Fantasy Friday – Spec Faith Makeover

Speculative Faith, the team blog started in 2006 by a group of Christian speculative writers headed up by Stuart Stockton, almost died out a few years ago. One thing and another happened, causing regular writers to drop off.

I was the last to keep the home fires burning, and then my computer crashed–or, more accurately, performed a slow meltdown. For a month I struggled to log on to our old site. When at last my computer came through surgery, new and improved, I didn’t want to face all the spam that had accumulated on our old site.

Enter Stephen Burnett. He’d earlier taken on the role of regular contributor but went on a hiatus–some excuse about getting married, or something … 😀 When Stephen returned and saw the spam situation at the old site, we did a confab and agreed to start over, importing as much content as was feasible.

Hence, Spec Faith 2.0 launched at our present WordPress site in the summer of 2010. Since then we’ve had steady growth, in large part due to Stephen’s watchful eye and innovative work.

He created a Spec Faith Facebook page, for example, and added the Spec Faith library which now has over 400 books. (If only we could actually lend them out!)

Today he introduced the latest upgrade, Spec Faith 3.0. Besides tweaking the already classy look of the site, he has enhanced our library by bringing the creation of and access to reviews to the forefront.

Now anyone interested in seeing what’s available in Christian speculative fiction can go to the library and find, not just a book cover and blurb, but reader reviews and comments.

Of course, to make this feature viable, we need readers to actually post reviews and comments. For comments–a quick recommendation, perhaps, a response to a previous review, or maybe a report on how many stars you’d give the book–visitors only need to locate the book of their choice and click on the comment link.

For reviews, there’s a basic form where a visitor leaves their review, and an administrator will add it in the appropriate place.

I don’t know about you, but I have begun to pay more attention to reviews. How great, then, to have all these Christian speculative titles all in one place, along with reviews to help potential readers sort out which are the best books.

Not only that, but the reviews will also post to Facebook, so the influence of each one is magnified. For reviewers who are re-posting from their own blog, there is also a link (I’m pretty sure) to the original site, so it’s also a way to attract visitors to the reviewer’s blog.

OK, enough of my chit-chat. It’s much more effective if you click on over and take a look at the site yourself. Enjoy.

Published in: on June 1, 2012 at 5:40 pm  Comments Off on Fantasy Friday – Spec Faith Makeover  
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Flagrant 2

In professional basketball, a personal foul — contact with an opposing player not allowed by the rules of the game — is a violation and results in either free throws or possession of the basketball by the opposing team. A flagrant foul is a personal foul that is excessive or violent and could injure a player.

There are two levels of flagrant fouls. The first level, deemed less severe by the referees, results in a technical foul — free throws and possession of the ball by the opposing team. The flagrant 2 is the most serious, results in immediate player ejection and may also bring further suspension by the League office.

No dirty tricks, the NBA is saying. Basketball is not going to sink into violence. Players are to play by the rules, which admittedly allows some contact, but they aren’t to deliberately hurt anyone either by intentionally trying to do so or by playing so rough, that’s the inevitable consequence.

These flagrant foul rules came into the league a few years after Boston’s Kevin McHale close-lined Lakers forward Kurt Rambis and threw him on his back as he was going up for a lay-up. As I remember, McHale was called for a foul, received no technical, and was not ejected from the game.

Professional hockey used to be known more for the fights on the ice than any actual skating and scoring, but their league also took action and has done much to clean up the game so that it is growing in popularity.

Schools are beginning to call a flagrant 2 on bullies. No more purposeful, intentional, harmful bashing — physically or emotionally — of another student. The damage is too great and the repercussions are unacceptable.

The problem, however, is that the flagrant 2 is a penalty, not a prevention. Yes, in sports and perhaps in schools, the penalty may act as a deterrent. That would seem to be the case in hockey, and fewer players are being thrown on their backs these days in professional basketball.

But the flagrant 2 does not address the heart of the matter — the heart. Bullies of any stripe in any venue don’t care about the rules. They only care about not getting caught.

How else can we explain a professional football coach paying players to go out and hurt athletes on opposing teams? Rules don’t matter to guys like that, so no flagrant 2 ruling is going to change a person like that.

What will?

A heart transplant.

Chuck Colson, who died on Saturday, is proof of what a new heart can do. He was involved in the greatest political scandal of US history, and ended up serving jail time because of it. But in the midst of the finger-pointing and cover-ups, he found Christ, and the world began to see what a changed life looks like.

No, Mr. Colson didn’t turn his life around. His personal flagrant 2 didn’t set him straight or even scare him straight. He actually entered prison as a Christian, and as God so often does, He used what appeared to be the lowest point of Mr. Colson’s life to do something of greatness.

It was in prison that Mr. Colson came to understand what life was all about and what his purpose was for. A year or so after his release from jail, he founded Prison Fellowship. The change in this man’s heart began to have widespread affects, not just in the lives of the inmates who had the opportunity to hear about Jesus Christ but in the Church as it came face to face with the responsibility to reach beyond the boundaries of our comfort zone to our neighbors we’d rather flag with a flagrant 2 and be done.

Mr. Colson has given the Church far more than we may realize today. I suspect his legacy will be among the great Christian thinkers. Well, it already is.

“Precious in the sight of the LORD
Is the death of His godly ones” (Ps. 116:15).

Published in: on April 23, 2012 at 8:31 pm  Comments Off on Flagrant 2  
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Good Teacher

The guy was conscientious, the type most moms would like to see their daughter date. He was law-abiding, a man of some standing and quite successful, but that wasn’t enough. He wanted to go above and beyond the rest, even when it came to the all important issue of religious things.

In that vein, he approached Jesus.

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Like so many men, this guy was all about doing. Give him a task, and he’d see to it. I suspect he was the Type A personality, the alpha male. He lived by his check list. Keep the Sabbath, check. Give to the poor, check. Do the ritual washings, check. Honor his parents, check.

Then Jesus showed up. So why not cover all his bases? Why not find out from this New Voice, this radical, authoritative teacher, what he himself might be overlooking?

So he asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

I think I know what he was hoping. It’s the same sort of thought process I go through as a writer when I give someone pages to critique. If I’m honest, I would really, really like to hear them say, This is brilliant; don’t change a thing. But realistically, I expect to hear some bit of advice or insight that can help me do better. From what they say, then, I’ll go about improving.

Undoubtedly Mr. Got-It-Together was approaching Jesus the same way. Just maybe, the teacher would be complimentary — even impressed, with the very question and certainly with the long list of done-that’s he’d discover upon probing further.

But at the worst, Jesus would give him some obscure tidbit that would put him ahead of the game and would put him that much closer to assurance that he not only had it together now, but for eternity.

How surprising, then, when Jesus didn’t settle into critique mode right away. Instead he asked an odd question. “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

Technicalities. I mean, wasn’t that question like someone today saying, Why do you call me a good editor or a good writer?

To Mr. Got-It-Together it was probably nothing more than a way of saying to Jesus, I respect your role and therefore your opinion. What you say to me matters. I want to know what you think about this subject because your view holds some sway.

Jesus, however, pulled that technicality. No one is good but God.

Sure, sure. Mr. Got-It-Together knew that. So maybe Jesus was saying, About this eternal life thing, back off from any terminology that might be construed as insincere flattery or even from any language that has the taint of the blasphemous. Quickly, the petitioner amended his reference. Teacher, I’ve kept the law …

But hadn’t Jesus already given Mr. Got-It-Together what he asked — that something he needed to inherit eternal life?

Only God is good, and God in the flesh stood in front of the man. If he could have answered, I called you good because you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God, wouldn’t Jesus have gone straight to “Follow Me”?

But Mr. Got-It-Together was hung up on what he needed to do, not what he needed to believe. Hence Jesus had to show him his true heart: there was something more precious to him than eternal life, something he was unwilling to do, some quest he refused, some idol that kept him from what he said he wanted.

And the man walked away.

He didn’t like the critique he got. It wasn’t a generic rejection letter, but it was worse. He had to abandon who he was and accept who Jesus was.

He didn’t need tweaking, a little editing, better understanding of how to follow this or that rule. He didn’t even need a rewrite. He needed to sell all rights to the Good Teacher — to God who looked at him with such compassion — and to let this Good God do with his life what He would.

That, Mr. Got-It-Together just couldn’t bring himself to do.

– – – – –

To read the story yourself, see Mark 10:17-22

Published in: on April 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm  Comments (1)  

My Turn To Tell

As promised, here are my picks from yesterday’s post, “You Tell Me Yours, I’ll Tell You Mine,” marked in boldface font and followed by brief commentary.

a Mac or PC — no contest. Whenever I have to use a PC, I realize anew how much I like Macs.

Narnia or Lord of the Rings — but that’s no slight on Narnia because I love it too.

science fiction or fantasy — and that one’s not even close.

classical or country — same here!

books or ereaders — but I’m just getting started with my very first ereader, so this could change in the near future.

Facebook or Twitter — I’m getting more comfortable with Twitter, but I don’t see it moving ahead of Facebook.

LinkedIn or Pinterest — Pin-what? Seriously, I haven’t been to the site yet, but from what I’ve heard … it’s not for me.

YA books or adult — nothing against YA. I read it with some frequency, but I gravitate toward the adult stuff.

mystery or suspense — I love figuring stuff out and hate being scared!

Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance — Stars are soooooo overrated!

The Voice or American Idol — neither, really, but the few times I watched some of The Voice, I thought it looked like a better show.

Survivor or Amazing Race — I’m a die-hard fan! 😀

Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum — I like the fact that the only bad thing the media says about him is that he’s spending too much time on “social issues.”

Old Testament or New Testament — this is where I start cheating: both, absolutely.

Apostle Paul or Apostle Peter — ditto

Elijah or Daniel — tough call. I actually like Elisha more than Elijah, but I may have learned the most from Elijah because of a wonderful series of sermons Pastor Swindoll did years ago.

Tom Sawyer or Lord of the Flies — when I wrote this, I intended to say Lord of the Flies. I think it’s a great study in human nature. But it’s also pretty depressing. So I’ll go with humor, adventure, suspense, and a little peak at human nature on the side.

Denver Broncos or Oakland Raiders — need I say more? 😉

Tim Tebow or Jeremy Linn — I’ve heard Tim speak about Jesus. So far I’ve only heard others say Jeremy Linn has faith like Tim Tebow. Besides, Tim plays for the right team, and Jeremy doesn’t. 😉

Corrie ten Boom or Elizabeth Elliot — Elizabeth Elliot is a remarkable woman. I actually had the privilege of hearing both of them speak, though, and Corrie exuded the love of Christ. Her life has had a big impact on me.

iPad or Kindle Fire — I own neither so don’t know what the advantages of each are, but because I favor Apple products, I’d be inclined to go with the iPad if it were possible.

grace or mercy — yeah, no way to choose on this one. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who, according to His great mercy, has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3), but “By grace you have been saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

Christian fiction or general market fiction — I’ve been reading more Christian fiction of late, but I like the general market fiction that’s been recommended to me.

New York Times or Wall Street Journal — I don’t read either regularly, but when I find links to articles, I usually find the treatment in the WSJ to be thorough and less “media party line.”

hymns or choruses — Both have their place. Paul said in Colossians, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). Was he just being redundant, or was he making a point that different kinds of musical renditions have their place? I favor the latter view.

Well, there you have it. Again, special thanks to those who took the time to give their picks. This was fun.

Published in: on March 1, 2012 at 5:17 pm  Comments (2)  
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You Tell Me Yours, I’ll Tell You Mine

This is a crazy, spur-of-the-moment list, just for fun. Tell me your picks — as many as you like, and I’ll post all mine … some time … somewhere. 😀 How’s that for specific?

Ready? Which is your preference?

    a Mac or PC

    Narnia or Lord of the Rings

    science fiction or fantasy

    classical or country

    books or ereaders

    Facebook or Twitter

    LinkedIn or Pinterest

    YA books or adult

    mystery or suspense

    Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance

    The Voice or American Idol

    Survivor or Amazing Race

    Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum

    Old Testament or New Testament

    Apostle Paul or Apostle Peter

    Elijah or Daniel

    Tom Sawyer or Lord of the Flies

    Denver Broncos or Oakland Raiders

    Tim Tebow or Jeremy Linn

    Corrie ten Boom or Elizabeth Elliot

    iPad or Kindle Fire

    grace or mercy

    Christian fiction or general market fiction

    New York Times or Wall Street Journal

    hymns or choruses

I’ll stop at 25. Pick any you’d like to answer and if you want to elaborate and explain your pick, I’d love to hear that, too.

I might put mine in a comment or maybe I’ll answer in another post. Some of these I wish I could turn into a poll because I’d be curious to see what the consensus is. But as it stands, this is just for fun. No insidious ulterior motive on my part. Looking forward to seeing what you think.

Published in: on February 29, 2012 at 5:39 pm  Comments (14)  
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CSFF Tour Wrap – The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead

Another great CSFF tour wrapped up, this one for Ross Lawhead’s debut novel, The Realms Thereunder. In all thirty-nine bloggers participated, with two more due to post in the near future. In total the participants wrote sixty-six articles and countless comments. Now that, my friends, is buzz.

Not that we all agreed, mind you. This book in particular had split reviews, but I guess that just leaves it up to the reader to get a copy and decide for himself/herself! 😉

Gold star for committed participation has to go to Steve Trower who is a science fiction guy and who received the book the same day his wife gave birth. Still, he managed to post three times during the tour, including his now famous Tuesday Tunes.

All this brings us to the final tour event — the vote for this month’s top tour blogger. Those who posted at least three times during the tour are eligible. And the nominees, with the links to their posts, are

And now, there is nothing left but for you to vote. Poll will remain open through Thursday, March 8, giving you ample time to check out the articles before you make your selection.

Published in: on February 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Tour Wrap – The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead  

What God Thinks About The State Of The US Government

No, God didn’t speak to me audibly and tell me who He wants to win the Republican nomination for Presidency. Nor did He pass along His opinion of the job President Obama is doing. He did, however, give some pointed words in Scripture.

But first, let me lay out the situation. Last night I heard on the news (and today read articles from MSNBC and ProPublica which apparently broke the story) that the federally owned lending institution Freddie Mac is still involved in gambling investing gambling in the housing market.

It seems they have invested in “financial instruments that profit when homeowners are stuck in high-interest mortgages.” This is the company that is supposedly working to refinance so many of those troubled mortgages — reportedly 11 million of them were still in trouble as late as the end of last year. To put that number in perspective, a Freddie Mac rep says they have refinanced 4.3 million during the past three years. That’s roughly 1.1 million a year — not even a tenth of those that needed help in 2011.

It’s hard to believe that Freddie Mac is doing the best they can when they actually profit each time there’s a foreclosure connected with one of their “financial instruments.”

Just as troubling is the hand-wringing that the Federal Reserve is doing, saying that what Freddie Mac is doing is “difficult to justify.” Hmmmm. I thought government was supposed to give oversight to government owned organizations. But as part of the bailout, Freddie Mac was apparently ordered to get out of the risky investment business and they responded by “[doubling] down on securities that pay off when homeowners lose.”

As it turns out the regulatory agency that is … well, to regulate these mortgage institutions, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, now “plays the role of [Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae’s] board of directors and shareholders, responsible for the companies’ major decisions.”

What mystifies me is this: our society holds our athletes — those coddled iconic figures we keep in the green — to a higher standard than we do those in government and in finance.

College athletes — those in the top division of the NCAA — get nothing from anyone. No car (ask Reggie Bush about that), free lunches, watches, shirts, plane tickets home, extra tickets to games. Nothing. And if they break the rules, the powers that be come down with two feet squarely on the head of the entire program, not just the athlete. (Some people think it’s only one foot if you’re Ohio State and two feet if you’re USC, but the point is, there are dire consequences to pay.)

Pro athletes face restrictions, too. Theirs has to do with gambling. For this one, ask Pete Rose. Not only was he kicked out of baseball, he’s excluded from the Hall of Fame because of his indiscretion. Michael Vick went to prison for his part in a gambling scheme involving dog fights. Dogs, not people.

But our banks? They can gamble that Joe the factory worker and Juan the gardener are going to lose their houses.

Meanwhile, our Congressmen, unlike our college athletes, can accept all the lunches and plane trips and game tickets and campaign contributions they want from the very people who have a bill that they’ll be voting on in the next month or so.

What’s the disconnect here? Teach our kids to play it clean, make our athletes keep it fair, but our leaders — they get a different set of rules.

Which brings me back to what God thinks of this sort of shenanigan going on in our government. Take a look at Psalm 36 and notice the difference between the ungodly and God Himself (emphases in these verses are mine).

Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart;
There is no fear of God before his eyes.
2 For it flatters him in his own eyes
Concerning the discovery of his iniquity and the hatred of it.
3 The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit;
He has ceased to be wise and to do good.
4 He plans wickedness upon his bed;
He sets himself on a path that is not good;
He does not despise evil.

5 Your lovingkindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
Your judgments are like a great deep.
O LORD, You preserve man and beast.
7 How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
8 They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house;
And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights.
9 For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light.

10 O continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You,
And Your righteousness to the upright in heart.

11 Let not the foot of pride come upon me,
And let not the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 There the doers of iniquity have fallen;
They have been thrust down and cannot rise.

Perspective. Hearing what God says puts everything in perspective.

Published in: on January 31, 2012 at 6:04 pm  Comments (3)  

Some 2011 Stuff I Like (That’s A Date, Not An Amount)

Every year has its unique trials, some personal and some national or even global. But there are good things too, and I want to focus on those. Too often they get shuttled to the side, so here are things I like from this year, in random order — and even saying that is giving this list more credit for organization than it deserves. 😀

More truthfully, this is an “as I think it, down it goes” list.

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 movie came out.
  • God provided the resources I needed so I didn’t have to move.
  • My friend Sally Apokedak signed with a literary management company.
  • Critique group member Mike Duran‘s debut novel Resurrection came out.
  • Tim Tebow became a starter for the Denver Broncos and led them on a six-game winning streak.
  • Fred Warren joined the Spec Faith team in January, and John Otte came on board this summer.
  • I finished book four of The Lore of Efrathah.
  • Thanks to my crit group, I saw how to re-write a section of book 3 and the opening part of book 4 — work that is also finished now.
  • I finally found a candidate for President I could support with my whole heart — Rick Santorum.
  • God surprised me with the generosity of friends, some in small ways, others in big ways — each encouraging and a reminder that God never leaves us or forsakes us.
  • My church did a summer sermon series on faith from Hebrews 11.
  • Our pastor search team announced the top things our congregation identified as qualities we want in our pastor, and number one came in as expository preaching.
  • Books 1-3 of D. Barkley Briggs’s Legends of Karac Tor came out with AMG.
  • I learned about Katie Davis, an inspiring young woman who is serving Christ in Africa by working with orphans, even adopting many. She started when she was sixteen!
  • After a long wait, Andrew Peterson’s third book in the Wingfeather Saga released this summer.
  • The LA Galaxy won the MLS championship.
  • I entered the 24-hour Short Story contest twice and ended up with two stories I like.
  • I picked up a handful of new editing clients, some who have already brought repeat business.
  • I started memorizing Scripture again — currently working on the book of Colossians.
  • Agent Lee Hough (Alive Communications) learned that his first scan after treatment for an aggressive brain cancer showed he is cancer free.
  • Trish Miller, my sister-in-law, lost her job only to find a better one a month later.
  • Following the sermon series on faith, my church followed up with a study of the book of Mark entitled, Fix Your Eyes on Jesus.
  • I’m starting to figure out how to use Twitter.
  • I got new windows in the living room.
  • Our apartment building was painted this fall.
  • Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family was fantastic.
  • I got to see my nephew run in a cross country race I used to coach.
  • The blog traffic at my editing site — Rewrite, Reword, Rework — has increased, and I think it’s in large part because of a Facebook group I’m in, PenTalk.
  • Writing group meetings have been helpful and encouraging and thought-provoking. Our members keep me working to improve.
  • Friendships near and far have brought me closer to Christ.

That’s a good place to end, thinking about iron relationships — the ones that sharpen one another (Prov. 27:17). 😉

Published in: on December 29, 2011 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Armageddon or Har Megiddo (and variant spellings of both) references the final battle leading up to the end of the world and God’s judgment (See Revelation 16). But someone in the gaming world co-opted the term and turned it into “Carmageddon,” the name of a violent vehicular combat video game.

Now that word has been hijacked. Here in Southern California someone in Cal Trans (the transportation arm of state government) or the media used it to describe a condition feared by many: the shut down of a major freeway.

National news services are carrying this story. I just read a Tweet from someone living east of the Mississippi wishing us well. After all, some reports have traffic snarled in gridlock from Los Angeles to San Diego. But hold on. You haven’t heard all of it.

This freeway closure is happening over the weekend, when most people don’t have to go to work. What’s more, the entire 405 freeway isn’t closed. Only a ten mile stretch. Ten miles!

Just to put things in perspective, out here, ten miles is nothing. I drive ten miles to church every week. I used to drive seven miles to work every day (which of course made it a fourteen mile round trip). Places are far apart out west, so ten miles is a short stretch — a mere ten minutes if freeway traffic is flowing somewhere near the speed limit.

And this short stretch of freeway being closed for a short period of time, on a weekend, has been dubbed carmageddon. Car apocalypse! The traffic gridlock to end all traffic for all time (until Monday morning).

Besides the obvious overkill of the phrase, I’m disturbed by this silliness. First, to employ a term that evokes thoughts of the end of the world shows the perspective of our society — it isn’t sin or evil that we’re battling. It’s whatever might inconvenience us for a weekend. That’s what brings the world to an end.

As a corollary, there’s a tongue-in-cheek implication that we don’t have to worry about an actual Armageddon as part of God’s judgment on the world. It’s all myth, and therefore the term is fair game if we want to play with it, tweak it, and make it strike horror of a not-so-horrible nature.

It’s as if the person who coined Carmageddon is saying, God? Judgment? The end of the world? Get real. The serious matter at hand is what threatens our roads. This religious stuff is fodder for us to use to draw a figurative image.

It chills me to realize that God’s Holy Word is being treated by our culture in the same way that we treat Greek mythology — as a book filled with stories about made up people and pretend gods.

I wonder how many Southlanders mouthing concern over “carmaggedon” have the slightest idea that there is a just God who will one day bring judgment on the earth.

We focus our attention on the most ridiculous concerns. Last week it was “the Royals” visiting LA. This week it’s “carmaggedon.” Next week will be something else.

Perhaps it’s all a smokescreen to keep us from looking at the serious business we have with God at some point in the future, either personally or cataclysmically.

Published in: on July 15, 2011 at 5:42 pm  Comments (7)  
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Fantasy Friday: In Lieu Of A Comment

Fantasy author Jonathan Rogers (The Charlatan’s Boy and other books about Feechie folk) includes a fun feature on his blog: Friday Audience Participation. Most weeks I don’t have a story to share, but this week, I do … in triplicate, times ten.

But alas! My computer has an ongoing argument with Jonathan’s comment system. Some days they make peace, and I can enter into discussions on his site, but I never know what state of cooperation (or lack thereof) I’ll find.

Today’s topic … I just couldn’t resist. Try as I might, however, I could not get past Please wait. Sorta felt for a while like I was on hold with the automated answering system from Darth Vader’s Evil Empire or some such dastardly place.

In the end, I decided to bring my answer here (it certainly is long enough to be a post). So first, Jonathan’s Audience Participation topic for today:

Tell us your anecdotes about wild mammals you have known, from field mice to possums to bears. Armadillos, by the way, are mammals. A surprising number of people think armadillos are a kind of reptile, but they are as mammalian as you are and are therefore eligible for this APF. Dolphins and whales, I don’t have to remind you, are also mammals.

And my answer which never had a chance (sort of like having a manuscript rejected by an agent without being read 😆 ):

Without a doubt, my parents both had Feechie blood in them. Consequently, I have more mammal stories to tell than all the rest of the visitors [there] at put together. Do you want to hear about the time my dad almost lost an arm to a mother bear because he was feeding her cubs? Or the time my mom woke me up to see the bear peering into the window of our cabin — the two-room structure with both doors wide open?

Instead, lets go with this one — not quite as dramatic, but probably more unusual.

When I was a teen, my parents decided to relocate from Southern California to East Africa. Yep. Half way around the world. In the fall of that year we headed off for a vacation which took us to the base of Kilimanjaro, then onto the plains of the Serengeti.

Lions we saw and zebra, wildebeest, Thompson gazelles, impala, giraffe, and water buffalo. But the ones I won’t forget are … well, now I realize they aren’t mammals, so I can’t tell the rest of the story. Too bad. It puts my dad on the map as Feechie kin.

Ah, but wait, I can tell about this one. We took a safari into Ngorongoro Crater, with a Tanzanian guide driving a Land Rover. Certainly the folks there must have detected my parent’s Feechiness because they gave us a driver that fit right in.

We zipped down the walls of the crater and onto the floor where we enjoyed any number of mammal sightings and eventually drew within feet of a couple of lions feasting on a fresh kill.

But our driver had something special in mind. He headed toward a swampy (I told you — Feechie blood in that man) area where he pointed out the top most part of a hippopotamus — a bit of his head and some of his back (I have the picture).

Not satisfied (probably because we couldn’t get closer), our driver whipped the Land Rover around until he found a lone rhinoceros.

Instead of pulling up at a respectable distance so we could get our pictures, however, he gunned the engine and headed straight for the animal who lowered his horn at us and charged.

Our driver didn’t back off or steer clear, though. He came to a full stop and turned off the engine! Yep turned it off. Then told us to remain still. Me hanging out of the open roof of the Land Rover, camera in hand, staring down a 2000 pound rhino inches from the hood of the Land Rover.

Later our driver explained: rhinos have poor eyesight, but they make up for it with their hearing.

How long did we sit there in a stare down with an angry rhinoceros? It seemed like hours (though it was probably more like ten minutes). That old gray bull wasn’t in a charitable mood. He wanted to spear something!

We did get some pictures though, but I think the other visitors cranking their cameras got better footage than we did. After all, we stayed very still for most of the encounter!

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