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.

Remembering Ted Carino

Ted CarinoWhen I was thirteen years old, my fellow eighth-grade band member Steve Afendoulis asked me to join a band he was forming. I had been playing the alto saxophone a year, and in that time, thanks to an arcane formula for success called "practicing consistently," I had ascended to the rank of first chair. Now here was an opportunity to take the music to the next level, and it held the added enticement of lifting me up the social ladder from "weird kid" to "cool kid." With visions of rock star glory in my head, I accepted Steve's invitation. I knew it wouldn't be long before Eric Clapton would be giving me a call. There would be tours, concerts at the Fillmore East . . .

Steve's band turned out not to be exactly a horn version of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Its name was the Formal Aires, and "Purple Haze" was not in our library. "In the Mood" was, and so was "One O'Clock Jump," and "String of Pearls," and "Mood Indigo," and lots of other corny old tunes written by corny, passe composers like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Strayhorn, Cole Porter, Carlos Jobim, and Miles Davis. Well, maybe not Miles.

Good-bye, Fillmore East. Visions of beautiful hippie girls falling at my feet dissolved into inebriated granddads twirling their sport coats lasciviously on country club dance floors as my band mates and I honked out "The Stripper." It was not what I had pictured.

Yet I liked it. And as weeks of practice turned into months, and the months paid off in prestigious gigs, and the band's library grew along with our sound and our reputation, I came to love it.

The Formal Aires was my introduction to big band jazz, the American songbook, and supercool, genius composers like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Strayhorn, Cole Porter, and Carlos Jobim. Miles Davis was still a little ways down the pike, but regardless, here was a musical foundation on which to build a huge part of my life. It was God's grace delivered to me on a silver platter, though I was too callow at the time to realize what a remarkable gift I was being given. That's the nature of grace: the value and the force of it often don't become apparent to us until long after the fact. All I knew was, I sure was having fun.

Steve's dad, Gus, managed the band. Gus was wonderful! He doted on us kids, loved our music, and supported us any way he could. As the owner of a tuxedo shop, he saw to it that we were all properly attired for our ongoing calendar of gigs at topnotch country clubs throughout Kent County and elsewhere in Michigan.

And Gus did something else as well, something critical to the success of our fledgling seventeen-piece ensemble: he got Ted Carino to provide musical directorship.

Every week, when we gathered for rehearsal in the Afendoulis basement, there was Ted. An alto saxophonist steeped in the big band tradition, he helped us interpret those stiff black hieroglyphs on our charts into the language of swing, where eighth notes become loose and greasy and feelingful.

Ted raised our appreciation for dynamics. Ted drilled us till the awkward parts fit together into a tight musical gestalt. The concept of "sectionals"—breaking up into sax, trumpet, trombone, and rhythm sections to practice a tune separately—first came to me from Ted Carino.

So too did the impact the right mouthpiece could have on my playing. I had been using the stock mouthpiece that came with my Conn 6M alto. It never occurred to me that there might be other possibilities. Then one night Ted pulled me aside. "Try this," he said, handing me a little box. In it was a new Brilhart Ebolin mouthpiece. It looked cool with the white bite plate. I put it on my horn and was surprised at how much louder it sounded and how much freer it blew. It was authoritative.

"You need something like this for playing lead," Ted told me.

Who knew? Certainly not me or my folks. But Ted did, and he spent his cash to give me a mouthpiece that kicked my sound and my playing up a notch to where they needed to be for a section leader.

I played with the Formal Aires through my high school years, up to the time when the band disbanded and its members scattered to pursue college, careers, marriage, and raising familes. A few of them remained in music, one of them being me. As for Ted, I eventually lost track of him. He retired from Jet Electronics and moved to Florida, where he remained musically active; you can read about that and lots more in his writeup at the top of this post. I clipped it from the Grand Rapids Press obituaries section in 2012, and having recently rediscovered it, I got to thinking about Theodore Carino and who he was to me.

Ted was a generous man with his time, talent, and knowledge. He invested himself freely and wholeheartedly in a bunch of young players way back when, and today I think there's not a one of us who wouldn't remember him with gratitude—given a little prompting, of course. It has, after all, been a few years. But a good person's impact has staying power, and it can perpetuate itself over time. Ted was one of a few special, key encouragers who made me think, "I can do this. I can play this crazy instrument. And I love doing so."

I hope there'll be a few younger souls who, in different ways, can look back forty years from now and say something similar about me—not necessarily about music (though that would be great), but about how I encouraged them to become who they are and affirm the talents God gave them as good and worthy of cultivation. That, even more than the music, would be a great legacy for Ted Carino to have passed on through one young teen to generations still to come.