Greetings! Welcome to the Chateau!

Within its corridors you will find insight into the books I have written, the books I am writing and the books I am thinking about writing.

It is also a place where I can offer insights into my favorite authors and - in the case of my game Conqueror: Fields of Victory - I can explain my rules and offer new variants.

Scroll down or check the sidebar for my latest posts.


Walls of Men: A Military History of China 2500 B.C. to A.D. 2020

Long Live Death: The Keys to Victory in the Spanish Civil War


Three Weeks with the Coasties: A Tale of Disaster and also an Oil Spill

Battle Officer Wolf

Scorpion's Pass

The Vampires of Michigan

The Man of Destiny Series:

A Man of Destiny

Rise of the Alliance

Fall of the Commonwealth

The Imperial Rebellion


Conqueror: Fields of Victory, Revised Edition

Other Writings features


Peak Miami Vice: Smuggler's Blues

A burst of summer weather has me watching Miami Vice again, and this time I'm taking my time and savoring the early seasons.  I will be skipping the later ones.

If I could pick one episode that exemplifies the show at its height, it would likely be "Smuggler's Blues."  This is still in the first season and it star Glenn Frey from The Eagles as Jimmy, a small-time drug smuggler with his own twin-engined plane.

In many ways, the episode is simply an extended music video, featuring the entirety of Frey's eponymous song.  There is an attempt at dramatic tension, but the point of the exercise is simply to sit back and enjoy the ride.

That is something modern entertainment has largely lost.  It's too preachy, too eager to carry a message and a "torn from the headlines" story (which is often based on a media myth).  Miami Vice was no stranger to tropes, but they were fun, and the show was sleek, stylish and just plain cool.

Back then, Hollywood tried to give people what they wanted; today they bully the audience into watching.  Needless to say, it's not very effective.

I do not think it is possible for Hollywood to create a blend like Miami Vice today, combining musical guests at their peak with sleek visuals and fun storylines.


"No Mow May" leads to "Lawn Death June"

I figured the end of No Mow May would be unpleasant for the participants, but I did not foresee that we would have drought conditions at its conclusion.

It has not rained her for two weeks and the plants are starting to show stress.  For those who regularly maintain their lawns, the solution is simple: stop mowing.  I usually mow once a week, but without rain, I held off because cutting the grass causes it to lose moisture, and driving over it when it is dry and brittle cause further damage.  When it gets enough rain, the grass will rocket up, and then there will be a job to do.

However, for the No Mow May crowd, waiting is no longer an option.  The city has an ordnance about grass length, and while the good burghers will willing to look the other way for a fashionable cause, such dispensations could not be prolonged indefinitely.

Thus, as anyone with passing knowledge of lawn maintenance could have predicted, the result is that many formerly well-manicured yards are now trashed.  This is because mowing actually helps sustain the grass - without it, weeds will take over and over time, crowd it out.  In extreme cases, there isn't any actual grass left.   More commonly, there are now bare patches that will have to be replanted and watered.

Those without excessive weeks may be in worse shape, as the trauma inflicted on the grass during drought conditions has killed the lawn outright.

The lesson here is right out of G.K. Chesterton, which is that lawns, like fences, exist for a reason.  The promoters of the event bought into the false narrative that trimmed grass is somehow wasteful, or harmful to the environment.  In truth it is nothing of the sort.

Grass is a time-tested way to provide sustainable green spaces for outdoor recreation while minimizing harmful insect populations.  Even with the drought, tall grass supported high mosquito counts as well as ticks - which I'm sure the dog owners of the area did not appreciate.  Misleading statistics that compare it to farmland ignore the obvious fact that residential neighborhoods can't support production agriculture, but often do support vegetable gardens. 

That it is aesthetically pleasing is also nice, but not the point.  The point is that the alternative is much, much worse, which is why so many cities have ordinances regulating lawns.

I'll be curious to see how many people want to repeat this next year.  Having a dead yard is indeed a cross to bear, but I doubt many of the participants expected it.

Vampires of Michigan - the Roar of '84?

I'm once again binge-watching the early seasons of Miami Vice and I'm thinking it would be fun to set the next installment in the World Series Championship year of 1984.  It's an interesting year for a variety of reasons.  Obviously there is the George Orwell angle, but 1984 marked a rare moment of unity in American politics.  The notion of a a presidential candidate carrying 49 states is inconceivable today.

Whether looking at Cold War politics, cultural differences and of course the far superior music and entertainment, I think it would be fun.

As to the plot...well, that's yet to be determined.  I've got a couple of ideas and I'm sure some of the same characters will be represented. 

Of course, nothing may come of it, but that's the fun of being a novelist - not just the ideas that are completed, but the ones that are tossed around for fun.

Memorial Days gone by

I think Memorial Day is the only holiday that has something of a ticking clock included with it.   Independence Day also has temporal significance insofar as it there can be important anniversaries of the date, but that's mostly based large, round numbers.  The bicentennial was a big deal.  The years afterwards, 201, 202?  Not so much.

With Memorial Day, the passage of time is more sublime.  I'm old enough to remember when World War I veterans were honored guests at the parades and ceremonies.   The World War II veterans were well into middle age, but still active.  The veterans of Korea and Vietnam were somewhat ambivalent, and the latter group was struggling to define both their identity and relationship to military service as a whole.

Slowly, inexorably, the demographics changed.  The Great War generation faded away, making its last stand in nursing homes or with single representatives.  The "Greatest Generation" started to slow down, and behind them the "conflict" veterans became more organized and strongly represented.

Today, the Vietnam and Korean War veterans are the old guys, and the World War II survivors are so scarce as to render their reunions pointless.  My Gulf War/War on Terror generation is now moving into the familiar position of recent service, but this time it has a strange twist because our wars took so long.  In my case, "serving for the duration" took 20 years. 

Our losses were also comparatively light, which was probably why the wars were able to drag on as long as they did and end so ignobly.  

All of which leads to feelings not unlike those of the Vietnam generation.  I joked with one of my uncles (who was in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive) that he'd manage to lose only one war; my generation lost two of them




The curse of our age - deleted work

While being able to compose on a keyboard has brought many blessings to modern writers, it carries with it a powerful curse - unexpected deletions.

I'd just finished a post on The Princess Bride when some glitch on the site wiped it out.  It wasn't long, I could make the same points again, but I'm too frustrated to bother.  I'll likely revisit it in a day or so and maybe add some other thoughts.

This cannot happen if one is using actual paper to write.  Yes, paper can burn, get soaked or be misplaced, but it doesn't vanish off the page while you are writing it.

Hopefully it was a one-time event.  I've been generally happy here at Typepad, and several times the auto-save has in fact saved me.  I suppose I shall be more cautious going forward.

Planted at last

When I first retired from the Guard, I looked with bewilderment and joy at all the free time I was going to have.   One of the projects I helped would fill those empty hours was a garden, a right proper one with rows and things.

Well, between watching the grandkids (which is a joy) and erratic weather, I'm three full weeks behind schedule, but at last the seeds are in the ground.  What comes up is anyone's guess.

I don't think I'm cut out to be a gardener, but I do enjoy seeing the plants come up.  Since this year I'm doing short-term crops (green onions, peas, carrots), if something doesn't work, I can just prep for the late harvest or even look at fall through winter plantings.

My gardening side-quests are also continuing, but I've made a lot of progress over the last two weeks.  The garage side door had been almost entirely blocked for years.  Now it's open for business.  The process of planting allowed me to clear out all the accumulated potting soil.  As summer unfolds, I'm looking forward to further reorganization in a more deliberate manner, and also ways to refine the garden area itself.  It is entirely fenced in, and it would not take a great deal of imagination to turn that into a hoop house should the desire take me.

All of which is to say: there are lots of possibilities, and I'm looking forward to exploring them.  My first goal is accomplished, and I'm going to celebrate that just a little.



Could the Anglicans and Copts enter communion with Rome?

Two stories over the last few weeks raise the intriguing possibility that not one but to schisms in the global Church could be at long last healed.

The first is the decades-long process of reconciliation between Rome and the Egyptian Coptic Church.  The Copts broke with rest of the Church back in 451 AD because of a disagreement over Christ's humane and divine natures.  Pope Paul VI opened negotiations in the 1970s which have since been continuing intermittently.  Apparently the Christology thing is now out of the way, and a few weeks ago the "Coptic Pope" visited Rom and participated in a Mass with Pope Francis and they also jointly recognized Egyptian Copts killed by Islamic terrorists as martyrs and saints.

This predictably ticked off Francis' usual critics because (they said) it implied that heretics could be martyrs, but of course that's missing the big picture - if one is seeking to have Copts brought back into communion with Rome, this is one of the steps to doing that.

Now combine this with the breakup of the Anglican Communion, and there's a very real (albeit slender) possibility of the Global South of the Anglican Church moving toward reuniting with the rest of the Catholic Church.

GAFCON is theologically very conservative, and the vast majority of Anglicans outside of England carry no particular animus towards Rome. 

It is important to recall that the Anglican Communion is distinctly different from the rest of Protestantism because it still maintains the Apostolic Succession and the ancient bishoprics of England.  Pope Benedict XVI has already created the framework for Anglican clergy and their denominations to enter into the Catholic Church as a group, and of course there are ample examples of "lost" churches of the East returning to communion with Rome.

It would be singularly remarkable if Pope Francis of all people facilitated the end of this ancient and acrimonious schism.

Naturally, there is plenty of room for skepticism, but if the last few years have shown us anything, it is just how fragile long-standing institutions and conventions can be.  In the space of a half-century, the Anglican Church went from a male-only clergy to ordaining lesbian priestesses and homosexual bishops.  Now they are blessing gay relationships.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit will move those Christians who still hold to God's word to come together at long last and present a united front against the Great Enemy.

Is "No Mow May" peak Yard Sign Calvinism?

Some years ago, the people who service my lawnmower got somewhat overwhelmed and lost track of it.  I called and was assured it was "next up" but after a few weeks, panic set in.  Much of my back yard is well-watered, and the grass always grow thick and quickly.  By the time I got it back, the grass was a foot high, and even though it's a decent riding mower, it struggled to make headway.

Indeed, it didn't so much mow it as push it over.  I had to go over it multiple times over several days to restore it to some semblance of order and in the meantime, the mosquito population was off the charts.

I mention this because I see that several of my neighbors are participating in something called "No Mow May," which is the latest exercise in Yard Sign Calvinist virtue signalling.

I have to admit it is brilliant - one literally does nothing with the yard in order to feel superior to everyone else on the block who is maintaining theirs.  Of course, the whole point of Yard Sign Calvinism is the yard sign, and this is critically important because without it, the yard just looks neglected.

Only by having the sign explain what is going on can one understand how simply doing routine yard work is now sinful and depraved.

Whether this experience is repeated remains to be seen.  Whatever fuel I saved while waiting for the mower come back I more than used up once I tried to cut it.  Not only did I have to mow it multiple times, the effort required of the engine to hack through the growth caused it to burn fuel at a greatly accelerated rate, causing me to go through a month's normal use in a matter of days.

In two more weeks, I will be interested to see if the signs remain, reminders of the virtue that the rest of us failed to demonstrate.

I'll also see how many use lawn services to clean up the results of their piety.  Does cleaning up that mess bestow a plenary indulgence on the crews?

The top-down schism of the Anglican Communion

While I don't follow politics or the news in general, I am interested in the current state of religious matters.  Last week I decided to check up and see how things were going with the Anglican Communion.

The answer is: not well.

During April, the Global Anglican Future Conference  (GAFCON) convened in Kigali, Rwanda to discuss the conflicts that now exist between them, and the leadership of the Church of England.  GAFCON subsequently issued the following statement:

Despite 25 years of persistent warnings by most Anglican Primates, repeated departures from the authority of God’s Word have torn the fabric of the Communion. These warnings were blatantly and deliberately disregarded and now without repentance this tear cannot be mended.

The latest of these departures is the majority vote by the General Synod of the Church of England in February 2023 to welcome proposals by the bishops to enable same-sex couples to receive God’s blessing. It grieves the Holy Spirit and us that the leadership of the Church of England is determined to bless sin.

Since the Lord does not bless same-sex unions, it is pastorally deceptive and blasphemous to craft prayers that invoke blessing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

There is no way to sugar-coat these disagreements.  Either Scripture and sacred tradition are binding, or they are not. 

Since those who teach will be judged more strictly (James 3:1), we call upon those provinces, dioceses and leaders who have departed from biblical orthodoxy to repent of their failure to uphold the Bible’s teaching. This includes matters such as human sexuality and marriage, the uniqueness and divinity of Christ, his bodily resurrection, his promised return, the summons to faith and repentance and the final judgment.

We long for this repentance but until they repent, our communion with them remains broken.

And there it is - the Archbishop of Canterbury has been excommunicated by 315 bishops and approximately 85 percent of the global Anglican Communion.

Even though I'm on a "news diet," I figured something of this magnitude would be big enough that I'd have heard of it before now, but of course "news" these days is what the ruling class wants us to know (which may or may not be true).  It's probably deeply disturbing for them to know that the Western hedonist agenda is so deeply unpopular.

The Anglican Church is of course an odd creation, a relic of Henry VIII's obsession with producing a male heir.  It's missionary activities generally followed the expansion of the British Empire, and there is a certain deep irony in the way that the C of E has now become so heretical that the fruit of its labors now reject its leadership.

There's also a certain absurdity to the fact that the specific flashpoint for this crisis is the desire of the Church of England to legitimize sodomy of all things.  This is right out of a Monty Python skit.  I'm imagining John Cleese standing in full episcopal regalia announcing that his faith cannot be shaking, and like Martin Luther stating "Here I stand.  I can do no other."  And then camera frame broadens and you see he's in a gay bar and "It's Raining Men" starts playing.

However one feels about homosexuality (or for that matter, Christianity), GAFCON's position is irrefutable:

The Bible is God’s Word written, breathed out by God as it was written by his faithful messengers (2 Timothy 3:16). It carries God’s own authority, is its own interpreter, and it does not need to be supplemented, nor can it ever be overturned by human wisdom.

Yes.  Over the past five centuries, Protestantism has increasing turned into "cafeteria Christianity," where one can take only the things one wants.  That's now how it works.

Of course, there have been plenty attempts to insist that the Bible was "of its time" and that in our more enlightened age, we can see how archaic and out-of-date it is.

Certainly that's what the Catholic bishops in Germany claim, and it tells us a lot more about them than they think.  For a senior clergyman to claim that homosexual impulses are simply too powerful to contain is (to me at least) grounds for their immediate removal from office.

This assertion is both insulting since it states clearly that people who feel same-sex attraction are incapable of self-control and blasphemous because it assumes that God will not assist those prayerfully seeking His aid in remaining morally pure.

What is more, if the sexual urge is implacable, why are only homosexuals granted a dispensation?  What about married individuals who feel tempted to commit adultery?  Should we offer blessings for committed lovers and mistresses?  Where does this nonsense end?

Well, we now have an idea - schism and dismay.  I believe GAFCON are doing what it is right.  As I've said many times, there comes a point where differences in doctrine cannot be swept under the rug.

Since I brought up the German bishops (and let us not forget that they have support from American bishops as well, as well as the Jesuits), I can't help but notice that both of these drives to heresy coming from the leadership, not the laity.  It is a top-down revolution, and such things rarely succeed.

Indeed, this ill-considered move by  Canterbury may be the catalyst that finally ends the schism with Rome.  After all, Anglican practice and theology is so similar that many senior clergy have already turned to the Catholic Church.  The late Pope Benedict XVI created an Anglican Rite and ordinariate specifically to serve these people.

It would be very  appropriate if this schism ultimately results in greater overall unity. 


Gardening side-quests

This year I decided to make another dedicated attempt at a garden.  Unlike before, I did careful research regarding crops, their location and essentially started the plot from scratch.  My plan was to have the fencing up and the crops in the ground by late April.

That hasn't happened, and there are three reasons for it.

The first is the weather.  Michigan has had insanely inconsistent weather this spring, veering back and forth between the sunny 70s and snow showers.  It has also rained much more than normal, making yard work difficult.  (My plot is well-drained, so standing water isn't an issue.)

The second is my grandchildren, who are spending more time with us.  This isn't generally a problem per se, but it acts as an amplifier to the first reason because when the weather has been good, they want to go to the playground or play in the yard.  Gardening can wait.

But the third reason - and probably the most important - has been the endless "side-quests" necessarily to get my garage and home back in proper order.  Here again, the toll of 21 years of National Guard weekends is apparent. To be fair, about three years ago I burned a week of vacation time to do a major reorganization, fixing problems that had persisted since we moved in.  There is no denying my progress, but it is also true that the hectic schedule since then compromised those gains.

Hence the side-quest reference: just as in a role-playing game, I can't tackle the 'main quest' - putting the garden in - until I can first reorganize the tools.  That requires me to move all the bicycles, which require maintenance and that in turn requires me to find their tools and the air pump, etc.

Thus, while my progress towards the main object remains painfully slow, I am knocking out real improvements.

I also had the foresight to assume I would run late, and so chose the most low-skill plants that would also mature in 60 days or so - making late planting not much of an issue.  Indeed, I'd rather get it done properly.

I will add that I am far better off physically and mentally spending my time on this than rage-stroking over the latest bombshell on the news sites.  When I meet people in person who still follow things, the conversation is a bit difficult.

"Did you hear about such-and-such?!  It's an outrage!"

"Oh, no, that's too bad.  My weeping cherry was beautiful this year, hardly needed trimming at all.  When we moved in, we didn't know how to care for it, and it was choked with old growth.  We had some tree trimmers in doing other work and they said they could work on it, but the shock might be lethal, so I did a little each year and now it looks great!'

"Uh, okay, but about the president-"

"I can't help that.  I can help my tree."

People talk about Chesterton's Fence, and I think that very much applies - having lived here for a decade, I'm seeing what needs to stay and what should go.

And if the garden doesn't work out - at least my house and garage got organized!