25 September 2014

The World of Tomorrow

"So, what do you think of this place?" I asked, leaning back in my chair and not smoking a pipe or anything.

"The bar?" Fred asked.

"Well, sure, but I mean 2014, the present, my time and place," I said. Fred was a foreign exchange student from the future.

"I like it," he said, "though it's hard to believe people used to live like this. We have history books, of course, but it's something else to see it."

"Okay, what are some of the biggest differences between your time and now?" I asked.

"Let's see," he said, "in my time most of the Pacific Northwest is known as the Kingdom of Cascadia. That seems to be a big change from what you have going now."

"We become a kingdom?" I asked.

"Not right away," he said. "After the depression and the war, this region became the Socialist Republic of Cascadia. When that government fell, local governments kept order in some places. The rest was a bit of a mess. The king brought order."

"When will this happen?" I asked.

"I don't think I'm supposed to tell," he said, "but don't plan on collecting social security from the U.S. government."

"Way ahead of you there," I said. "What else?"

"Everyone here has a car," Fred said. "In my time, only the very rich have private automobiles, and they don't burn gasoline. Everyone else walks or rides bicycles everywhere. Horses have made a comeback in the country."

"Do you have any kind of mass transit?" I asked.

"Sure," he said, "in the larger cities. Most people live near their work and their food, though."

"How about population?" I asked. "Is it crowded?"

"In places," he said. "People either live in dense cities, small villages, or the country. No 'McMansions' in the suburbs. The suburbs all died out or became villages in their own right. The overall population is lower than now. We don't have much petroleum-based fertilizer anymore, and long-distance transportation is less feasible. We just don't pull as much out of the fields as you people do."

"Are people religious?" I asked.

"Of course," he said. "The Protestant mainline pretty much went away, so if you're a western Christian in my time, you're probably a Catholic, a Pentecostal, or an independent KJV-onlyist. Cascadia has quite the thriving pagan population, with official denominations and everything."

"Atheists and the like?" I asked.

"A few," he said, "though they've learned to get along. Living closer to the cycle of the harvests has tended to make even the left more religious."

"How do people make a living?" I asked.

"More people work on farms, since heavy equipment is expensive to operate and fuel is scarce. Computers still exist, but we don't produce nearly as much electricity as you people. Offices full of cubicle drones staring at screens all day have mostly gone away. Fast food is pretty much gone, too."

"A university education is getting ridiculously expensive in my time," I said, "while at the same time becoming less valuable. How does the education system look?"

"Most of the universities are gone," Fred said, "and their land has been converted to more productive use. Those that remain have a fairly classic curriculum. Most people don't go; it's all about apprenticeship and on-the-job training."

"So, college is just for the elite again?" I asked.

"In a way," he said, "but don't get the wrong idea. A high school graduate in my time knows more than one of your college graduates, and is far more employable. People learn useful skills at an early age."

We talked through the evening, and I learned a great deal. The future he described was not one I had been taught to expect, but it was an interesting one. As we said farewell, I had one final question.

"You're not worried all of this information will change the future?" I asked.

"You're just posting it on your blog and social media accounts, right?" he asked.

"Yep," I said.

"Yeah, nobody reads those; the future is safe."

So, there you are, dear reader(s). Time for me to learn to plant a garden.

01 September 2014


I spent about two years in Iraq, as some of you know. This is not much compared to many of my comrades, some of whom have added tours in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but it was a significant portion of my life. I was just a regular soldier, and I did not perform any great acts of heroism, and no one is likely to make a movie about my wartime experiences.

What I did do, though, was walk the streets and breathe the air. I talked to the people, spent time in their homes, heard their calls to prayer. I rode in vehicles down torn up roads, through deep puddles full of questionable contents, hoping that this was not the time some insurgent pushed a button and sent us all beyond the veil. It happened to friends of mine, good men and true, men who were better soldiers than I.

Even in those days there were debates. Should we have invaded Iraq? Was our cause just? The big picture will be debated for years to come, and it is, to use an Army expression, above my pay grade. Big picture aside, in our little sector of  Baghdad, we had tremendous moral clarity. Our enemies were blowing up children, snatching people from their homes in the middle of the night, beheading people with knives, and attacking their own country's infrastructure. What they were doing was evil, and we, flawed though we may have been, were attempting to counter that evil with good. We were working to bring order when our enemies wanted chaos, we were working to bring security when our enemies wanted terror, we were working to bring peace when our enemies wanted war.

We thought we were making progress, that we were leaving the country better than we found it. The Iraqi police and army were improving, elections were held, and we were moving to an advisory role.

Then this ISIS thing happened. I don't know how it will all end. Perhaps they've had a brief flash of success and then order will be restored. Perhaps the country will break apart with even more death and devastation.

The whole mess troubles me deeply, though not as much as it surely troubles the people who live there. I wonder about the people I talked with and worked alongside. I think of the Iraqi Army soldiers, I think of our interpreters. I remember one interpreter who helped me to my feet after I unheroically tripped and fell during an awkward encounter with AK fire.

I do not know the best way forward, and I do not claim to speak for the U.S. Army or any branch of the U.S. government. I hope and pray that this whole situation has a positive outcome.

Please pray, if you are the praying sort. If these ISIS chaps all meet a violent end, I cannot say I will shed a tear, though I will pray for their souls. May God have mercy on us all.

15 August 2014

Making Time to Write

I am about to head out on my lunch walk, a daily ritual without which I should go mad, but I feel driven to write something. It is difficult to find time to write, though much of that difficulty comes from my own choices. Life is full of distractions, and one can consent to them all too easily. I often tell myself that if I can manage a page a day, I can have three hundred sixty-five pages in a year. That is a novel, though perhaps not a doorstopping fantasy epic.

The world is full of stories, some good, some bad. I like to think I have something to offer, something as yet unwritten that will bring a bit more beauty and light into this often dark world. For those of you who write, how do you make the time?

And with that, the walk awaits!

31 July 2014

The Latin Mass (Because Me Being Catholic Wasn't Weird Enough Already)

This past Sunday, I attended (participated in? assisted at?) a Traditional Latin Mass. For those not in the know, this used to be the standard form of the Mass (are we supposed to capitalize it?) all over the Western world, until the Catholic Church came out with a new version about fifty years ago. Despite the near universal adoption of the Novus Ordo/Ordinary Form/The One With the Felt Banners, the Old Mass has held on in a few places. Since Pope Benedict XVI issued his apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum back in 2007, the Latin Mass has become a bit more prevalent.

Several minutes before 5:00pm, I walked into Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Tacoma, Washington. The parish has a predominately Polish membership on Sunday mornings, a fact confirmed by the Polish missals in the pews, the Polish text on a painting of the Divine Mercy, and a prominent picture of Pope John Paul II. The Latin Mass group are guests, so to speak, as part of a mission from the main North American Martyrs Parish (FSSP) in Seattle.

There was none of the chatter that fills my usual parish on a Sunday morning. A small group were praying a rosary together, while others knelt or sat in silence. Mantillas were plentiful. The kneelers were already in the down position, which later proved to be convenient. On my initial entry, I forgot the Latin-English missal, so I exited my pew and retrieved one. My Latin skills are unfortunately lacking.

As the Mass progressed, one thing that struck me was how little speaking I needed to do. In the New Mass, the congregation and priest have quite the conversation, but in the Latin Mass, most of the responses are said by the (male only) altar servers. For the most part, I stuck with "amen" and "et cum spiritu tuo." I was able to read along in the missal, so I could follow all the prayers and responses. There was amazing theological depth to it all, and I could not help but wish the Church had just translated the existing Mass back in the Vatican II days.

We did kneel quite a bit more than I was used to, but it seemed right. It is a posture that lends itself well to reverence. When it was time for Communion, everyone who wished to receive went up on their own, without row by row dismissal. There were two small altar rails with kneelers at the front. Two people at a time knelt at each one, and they received the host on the tongue. This was the first time I had received in this way, and it was quite a moving experience. It certainly felt more sacred than having a Eucharistic minister hand the host to me.

I am very glad I attended, and I hope to do so in the future. It is too early to tell if I will "go trad" or not and become a regular, but I am glad that Mass still exists. We shall see what the future holds. I may want to lock in my Al Smith dinner speaker role first.

18 May 2014

The Tale of the Goose

This past Friday, as I returned to the Park and Ride at the end of the day, I saw a large goose fly by and land in the parking lot. One often forgets how large geese are, particularly when their wings are spread. "I greet you," I said, or something to that effect, since I am the sort of person who talks to animals when no one is looking. I went on my way, with the goose showing no alarm at my presence.

I reached my car without further incident. As I looked in the rear view mirror, I saw the goose flying straight toward my car. It landed behind me and stayed there. I did not wish to run over the magnificent bird, particularly since I had already conversed with it, so I exited my car and walked toward the goose.

I would likely have discussed any number of matters with the goose, but there were some adolescent young men approaching, and I try to minimize the amount of time I appear crazy in public. The goose waddled a short distance away, so I climbed back in the car, carefully backed up and prepared to move forward. However, the goose decided to stand in the way. I sat there for a moment, as the goose stood defiantly in place and the young men laughed.

In an effort to break through, I slowly began to edge past the goose on the left. The goose finally allowed me to pass, but he began honking and sticking out his tongue. Whether this was a challenge or a fond farewell, I was not able to determine. It may be that I was parked next to a secret nest. For now, the fowl mystery remains unsolved.

07 May 2014


John C. Wright, whose writings I could share daily, posted the following link:

It made me think of my own list of books I have re-read and intend to re-read in the future. Here it is, for those who are interested:

The Hobbit - Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings - Tolkien
The Pendragon Cycle - Lawhead
The Song of Albion - Lawhead
The Chronicles of Narnia - Lewis
The Hitchhiker series - Adams
Various Dragonlance novels - Weis and Hickman
Treasure Island - Stevenson
A Song of Ice and Fire - Martin

I can see myself reading the Harry Potter novels again, but so far I've only read them once. The same goes for any number of Redwall stories, Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, Robert Howard novels, and Jules Verne classics.

I know I'm missing some, so I will probably add them. What's on your list today?

31 March 2014

My Noah Review

I haven't seen Noah, but here is my review:

First of all, this is supposedly a Bible-based movie, and yet there are no Christians in it? What kind of commie nonsense is this? Also, wasn't Russell Crowe in that Gladiator movie? That movie was awesome. Not Robin Hood, though; that movie was all kinds of awful. So was King Arthur, now that I think about it. The Disney cartoon was better. Hey, have you guys seen The Black Cauldron? It's a Disney cartoon with a PG rating. The Star Wars movies were rated PG. Boba Fett, now, he was a gentleman warrior. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was pretty underwhelming. Hellboy was way better. Ron Perlman pretty much makes every movie awesome. So does Thomas Jane.

26 March 2014

A Few Lines for each Genre

This is a fun project I have thought about doing for a while, so here it is. I will be posting a few lines each from a variety of genres. None of these are part of my existing stories, though perhaps I may further develop these ideas. Some of these paragraphs will be in medias res, and some will be the beginning of the story.

The ice fields of Narathrandianlithicoretolkienesque stretched to the horizon, and the army of Mekkuppaneim had left a trail the entire way.

"They won't be hard to track, but they could be days ahead of us by now," Haielffenlord said, clutching his silver longbow in his hand.

"Ah, but they must walk, and we will ride upon the wind," Proetagoenist said. "The sail of Mil-Wa-Kee has melded with the sled of Wi-Skaun-Skin."

Science Fiction
"I'm sorry," the android said, his head inclined slightly. His eyes blinked. "Please rephrase your question."

"Can you help me up?" I asked, hanging by one arm from the one hundredth floor balcony of the Asimov building.

"Certainly," it said, and with almost comical ease, it pulled me to safety. Aside from the two of us, the room was empty.

"Put down your gun, friend," the stranger said, "I ain't got no quarrel with you."

He was sitting at a corner table, a glass of whisky in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

"You kilt Johnny Davenport!" Sid said, a mean look in his eye.

"Maybe I did," the stranger said, stubbing out his cigarette on the worn table. "I've never been much for names."

The Highlander pirate highwayman shook out his long, untamed hair, his freshly waxed chest glistening in the morning sun. Cordelia blushed and looked away, but only for a moment. She felt a stirring within her, an unquenchable desire, a flood of passion. She must have this man, she must tame him, she must civilize him, she must change him so thoroughly that no trace of the man she desired remains. There will only be a memory, a bitter memory, and she will come to despise this man for being so easily molded.

Young Adult Paranormal Romance (hey, this is where the money is)
"I will drain you," Aelric said, his fangs glistening. "I will take from you all that is human, and leave you a soulless husk. You will wander this world until the end of time, knowing only hunger, knowing only pain. You will never see the sun, and for you Heaven's gates will never open. Is this what you want?"

"Oh, Aelric!" Lara gasped. "What is eternity in Paradise with God and all the angels and saints, when compared with a few painful and torturous years with you?"

"Umh..," Aelric said. "Have you really thought this through? I mean, I really feel like I'm taking advantage of a stupid person here."

There's a monster in the forest, and I think he wants to eat me. There's a cave inside the forest, where he hides all dark and scaley. There's a fire in the cave, where he cooks his food so tenderly. There's a monster in the forest and it's me.

The radio wasn't going to man itself, and so we sat. Hours passed, vehicles left, vehicles arrived, radio checks were made. Sergeant Cortez had a Maxim magazine, and I had Plato's Republic. I don't claim to be more sophisticated, just less honest about what I find interesting.

Around noon, someone brought us chow. This was FOB food, which beat MRE's just about any day of the week. Still, it wasn't home.

"Sar'nt," I said, because no one pronounces the whole word, "the flames are getting a bit closer. Should we move the radios?"

Our company command post was nestled among the wreckage of what used to be our headquarters. The air strike and artillery bombardment had occurred earlier that morning, but I had been so engrossed in the duties of a citizen, I scarcely noticed.

"We have to keep the blood inside!" she screamed, clawing at the walls of her cell. "The one who comes will see! The one who comes will know!"

"Calm yourself," Dr. Preston said. "What are you talking about?"

At this, she stopped and her eyes focused on the wall behind us. Her voice took on a perfect calm.

"He's already here."

Feminist Zombie Apocalypse Non-Fiction
You may find that in this zombie-filled world, an oppressive system of hetero-normative cis-gendered privilege will attempt to assert itself. It will be tempting to fight against this with knives or guns, but the inherently phallic nature of these instruments is problematic and troubling. The best method is to establish free zones of affirmation, where all forces of oppression, both living and undead, are firmly asked not to enter.

24 March 2014

The Parting Glass

I should point out I wasn't driving at the time. That would be most irresponsible.

12 March 2014

Election 2014

I'm heading back to the office after a lovely lunch in Seattle. Don't worry, I'm not driving. Did you know some people can play guitar with their hands? I don't even know what to say to that. This one time, I walked all the way to the cake table. Typing on a smart phone is silly. I found a pine cone in the forest once, but I left it there. Removing too much biomass from the forest can cause what some have termed a "total planet kill." Don't forget to zip up your sleeping bag when you go camping. Sure, you're warm now, but there are like a billion bears right next to you.

06 March 2014

Thoughts on Lent

Last year for Lent, I gave up video games. It was beneficial, though I must be honest and say I just watched more TV on Hulu instead. This year, I'm giving up fancy coffee, and I am also attempting to read the whole Catechism of the Catholic Church. Why do I tell you this, you may ask? After all, if I tell you what I am giving up, is that not a form of bragging? Am I not earning my full reward here, rather than in Heaven? Ah, but think about this: If I tell you about my Lenten abstinence, it will cause you to think me a bragger, which will cause you to think less of me, which will lower my standing in the eyes of the world, which will make me humble, which will reduce my pride, which will prepare me for Heaven. However, if I am allowing myself to be humbled for the sake of spiritual gain, am I not seeking after glory? And if I am seeking after glory, will this not lead to pride? And, if it leads to pride, will this not lead to a fall? And will this fall not lead to humility?

But, fancy coffee, some will scoff! What kind of thing is that to give up? How easy, how paltry? Ah, but have you tried Nespresso? No? Then you know not of what you speak.

And reading the Catechism? It comes out to a mere seventeen pages a day, when stretched throughout the whole of Lent. This is no great spiritual work.

Indeed, indeed. But if I did a great spiritual work, I might take pride in it, and that would undermine the whole point.

At the end of the Lenten season, I will have been a Catholic for an entire year. It will be quite an anniversary to celebrate. Please join me, if you have not already.

22 February 2014

Quick Thoughts on Catholic Traditionalism

I kind of want to be a Catholic traditionalist, but I am also kind of reluctant to be one. Part of it is a form of protest. After all, I am Catholic already; I should not have to move "further up and further in" to find the purely pure "real" Catholics. I am also just a regular man. I try to be a good Christian, but I do not try all that hard to be extra-spiritual. I would rather read a good novel than the Summa Theologica. Many of the saints frighten me, with a level of devotion I find intimidating. We have a wonderful parish that celebrates the Ordinary Form in a fairly reverent manner. For the Latin Mass, I would have to drive all the way to Seattle for a Sunday morning Mass, or wait until 5:00pm for one in Tacoma. For just a regular man, this is crazy stuff (cue the traditionalist complaint that they drive four hundred miles each way for the Latin Mass, and on the way they have to fight hordes of albino monk assassins sent by their own bishop; okay, so I admit to some spiritual weakness here, but I am still new).

I have also heard the horror stories about some of the more "interesting" denizens of traditionalism. "Did you know Jewish Freemasons created the heliocentric heresy in order to more effectively fake the moon landing? If you don't home-school your kids, you will burn in the second deepest level of Hell, right above the women who wear pants and the people who defend Tolkien on Twitter."

Of course, I know most traditionalists are not like this. They simply believe that the Church expressed its teachings more clearly in a pre-Vatican II sense and with a pre-Vatican II Mass. Much of what has been done in the last fifty years has made a mess of the faith. Therefore, like debugging software, it is often best to roll everything back until we get to where everything still works. At least I think that is the idea; I dropped Computer Science and majored in English instead.

As I have said before, I nearly became Orthodox instead of Catholic, because of all the mess. However, as the traditionalists say, the mess is a bug, not a feature. Bishops, priests, nuns, and others in authority decided that the New Springtime of the Church was a great time to turn the Church into something else. It has gone...badly. One should hesitate to attribute malicious intent, and yet...

...........Just adding a few more of these........................

I have observed three (or four; see below) basic camps within the Church (I ask my reader to pardon the repetition from previous posts). There are the liberals, who desperately want the Church to have values indistinguishable from the secular culture. Groups like "Catholics for Wholesale Infant Slaughter" or "Catholics for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat" are popular (I'll take the conspiracy theorist from paragraph two over them any day, since they are not, you know, going around actually killing people). The second camp are the conservatives, as they are often called. They are very loyal to whatever the pope and bishops are teaching right now. If the pope said tomorrow that we are at war with Eurasia and always have been, the conservatives would write untold thousands of words affirming that this is indeed so. The third camp are the traditionalists, who claim to believe what Catholics always have. If their beliefs seem strange, it is because everyone around them has changed. The fourth camp is actually camping, and whatever they are cooking smells far better than the sandwiches we brought.

I do not like that these separate camps exist; I just want to be Catholic, and I wish all these other people could be, too. Of course, the real battle is between good and evil, and the battle lines are drawn through every human heart. It matters not if you follow Paul, Apollos or Cephas, if you do not follow Christ. So, who follows Christ? It is those who do what He says, who live as He lives, who love as He loves. Who is doing that?

It is no secret that most Catholics really are not all that Catholic (and many of them transition to, "I was raised Catholic, but."). I knew this long before joining the Church, so I have not been shocked or disillusioned. However, there is a difference between bad Catholics who know the faith but who do not live up to it, and malformed Catholics who have no idea what the Church teaches and yet are Hell-bent on changing it. The traditionalists would say, I think, that in the pre-Vatican II days, there were plenty of the former, but it has taken the "hope and change" post-Vatican II days to cause such an explosion of the latter. The former may repent, even on their deathbeds, but the latter see no need to repent.

At any rate, this debate and exploration is like a family dispute. Where I fit in this Church family is a matter for debate, but there is no doubt this is my Church. This should be your Church. It really should. There is no such thing as my truth or your truth. There is only truth. And truth is a person, Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ said, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it."

20 February 2014

Real Men

It has become fashionable for people to post opinions on what makes a "real man." This is a bit amusing, because the definition is quite simple. First, this individual is real, as in genuine, as in he actually exists. Second, he is of the male sex and has reached the age of maturity. That is it. A real man can be a good man or an evil man, he can be a gentleman or a cad, he can be kind or he can be cruel.

Therefore, a man does not cease to be a real man because he fails to live up to a thirty bullet point list posted by women on Facebook. Being a real man takes no skill or determination. It is simply a matter of biology and age.

Now, what do people actually mean when they talk about a "real man?" My literal definition is not what they have in mind, I think. Perhaps they mean a "desirable man" or a "strong man" or an "admirable man." Why do people not simply say what they mean?

I am, of course, over-thinking this, as I do everything. Therefore, just to play along and have a grand old time, may I present the following list of "real man" qualities:

  • Real men have long, flowing beards, because they are wild berserker warriors, untamed by civilization.
  • Real men shave regularly, because a real man masters his facial hair in the same way he masters his passions.
  • Real men never have hobbies that do not involve their wives and children; all leisure time must be devoted to the betterment of the home.
  • Real men have a variety of hobbies and interests; in addition to increasing their own enjoyment of life, this also makes them more intriguing to women.
  • Real men have experience with vast numbers of women and antibiotic prescriptions.
  • Real men are chaste before marriage and completely faithful within it.
  • Real men have nothing to do with the crutch of religion.
  • Real men love Jesus.
  • Real men can't be tied down by rules and regulations.
  • Real men join the military.
  • Real men like curves.
  • Real men like whatever the [expletive] they want.
  • Real men are not tied down by a wife and children.
  • Real men are good husbands and fathers.
  • Real men hate guns.
  • Real men have all the guns.
  • Real men lift.
  • Real men work hard enough in their everyday tasks that they don't need to lift.
  • Real men think sports are for children.
  • Real men play sports.
That's enough for now. Take care, everyone, and watch out for snakes.