Day of Atonement

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, began at sundown on the 18th. This is the gravest of High Holy Days in the Jewish calendar, one of those days that even people who rarely set foot in the synagogue make sure to get a seat ticket for. Not unlike Christians and Easter and Christmas, a Jewish friend assures me. It is very, very serious, and marks the time when men must examine their souls and apologize and make amends and atonement for the sins committed against G-d. Believers should have already asked forgiveness and apologized to other people they might have sinned against. Continue reading


Heroes, Duty, and the Tester

Mild rant follows.

I do wish the media would quit abusing the word hero. At least half the time, probably nine-tenths of the time, what the reporters breathlessly call “a hero” is a man or woman doing his or her duty, as the individuals are quick to point out. That duty might be very high risk, but the people are trained and equipped for just that thing. I admire their skill and bravery, and their actions are often heroic, but within the call of duty.

It is when someone goes far, far beyond their duty that, according to what I was taught, they become heroes. Continue reading

September 11 Once More

None of my students were alive on September 11, 2001. It feels odd to type that, because to me the 9/11 attacks are current events. Granted, part of that is being trained that anything that happened less than thirty years in the past is “current events, political science, and popular memory” as one grad school professor phrased it. But I can clearly recall Sib’s voice on the phone, telling me to turn on the radio because “Your world just changed.” Sib was right, just not in the way either of us expected. Seeing Air Canada tails sticking up over the terminal building at the airport where I was working at the time was, ahem, surreal to put it mildly. Continue reading

The 0600 Garbage Truck: Services and the State

The city where I live provides garbage removal. At the moment, we have nice, large dumpsters in the alleys behind the houses. The city provides four per block, at least in my neighborhood. If you have big things that need to go to the dump, er, sanitary landfill, you put them curbside and call the city. They fetch them within 48 hours. We have dumpsters in part because of our frequent thirty-five mile an hour winds. When a downstate consultant recommended switching to curbside pick up of the little plastic bins, people laughed in the city commission’s face and asked if the consultant cared to chase down thousands of wind-blown rolling bins.

The down side is that the trucks start work at 0530. Continue reading

A Repeat: Light One Candle, Write one Book

I was going through my archives and this popped up. Not certain why it seems appropriate, but given the incessant media (social, anti-social, news and other) follies, might be a good reminder. This was originally written in late October 2016.

The comment said, in effect, that writing a few novels won’t stem the tides of darkness and the threats facing Western Civilization. The writer was, and is, quite correct, except . . . there have been a few times when a book changed enough people’s minds to tip a close balance. And there have been a few cases in history when one person made such a difference, or inspired such a movement, that it shifted societies and cultures, sometimes for the good, sometimes for ill. I don’t aspire to be that person – I’m not Harriet Beecher Stowe, or Paul of Tarsus, or Siddhartha Gautama. I’m just a writer and a teacher, a historian and occasional blogger. But if one spark touches two candles, and they touch four more, and another sixteen, and so on, the whole world might be lit. The first match will have burnt out, but the fire started somewhere. Continue reading

Saints a’ Fire

St. Anthony Abbot, St. Florian, St. Elmo. They are all associated with “fire,” although only one is usually depicted as dealing with flames per se. That would be St. Florian, an Austrian martyr saint who is the patron of fire-fighters. A saint with a bucket dousing is building is St. Florian. He’s usually wearing Roman armor.

Patron of Firefighters, at least in Europe.

Continue reading

Too Calm?

As part of inservice now days, alas, teachers have to learn about “active shooters” and what to do. Do you lock the doors, turn out the lights, and hide? Do you get everyone out of the building as fast as you can? Do you try to fight the bad guy? Yes?

So we had ours, and afterwards, I got to wondering a little. Because I was nodding along, running through scenarios, considering defense strategies based on X part of the building or Y class room or Z activity. I wasn’t upset, I wasn’t shocked, or horrified. Listening to the librarian in Columbine H.S. talking to the 9-1-1 operator was sad, especially once you know what happened later in the library, but it didn’t surprise me. Does that make me strange? Continue reading