to know. And then to offer her first-born son as a name-child, something Arthur knew with every fiber of his being that he could never, ever have? When she offered him that privilege, he suspected that a different relationship existed between them, one that went beyond any legal adoption. Thus his asking his oldest sister as well as Dumitra to be present when he met his nume fiiu, in order to confirm his suspicions. After André, Lelia, and Thomas Arthur left, the women agreed. Arthur’s intuition was correct. He and Lelia shared a soul-deep connection that extended far past just being Hunters.

The clans do not believe in reincarnation, exactly, or in preexistance of souls in the same way that the Latter-day Saints and others do. What they do believe is that certain individuals are related in their hearts and spirits, even though they might not be born to the same parents, or be genetic father and daughter (in this case.) This tie can be stronger than blood alone, and such souls will search across generations to find each other, if need be. The Great God and His Lady have reasons for this, reasons far beyond the ken of mortals, but it is so. So Lelia is Arthur’s daughter in every way as far as the clan is concerned, even though she is not literal blood of his blood. His soul found hers, and the reverse, and they are family. Once Arthur made his claim, and his two witnesses confirmed it, the matter was closed. No one dared challenge him, even the younger Hunters, because they knew very well what the price would be. The Elders also let it be know that the clan needed shadow-mage allies, although Arthur’s older brother balked for a long time.*

Because souls call to souls, and spiritual gifts can pass down a family line in a similar fashion, “the little one” being a very, very strong Healer as well as land-connected makes perfect sense to Arthur and his sisters. His mother’s spirit passed through him and Lelia to Deborah. The same thing transpired on her paternal side, giving her the rare double gift. That she also got a full dose of her bunicot’s stubbornness and determination, well, that won’t surprise anyone either, since Lelia shares that with her suflit talshu. (Do NOT get Dumitra’s mother or Arthur’s older sister started on “just how much of a pain is Arthur, anyway?” unless you have a few years to listen to stories. They love him dearly, worry about him, and are firmly convinced that their parents conceived him under the moonlight on St. Elias Eve or on some other equally uncanny occasion.)

Lelia needed a father’s love and guidance, something Uncle Leopard sort-of modeled before she met Arthur. Arthur needed someone to love, to fill a place in his heart and spirit that he believed would be empty forever, destroyed by his past. She gave him hope for the future in a way that he’d lost for, let us just say a very, very long time. Lelia wasn’t entirely joking when she wondered why her role in life seemed to be “keeping predators from falling apart.” The priestess and guardian in the Old Land would have said, “because the Great God and Lady wish it to be, so that the Defender’s Hands may fulfill their duty and find souls’ ease.” She doesn’t understand exactly what causes the men such pain, but she understands all too well that they hurt sometimes, and need a quiet, strong woman to accept them for what they are and to love them without prying. Not that either André or Arthur would use those words.

That Lelia is also a Defender of the Lady, like her spirit-and-heart’s father, well . . .

*Arthur’s older brother . . . is a little bit set in his ways, and one of those was included assuming that no one from outside his blood family could be fully trusted, especially not true outsiders. He came around. Eventually. Draku played a role in that. Something about Skender and André sharing, ahem, a common enemy. 😉

Anzac Day 2021

Today is Anzac Day, the Australian and New Zealand version of Memorial Day.

‘They shall not Grow Old’. Fair Use under Creative Commons. Image Source: https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2014/04/26/anzac-day/

This year, some of the regional governments seem to feel that commemorations are best kept small and private, instead of allowing people to gather as is proper. Not everyone agrees with this.

Monday is Anzac Day observed. Thank you to all Australians and New Zealanders who served and who are still serving.

When I was in Australia, my parents made a special point to take Sib and I to the war memorial in Sidney. You look down on this statue from above. It is very thought provoking. We also went to the Australian Military History museum in Canberra. I had no idea all the conflicts Australia had contributed troops to – a lot.

The figure in the war Memorial in Sidney. Fair use from: http://www.changesinlongitude.com/australia-military-history-victoria-barracks/

Lest we forget, lest we forget.

Grey Goo and Human Wave

It started as a complaint about a certain type of sci-fi/fantasy story that drags the reader into the Slough of Despond . . . and leaves them to drown, emotionally and perhaps spiritually if not physically.

In March of 2012 (!), Sarah A Hoyt issued “a manifesto” demanding books that didn’t drag readers into the mire. A spate of depressing, anti-human, morose, “no one is good,” “the bad guy is just the same as the good guy” books had pushed her over the edge, leading to a call for uplifting, inspiring, human-centered sci-fi and fantasy. They could have sorrow, and tragedy, but had to be inspiring and hopeful as well. And well written, and entertaining. No preaching, please, unless done very, very well.

Other writers and fans picked up her idea and ran with it. Not long after, John C. Wright coined the term “Superversive” to describe positive fiction that sought to inspire while entertaining. The “school” that developed from his idea is more Christian-centered than is Human Wave, but the two overlap a heck of a lot, and share the same goals – fun books that don’t leave readers racing to take a shower and scrub with Brillo™ to get the grey ick off of themselves.

Indie books had been around for, oh, two or so years. Yes, small presses and vanity presses had existed, but self-publishing of the sort we take for granted today was very, very new. And it opened a niche for writers who wanted to publish fun, pro-people stories. The kind the then-Big-Eight were buying and selling. Sarah Hoyt, Amanda Green, Kate Paulk, Baen Books, and a few others kept pushing Human Wave books, although not always by that name. Sarah coined the term, and it describes a feeling more than a checklist. Baen had been around for a while, and you could safely bet that anything with the Baen logo on the spine would be hopeful, even if it wasn’t entirely your cup of tea.

Nine years later, Human Wave is still going strong. The Big 5 are still cranking out award winning titles that more people are avoiding in droves because . . . they’re not fun. Human Wave is usually fun. Human Wave laughs at life, even when the world is going to Hades in a fishing creel. It doesn’t have checklists, or Great Messages that are underlined, highlighted, and with a test at the end of the book. Human wave entertains, it uplifts spirits, it is hope. Even when things are grim and dark, hope always shines through in Human Wave stories. All of which explains why more and more sci-fi and fantasy fans are slipping over to the indie side and sampling books, anime, games, webcomics and other comics, and stuff that entertains without preaching.

I write Human Wave. I can’t help myself. I don’t want to read Grey Goo. If I want to be mired in despair, I’ll read newspapers and HR training materials, and the Congressional Record. I want a world where good is rewarded, evil is punished, the good guys get to enjoy some peace and happiness, and parents love their kids (and vice versa). Or as André Lestrang put it, “Will you settle for ‘happily for the moment and we remembered to get milk on our way home?’ “

Life’s too short to read Grey Goo!

Heating-Degrees and Planting

In the US west (west of the 100th Meridian, or roughly the 20″ rainfall line), we worry more about drought than anything when we consider crop success or losses. Moisture, then too much heat, then frost seems to be the usual priority list.

Not this year. It is too cool to plant cotton, and maize is . . . interesting, based on the hybrids commonly grown in this area. The winter wheat looks OK, or did as of Sunday afternoon’s windshield survey.

When we talk about energy use in a building, we refer to “heating degree days,” based on a temperature of 65 F. In theory, at that temperature, a building uses the minimum amount of energy to be heated or cooled. However, I have heard it used in agriculture, as a short-hand for growing degree days. Growing degree days refers to the amount of heat energy needed for plants and insects to germinate, grow, and mature. They are very, very important in thinking about yield development and what type of seed to plant, if you are in an area that has a comparatively short growing season.

Different plant species have different GDD optima, but most food crops (corn, many wheats, soybeans, sorghum) do better above 50-55F, and growth levels off above 85F or so. Cotton needs a minimum of 60F, while alfalfa can take 41F. Soil temperature is also important, because if the soil is below a certain temperature, the seeds won’t germinate. They stay dormant, then rot if there’s enough moisture. There’s a “sweet spot” for ideal planting conditions, and then again for ideal growing conditions. Too hot and things can bake if the weather is dry, plus bugs get a head-start. Too cool and growth is slow and yields don’t reach their best level. Different pest plants also do better under different conditions. (Some places in the US and elsewhere have fields underwater. Unless you grow rice, that’s not a great situation, and even then you need the water to recede from time to time.)

Right now, the Texas Panhandle has been cool and dry. Too cool for cotton to be planted, and for most of the maize (corn) hybrids that are common in the area. If a farmer usually plants 120-day corn (estimated days to maturity and harvest), switching to 90-day corn can’t be done quickly. First you have to find someone with the seed, then get it down here, and so on. We’re pushing the northern edge of cotton growth up here, because we are cooler than where cotton usually grows (Deep South, South Plains). With cool soil and chilly weather, the farmers can’t get seed into the ground. This pushes back maturity and harvest, and no one wants unripe cotton to get hit by a freeze or snow (like October of 2019.) Ditto food crops.

Traditionally, US farmers worried about drought and heat, while Europe worried about cold and wet. This spring? Lots of the US and Europe are cold and wet. Solar energy output is low, which doesn’t help things like tomatoes. Anecdata about hone-grown tomatoes suggests that people are having to use cold-climate tomato breeds farther and farther south, and have been for the last decade or so. Canada has lost a lot of its grain to cold and wet weather the past few years. Global warming? Perhaps, but certainly not this spring, based on the weather patterns, and it is year-to-year that we produce food and fiber.

The High Plains region had a hard freeze the past two nights, with high temperatures in the 40s-50s. Things are supposed to warm over the next few days, then cool again. The Midwestern grain belt? Cool and damp. I haven’t been watching grain futures to see what the market thinks, but I would not be at all surprised to see futures prices start going up if the planting prognosis continues to be less than great.

I like cool weather for being out and about in. It’s not so great for agriculture.

WP Delenda Est

I had a post for today, and ended up finishing it in the older WP interface. That version disappeared and cannot be restored, as I just discovered after multiple attempts to get it to post.

My bad, I should have triple checked. Content resumes tomorrow.

What Overcrowding?

I took a different route this weekend for part of my run downstate, in order to avoid the construction Purgatory that is I-40.

Remind me about global overpopulation again.

This was on the way home, same route, facing northwest. Just your typical Panhandle pasture.

Big sky – not just in Montana.

It was good to get out, away from the city. I felt a weight lifting as I left people (and traffic!) behind. Yes, it is a mildly rough two land farm-to-market road. It’s not quite as convenient as the interstate, or as the interstate would be if it were not torn up, narrowed down, and otherwise made sporting. But ah, to get out and about, and to see more than just the back doors of a big-rig.

The view from FoolzCon as a cold front lingered.

The picture above is from a well -watered part of the state, well-watered in comparison to my corner of the world. We’re east of the 20″ rainfall line, and in an area that has been blessed by a lot more moisture this fall and winter than I have been. It shows. The wildflowers were beautiful, plentiful, and all growing in places where it would have been suicidal to try and pull over to take photos.

But the fellowship was fun, and the coffee, well . . .

Tay and Wendell (“Hooooonnn!”) approved.