Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins at sundown today. For people of the Jewish faith, it is a day of very solemn contemplation and prayer, for fasting and sorrow. It is a day to consider one’s failures, and to bewail them, acknowledging where one went wrong, and how one failed to do his or her duty to the Most High and to his fellow men. It was the day of the scapegoat, the animal that bore the sins of the people into the wilderness. It is still for apology to G-d and remembering errors.

“Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa,” to mix liturgical languages.

There is also a sense of being close to the presence of the Most High through worship and prayer. Yom Kippur truly is the holiest of the High Holy Days.

To my Jewish readers, may you have an easy fast, and may you find that your name was inscribed in the Book of Life.


Image from: https://torahportions.ffoz.org/portions-library/weekly-torah/head-of-the-year.html

Blogging, Current Events, and So On

You have probably notices that I have not commented on many of the recent events, aside from weather, fires, and the like. There are a few reasons for that.

One, so much is tied in with US politics, and this isn’t a dedicated political commentary blog. There are other people who have a lot more background and interest in the political system and what it does.

Two, I’m a historian by training. We generally try to follow the thirty-year rule. This “rule” comes from two sources: classification time-limits in the US used to be thirty years, and the idea of a generation. What you live through is current events. What your parents lived through is history. Distance is supposed to allow 1) greater access to sources from a wider span of view points, and 2) dispassion. I have no personal dog in the fight over whether Holy Roman Emperor Charles V was a well-meaning, decent ruler or a tool of the AntiChrist and incompetent to boot, so I can opine away and show sources and documents. The legacy of the Presidents Bush? No, staying out of that.

Three is the language limit on this blog. Right now, I’m inclined to voice uncharitable thoughts using Anglo-Saxon and related verbiage.

Four, this blog is, when it comes down to cases, about selling books and stories, and entertaining my readers. People read fiction to get away, to escape into the lives of people different from they are, to get a happy ending where the forces of evil are defeated, the guy and the girl get hitched, and everyone can pay their bills in full and on time. Even if Arthur is losing to the computer 2:3, again. Sometimes I will wander into personal musings and views, but I’m trying to keep things lighter, or at least more diverting. My job is to divert my readers from current events, after all.

A Commercial Observation

I was in Hobby Lobby with MomRed as she looked at different weights and textures of cotton flannel for a project. I started reading the ends of the bolts of fabric. Last month, we had gone to Jo-Ann’s to buy material for a different project, and I had noticed that everything came from China, at least every single bolt of material that I looked at. Fleece, twill, calico, muslin, denim, satin, cotton, polyester, everything I found came from a textile mill in China. The thread came from the US or Pakistan or India. Buttons tended to be US or, more often, France.

Most of the fabric in Hobby Lobby that I looked at came from not-China. Pakistan, India, Taiwan, but not China. I didn’t browse the notions, because I got drafted to look through the lower shelves in the remnants rack.

I’m seeing more and more places selling things not from China. Clothing isn’t made in China as much, at least not what I’ve browsed at stores ranging from WallyWorld to Dillards (upscale department store) to Talbots and LLBean. Plastics not made in China. Paper goods not made in China. Granted, a lot of things are still made in China, but the shift is getting more and more apparent.

Part of it is economics. Vietnam, Pakistan, India, are less expensive in terms of labor and other costs. The quality is as good or better. The countries are less likely to steal the product’s design specifications and use them to undercut and drive out the patent/copyright holder.

Part of it is also growing numbers of people like me, who are wary of Chinese made goods. Sometimes it is quality, sometimes personal political beliefs, sometimes fear based on past bad experiences. After all, if the Chinese government has no qualms about poisoning its own people with contaminated water, and fosters an atmosphere where baby formula can be fortified with toxins (at least until enough people scream), and doesn’t see a problem with companies shipping pet food that kills the pets, what else does the government turn a blind eye to, or encourage? Recent news about the “forced labor” contracted to major international corporations doesn’t help, either.

I’m also seeing more Made in the USA stuff, including things that were not made at home for quite a while. I will happily buy sheets made in Portugal, wool fabric from Italy (no US maker for that weight that sells retail), shoes made in the US or Britain, and other things. I prefer not to buy from China. All else aside, and there is a lot of else, the quality control on things from China has been poor, and the fits are worse.

Random Thoughts and Musings

So, I’ve been juggling a lot of stuff, some interrelated, some random. A lot is either writing related or Day Job related (Day Job begins this week. No, I can’t believe it is already “fall” already, either. I squandered a lot of July.) The outside world has also been hanging over my head, just like it has been for most other people. I’ve quit wondering what strange thing is going to emerge from Washington DC or California, because they make the Babylon Bee satire site look too prophetic. Sort of like the military folks who read the Duffel Blog back between 2008-2016 to find out what the Department of Defense was going to do next.

I think that is part of why I’ve been putting off working on White Gold for so long. Yes, I am working on it, but it moves slowly and I am fighting myself as well as the story. It is so different from the Familiars books, and somewhat different from the other Merchant stories, that I’m having trouble sussing out where a main thread in the story needs to go. I have a feeling that once I know what my Day Job schedule will be, things on the book will move faster because that’s one outside distraction out of the way.

Henry of Bavaria “the Lion” was a character and a half. A pain in the rump if you were Frederick Barbarossa, but also a vital asset and supporter. That is, as long as Henry wasn’t getting too, let us say, confident in his own abilities and power. I’m a bit surprised that there’s not a good, current book about him in English, but then the Holy Roman Empire in the 1100s isn’t a popular topic in US and England. Henry was a town founder, among other things, and a wee bit too fond of power politics for his own good.

If you are a fan of the heavy metal sound but not so fond of some of the topics in some metal (the Satanic stuff . . . No thanks.) I recommend Twilight Force if you have not found them yet. They riff off of high fantasy and Tolkien, and have fun doing it. Yes, the lyrics can be cheesy. So is some fantasy writing. I also like _Beyond_ by Freedom Call, except fro the song about how great animism and voodoo are. No, voodoo is something best left well alone.

After White Gold is done, I’m going back to the Familiars. I might have another Merchant book after that, or might work on some other unfinished stuff, that I’ve been kicking around, like the fantasy I roughed out over on Mad Genius Club. Spring is going to be very slow on the writing scene, because Day Job is uneven this year. Fall is fairly chill, and spring is heavily loaded. Even more than usual, in terms of class load plus outside activities.

In theory next summer I’m going to England and Scotland. I’m less and less certain about that, because of a combination of things, including policy and legal changes in Scotland. Some of the proposed regulations on political and personal expression are rather worrisome, should they come to pass. The “quarantine for two weeks, then start your vacation” part is also a difficulty, as is the current “must have a negative SARS2-WuFlu test 48 hours before returning to the US, then go into isolation for a week” rule. If I don’t go to the British Isles, I will be at LibertyCon. Maybe. If it happens in person next year. *taps wood*

I’m reading a lot of Central European history right now, and refreshing my Chinese history. I really should have picked a field 1) far less broad with 2) fewer books and sources and 3) that doesn’t change and expand so much! About the time I think I’m close to current, whoops! A new title has arrived, with previously unstudied sources. Yes, I know I will get no sympathy from my science and tech people.

RedQuarters will get some kitchen work done this fall. I may hide for a week or so.

A Quick Reminder about Blog Rules

It’s been a long time since I posted Do’s and Don’ts, so it seemed like a good thing to do. This is not because of any one comment or problem, but just a general update.

  1. The blog posts are moderated, especially the first time you comment. Or if you use a different e-mail. WordPress occasionally glitches and I have to release comments from people who are otherwise approved. I try to check every few hours, but if I’m on the road, it may take a while.
  2. Because there are a lot of readers from Europe and elsewhere, I ask that you don’t talk about doing unkind things to political leaders, US or otherwise.
  3. Yes, FaceBook blocks some posts. No, I don’t know why. It was blocking all posts for a while. So if you try to link a post to a FB post and you are stopped, it’s me, not you.
  4. I don’t mind typo catches and critiques. Please do check to see if someone else has flagged that first, though. I get irked when five or six people flag the same thing. It’s not you, it’s me.
  5. If you want to sell a product or service, please check with me first before you post an ad comment.
  6. If your entire comment is a long theological infomerical for your tract/book/blog, it will not pass moderation.
  7. Ditto e-currency. A thousand word comment about the benefits of, oh, DogeCoin or BitCoin belongs on your blog, not mine.
  8. Language needs to stay PG-13. I know, I sometimes break this one in the excerpts. I will try to be better about toning down the blog-version of the story.
  9. Discuss theology as much as you want; but please don’t run-down other people’s beliefs. And keep in mind, theology 1000-300 years ago could be a lot different from current churches’/synagogues’/temples’ teachings.
  10. I will track down and thump the first person to start the 9MM vs. .45 caliber argument in the comments. [See theology above.]

It is a very, very rare day that I have to edit a comment or block someone. I’ve only blocked two people, one was a serial advertiser and the other . . . Yeah. That one went/goes after me because of two other people that the individual has decided are their enemies or something.

Show Museum or Teaching Museum?

A re-post about museums and their purpose.

You probably can tell without my saying much that I am a sucker for museums. Art museum, science museum, history museum, folk-life museum, botanical garden, I’ll probably at least poke my head in to see if it looks promising. I’ve been very, very fortunate to be able to visit, and re-visit, many of the great art and history museums north of the Alps, like the Kunsthistorischesmuseum [Art History Museum] in Vienna three times, the Gamäldegalarie [painting gallery] in Berlin twice, and a few others, like the Louvre (twice over two days. Don’t bother with the southern art section, IMHO). Continue reading

Short Day, Long Night, Conjunction

So, have you been out planet-watching? Where weather and light-pollution permits, look in the southwest sky just after full dark. You should be able to see two faint spots that don’t twinkle. Tonight, you will see one faint spot, as Jupiter and Saturn are in true conjunction, overlapping as the evening star.

Today is the shortest day, in the northern hemisphere, and the longest in the south. The day people feared and hoped for, the day that signaled if spring would return as the days grew longer, or if the great winter, Fimbulwinter, or some other horrible season had begun. It was a time of bonfires and prayer and sacrifice to keep the Dark away. “Tonight shall be wild, and tomorrow beyond imagining,” the farmer tells Will in The Dark is Rising. And so it was for Will, and for me, the first time I read that book. Continue reading