Time of Landing Flies

This is the time of year when flies land on me.

Well, not just me. Not to be insulting, but I'm sure they land on you too. That's how it is with flies as the days grow shorter: they land on people. Also on the rims of coffee cups, and sandwiches, and plates on which sandwiches reside, and glasses of milk, and computer keyboards, and so on, edibles and nonedibles. Mostly, though, they land on you and me.

Native Americans had a name for this season: Quish-qua-go-yomama, "Time of Landing Flies." * As the maples don their scarlet robes, and asters glaze the meadows, and the angling sun gilds storybook landscapes, flies lose their minds. It's the one thing that can disrupt the poetry of autumn, not to mention my focus. I'll be sitting with my laptop, writing some profound piece of lyricism that requires all the candlepower I can muster....

Me: <[Typing] O moon-kiss'd maid with...

Fly: [Lands on my wrist] Bzzzt! (Translation: "Hi!")

Me: [Absentmindedly flick my wrist and return to typing]...a booger in thy nose / Wherefore art thou Romeo's? / Would that I might...

Fly: [Buzzes around a bit, then returns to my wrist. Flies are nothing if not persistent.] Bzzzt! ("I like you!")

Me: [Flick my wrist again] Dammit.

Fly: [Lands on the frame of my computer screen] Bzzzt! ("Will you be my friend? I think we could be great chums, you and I.")

Me: [Swatting at fly] Get a-WAY! Go! Shoo!

Fly: [Returns to the frame] Bzzzt! ("I offer you friendship. You respond with hostility. Will you not reconsider? I have powerful connections.")

Me: [Positioning my hands to clap them together against the fly] You shall die.

Fly: Uh-oh. [Takes off before I can nail it, then circles back and lands momentarily on my knee, out of reach] Bzzzt! ("Pthhhhtttt!")

I once was having a tabletop conversation with a friend when a fly zipped down out of nowhere like a tiny black meteor, straight at my shirt front. I glanced down at my chest but saw nothing, so I continued talking. But my friend's eyes had grown large, and I could tell something was distracting her. Finally she said, "Bob, did that fly just fly into your pocket?"

"Ha, ha!" I said. "Nah!"

Then from my pocket I heard a muffled Bzzzt! (Translation: "Don't be too sure about that.")

I looked down. There was the fly, looking up. We locked eyes, not an easy feat when teeny-weeny compound eyes are involved. "Bzzzt!" said the fly, which I took to mean, "This is great! I really like it in here."

That's how flies are this time of year. They whiz all over the place like miniscule stunt pilots on amphetamines, performing side slips and barrel rolls and all kinds of maneuvers with no discernible purpose. Then they land on me.

I don't get it. I don't like it. And I don't like flies.


No, we cannot be friends. Now get off my kneecap.


* Actually, Native Americans had no such name. I made it up just now. But they would have invented it if they'd been paying attention.

August 17, 2017, Thumb-Area Storm Chase

A wall cloud tightens up southeast of Chesaning, Michigan.

I have been chasing storms for twenty-one years. That's a side of me I rarely talk about in this blog. I have another blog, Stormhorn, devoted to that subject and jazz saxophone, but it developed problems with the image gallery that have seemed insurmountable, given the time it would take to fix the mess. Maybe one day, when wealth overtakes me and I don't have to work for a living, I'll repair my Stormhorn blog, as it really is a worthwhile site.

Low-top supercell displaying classic structure.

Right now, though, Fox's World is a fine place to post about my chase last Thursday, August 17, in the Saginaw, Michigan, area. Specifically, I intercepted a low-top supercell in Chesaning and tracked with it to SR 24 just north of Millington Road, south of Mayville--a distance of fifty miles and roughly two and a quarter hours of chasing, not including all the driving it took to first intercept the storm.

Weather weenies, particularly those who live in Michigan, will appreciate that an isolated, photogenic supercell that displays such classic structure, as opposed to a rain-wrapped mess, is rare in this state. Echo tops maxed out around thirty thousand feet--hardly a towering supercell but obviously one with enough of the right stuff to make for

Watching the storm south of Mayville with fellow Michigan-based chaser Chuck Russell.

an interesting chase. Moisture, bulk shear, low-level helicity, and instability came together sufficiently to create an organized storm with impressively rotating wall clouds, funnels, and eventually, a weak tornado in Kingston.

Oddly (well, I thought it was quite odd), this storm didn't produce a solitary lightning strike during its long career from its inception by Alto to the point where I dropped the chase south of Mayville. Just twelve miles from there as the crow flies, the storm went tornadic. At the time, though, as I watched with fellow chaser Chuck Russell by the side of SR 24, the supercell began to look anemic visually (though inflow still was decent) and all but dead on radar. It had been cycling all along its 110-mile course, powering up and then down, up and down, but this time

Nice, steamy-looking wall cloud with clear slot wrapping in.

I figured it was just a matter of time before it tanked completely, and I had a long drive back home to Hastings ahead of me. So I decided to can the chase.

"Of course, now it'll tighten up and drop a tube," I told Chuck as I left. Ha, ha, ha.

That's exactly what happened.

But I'm not complaining. Catching a tornado in Michigan is largely a matter of serendipity--not to detract from the skill and persistence it took for one chaser to get footage of the Kingston tornado, but then, so did a housewife who got the best video clip I've seen by simply stepping out of her back door and capturing the thing on her smart phone.

If you want to see the actual motion of the storm--and I recommend that you do--see my YouTube video at the very bottom of this post. It features chase highlights including a funnel cloud, structure shots, and close-up of a dramatically rotating wall cloud.

Evening sky after the storm.

Storm chasing is therapeutic for me. It both energizes and relaxes me; few things make me feel so alive as chasing storms, and this slow-moving supercell--moving in the neighborhood of 20 mph--was easy and fun to track with. Short of seeing a tornado, I couldn't have asked for more.

The sky on my journey home was a canvas of sunset colors, of vanilla custard cumuli transfigured by the sunset, sailing like tall ships in the blue-ocean troposphere. Behind me, a magnificent double rainbow arched over the east. I leave you with its image as a closing salute.

A rainbow arching across the eastern sky in in Michigan's thumb provides a beautiful conclusion to an enjoyable storm chase.


Quoting Bible Passages: Some Time- (and Money-) Saving Tips

If you're a Christian nonfiction writer, chances are you quote the Bible frequently.* And that means your editor, or perhaps your proofreader, must check your quotes and verse references for accuracy. Depending on how many passages you quote and how you handle them, you'd be surprised how much time that can take. If you're an independent author, it can translate into an added cost to you. But you can significantly reduce the time involved by following these four simple, commonsense tips:

1. Use one popular Bible version as your go-to for quotes. The NIV, ESV, NASB, NLT, NKJV, and NRSV are all examples of translations commonly chosen for their accuracy and readability. When you use only a single version, you need not state it in your verse references; just make sure the Bible publisher's copyright blurb appears on your book's copyright page.

2. If you do use other translations besides your primary translation, as is often the case, then do so sparingly, and have a good reason when you do. You need not show your primary translation in citations, but when you use a secondary translation, you should say which one. For example, if you use the New Living Translation in quoting Isaiah 35:9, indicate it thus: (Isa. 35:9 NLT). Your editor can't check the accuracy of a quote unless he or she knows which version you've quoted from! Don't make your editor have to hunt. Hunting takes time. And time, as you know, is ----.

3. Avoid using archaic or "novelty" translations as your primary Bible version. These include the King James Version, The Message, and the Amplified Bible. They're fine as secondary translations, but for your default translation, your readers will appreciate one that is easily readable and a true translation, not an interpretation. You may love your venerable KJV, but remember, your first concern is to serve your readers, who will probably find "You meet him with rich blessings" (Ps. 21:3 ESV) more understandable than "Thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness."

4. When using the NIV and the Amplified Bible, make sure you know and indicate which edition you are using. Both of these Bibles were updated somewhat recently, the NIV in 2011 and the AMP in 2015, and because their previous editions remain in widespread circulation, the older and newer editions frequently get mixed together. It's therefore not enough to simply say NIV or AMP in your citations. Which NIV? Which AMP?

If you resort both to the online NIV or AMP and to your trusty old leatherbound, hardcopy edition--as a lot of writers do--then it's a cinch that you're mixing the earlier and current editions. You've got to distinguish between them, because the differences are often substantial. Your best bet is to choose one source for your quotations, whether online or print, and stick with that source. In any case, know which version of the NIV and AMP you're quoting from in any given instance, and make sure you indicate it in your citation if it isn't your primary translation. For example, if the NIV 2011 is your primary translation, then treat its predecessor, the 1984 edition, as you would a secondary translation, thus: (John 3:16 NIV 1984).

Keep these four simple pointers in mind and you'll save your editor time and headaches, yourself some silver, and your readers a bit of head scratching.


* Not to say fiction writers don't also quote the Bible, but their use of Scripture is typically far lighter than in a book on, say, biblical counseling. Novelists can nevertheless profit from this advice as readily as nonfiction writers.