Soldier Litanies – Mother of Sorrows

Soldier Litanies – Mother of Sorrows

Soldier litanies are common timing and coping mechanisms

soldier litanies

Soldier litanies

Timing mechanisms are useful for folks in many professions. Invoking the deity is quite common as well, particularly among military personnel in stressful situations. That’s why it wasn’t surprising to me when an ex-military character on “FBI Most Wanted” used “Mother of Sorrow” as a litany.

Hail Mary

If you were raised in a religious household, you may know one or more litanies connected to your family’s faith. Catholics in particular are able to recite numerous parts of the Mass that they said over and over and over as children, weekly, if not more often. That’s why following the Star Wars line, “May the Force be with you,” with, “And with Your Spirit,” strikes the Catholic funny bone.

Then there’s the Rosary. While kids attending Catholic school don’t pray the rosary as often as older generations, those that did have it stuck in their heads forever. A Catholic child got their first rosary beads when they made their First Communion in second grade or so. They prayed a decade (ten Hail Marys) before class in many schools. Say the Hail Mary that often, well, you get the idea. The rosary has potential for numerous soldier litanies.

Military Timing

The most memorable example of using a religious litany as a timing mechanism is in the book/movie, “A Bridge Too Far.” In the push by the US 82nd Airborne Divison to take the Waal River Bridge at Nijemegen, Netherlands, then-Captain Julian Cook led an assault to the far side of the bridge by boat. To keep timing while paddling, he said, over and over, “Hail Mary, full of grace…” Soldier litanies help focus and keep those reciting them alive.

Prayer as timing assistant happens to this day.

Mother of Sorrows

One of the ways folks pray the rosary is to reflect on the “Mysteries” of Mary, Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious. They’re a great way to take a long, meditative prayer even longer. So, when a former Army sniper with mental health issues invoked “Mother of Sorrows” on the FBI show, it wasn’t a big surprise. He repeats “Mother of Sorrow” over and over, while loading rounds into a magazine. It’s a particularly dark reference. While non-religious and/or non-Catholic folks may roll their eyes, if you recited the rosary as a kid, it’s less odd than you think.

Of course, it doesn’t fit for a guy loading up a weapon of human destruction to reference the Joyful or Glorious items. Sorrows strike the dark chord. I got it immediately, but my memories of this particular visualization of Mary was fuzzy. I was always more of a positive/happy Catholic than a suffering Catholic. So, I needed to look back on Our Lady of Sorrows. This image is the first thing that hits you on Wikipedia:

soldier litanies

This is “Seven Swords Piercing the Sorrowful Heart of Mary” in the Church of the Holy Cross, Salamanca, Spain. It’s a particularly violent and dark image. When you stop and think about it, though, it’s reflective of the grief of a mother. Four of the seven sorrowful mysteries touch upon the Crucifixion of Christ, from his mother’s perspective. Women will tell you, many would rather suffer and die than see their children come to harm. All of a sudden, an incredibly violent statue of a woman being pierced by swords hits home.

I’m not sure how this will all fit into a story, but it may well. Catholic themes pop up at odd times for me as a writer.

Rail Travel Inspiration – 1950s New York

Rail travel inspiration offers fertile ground for writing ideas

rail travel inspiration

New York Central poster for the 20th Century Limited, 1948.

Rail travel inspiration

I wrote an article for NOLA History Guy last week on “Hickory Creek,” a 1948-vintage railcar built for the New York Central’s “20th Century Limited” train. The car operates in charter service, pulled behind Amtrak trains. I saw it leaving New Orleans, behind the Amtrak Crescent. The Crescent travels from New Orleans to New York City. I included the poster above, as a bit of a flashback. It flashed to me, even if nobody else follows along!

Grand Central Terminal in the 1950s

My thoughts go back to 1950, but not necessarily to the New York Central. While Grand Central Terminal was A Big Deal to the railroad, their trains connected Chicago to New York, not the South. So, for the South, it’s Southern Railway and Louisville and Nashville. They brought the Crescent and other trains up from New Orleans. Replace the 20th Century Limited in that poster with the Crescent and it’s a New Orleans story! Additionally, a story doesn’t have to be limited to a single train trip.

The romance of train travel

rail travel inspiration

New York Central poster featuring a streamlined 4-6-4 Hudson locomotive.

This New York Central poster shows a 4-6-4 “Hudson” steam engine, pulling the 20th Century Limited. While most steam locomotives presented a lot of exposed rods, gears, and machinery, the railroad covered all that up for their signature train. So, the streamline look of those engines increased the romance aspect of a trip to Chicago.

Switching to diesel continues rail travel inspiration

rail travel inspiration

New York Central poster from the 1950s, featuring diesel engine and “streamline” passenger car.

The railroad switched the 20th Century Limited to diesel locomotives in 1945. The Electro-Motive Division of General Motors sold “E” units to the New York Central. The railroad ordered new cars, “trainsets” as well. Those entered service in 1948. That’s where Hickory Creek comes in.

Imagine a regular traveler on the 20th Century Limited, settling into a sleeping compartment in one of those new cars. Or, maybe a couple from Jersey, taking a trip to the Lake Michigan shore. While those visuals aren’t Southern, they’re still inspiring! So many possibilities!


USS Topeka SSN-754 New Navigator!

USS Topeka SSN-754 New Navigator!

USS Topeka SSN-754 gets a new Navigator this week.

USS Topeka SSN-754

Fast-attack submarine USS Topeka, underway. (Photo from the Topeka’s Facebook Page)

USS Topeka SSN-754

LT Firstborn was home for the holidays, having completed the Submarine Officer Advanced Course (SOAC) at Naval Submarine Base New London. We brought him to the airport this morning, and he’s off to Naval Base Guam, which is the home port of the USS Topeka SSN-754. The Topeka is a Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine. These submarines formed the backbone of the US Navy’s attack submarine force for the last forty years. While some of the 688s (as they’re known) were upgraded to extend their service lives, the USS Virginia-class boats phase them out.

USS Topeka SSN-754

Insignia of the USS Topeka SSN-754 (US Navy drawing)

The USS Topeka SSN-754 entered service on 23-January-1988. That makes the boat six months older than LT Firstborn! The Lieutenant did his “junior officer” tour on the USS Alexandria SSN-757. So, it was logical for him to go back to sea on a 688.


USS Topeka SSN-754

USS Topeka entering the harbor at Naval Base Guam, December, 2019. (US Navy photo)

LT Firstborn surprised me by choosing Naval Base Guam as his home port. He opted for that base over a position as Engineer. He had several reasons for this choice. Because Guam is so forward (in relation to Pearl Harbor or San Diego), the boats there go out for a few weeks and then return to port. The boats assigned to US ports often go out for as long as six months as a time. By choosing Guam, he gets to sleep in his apartment more often.

His other motivation for Guam is travel. Hopefully things will remain stable enough that he’ll be able to visit places like Tokyo, Bangkok, and other interesting Asian destinations.

The path to Guam

us army CGSC

Arms of the US Army Command and General Staff College (Army image)

So, LT Firstborn was commissioned as an Ensign (O-1), after completing OCS. He received promotion to Lt. Junior Grade (O-2) while in the various schools required of a submarine officer. As a LTJG, he served on the Alexandria. He received promotion to Lieutenant while on that boat. Then came his three-year “shore tour.” He served at NSA Saratoga Springs in upstate New York for two years. Then came a year at the US Army Command and General Staff College in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Next came SOAC, to get him and other O-3s ready to return to the fleet as senor officers.

Navigator of USS Topeka SSN-754

uss topeka ssn-754

Insignia for a Lieutenant (O-3), US Navy (Navy image)

Submarines such as the USS Topeka SSN-754 have a Captain and an Executive Officer, who hold the rank of Commander (O-5). Under them are three “department heads,” They command three departments, Engineering, Navigation, and Weapons. The Engineer is usually promoted to Lt. Commander (O-4) when assuming the job. The other two department heads are Lieutenants (O-3). They receive promotion during the tour. LT Firstborn joins Topeka as its Navigator. He’ll be responsible for 30-40 sailors, three or four Chiefs, and a couple of junior officers. He’ll be responsible for bringing the boat in and out of port, underway navigation, and ship’s communications. He will also stand watch as needed, as Officer of the Deck and as Engineering Duty Officer, as needed.


I am so proud of this young man! I do hope we’ll get to go out to Guam to visit. Better still, if the boat puts into Pearl Harbor at a time when we only have to go that far. It was so good to have him home for even a short time. Now I’m back to teaching and writing.

Personal Log 20191123

Personal Log 20191123

personal log 20191123

Arwen is getting SO BIG!

Personal Log 20191123

Taking a moment to catch my breath. It’s been a crazy week. I had a hardware class for HitachiVantara Global Learning on the schedule for some time, but then I was asked by Megan Holt of “One Book New Orleans” if I’d be interested in presenting a talk on “Personal Websites for Authors” at this year’s Words and Music New Orleans festival. I jumped on it! So, I planned the teaching week to get the lecture material for the course done by Thursday. Home on Southwest Thursday night, then out to the Ace Hotel for the festival yesterday morning.

Teaching Brits

Not a bad plan overall, but there’s often a complication. I got an email last week asking me to teach a class to a group of folks from the UK. It was a two-day class (Monday and Tuesday), via WebEx. So, it wasn’t a logistical conflict. I delivered the UK class from 0400 to 0830ish EST, from Columbus, OH, site of the hardware class. No problem, I thought, go to bed early on Sunday night, get up at 0330 Monday, do the deed. Rinse and repeat on Tuesday.

It wasted me. I’m not as young as I used to be, and spent most of Tuesday yawning. Fortunately, I was able to stay awake and coherent for the face-to-face class! I went to a pizza place down High Street from the hotel, had some beer, and a calzone, and went to bed early again. Wednesday, slept to the late hour of 0700! Anyway, I’m back on track by Saturday.

Websites for Authors

personal log 20191123

Reviewing the talk at the coffee shop, Friday morning.

The talk at Words and Music New Orleans went well, I think. This was the second time I’ve presented this material. The first was at the Jefferson Parish Library (Hi, Chris Smith!).  When I do a history talk, there’s a lot of interaction and audience feedback. Ooohs and Ahhhs on various old photos. Someone will chime in with an anectode or two.

When I present on websites, the audience is quiet. They appear to be attentive, but they’re quiet. I’m good at reading classrooms and audiences, but even the computer nerds are more animated than these folks. The feedback after the talk at the library was solid. Folks came up and thanked me for the information. Others asked specific questions, one-on-one. During the talk? Silence.

I’m thinking this topic attracts writers who really don’t know much about the mechanics of website development. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. I’m thinking this merits discussion and such here on my site.



Words and Music New Orleans Talk – Personal Websites for Authors

Words and Music New Orleans Talk – Personal Websites for Authors

Words and Music New Orleans

Words and Music New Orleans

Thanks to everyone attending today’s talk at the Ace Hotel! Click on the title graphic or here to get the PDF of the presentation.

Web Design and Consulting

In addition to my corporate training portfolio, and my alter ego, NOLA History Guy, I also do website work. If you’d like to discuss any of the ideas from today’s presentation further, please feel free to email me at


Upcoming Adventures – Talks and Signings

Upcoming Adventures – Talks and Signings

Upcoming adventures – Edward’s talks and signings.

Upcoming Adventures

A few engagements coming up, stop by and check them out!

Friday, November 22 (TOMORROW)

Personal Websites for Authors

Ace Hotel, 600 Carondelet Street, New Orleans

Workshop. $10. Ticket price includes continental breakfast.

Local writer and self-described computer nerd Edward Branley will guide writers through the fundamentals of building a website to increase their visibility and marketing. Topics include website content, writing bios for different platforms, and more!

A part of Words & Music: A Literary Feast in New Orleans.

More details here.

Tuesday, December 10th

The Golden Age of Canal Street

Reception – 6:30pm – 7pm
Talk begins at 7pm.

Nunez Community College- Auditorium
3710 Paris Road
Chalmette, LA 70043
I’ll have books for sale!

Friday, December, 13th

Book Signing at Walgreens

image courtesy Commons user “MusikAnimal”

Book Signing at Walgreens, 900 Canal Street, 3pm-5pm.
I’ll be signing New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line, and New Orleans Jazz. There’s even a photo of this Walgreens, from 1939, in the streetcar book!
Mark your calendars!




Notebooks Fountain Pens and BuJo strategy

Notebooks fountain pens and updating my Bujo strategy

notebooks, fountain pens

My most expensive pen, a hundred-dollar Waterman, on top of my current BuJo notebook.

Notebooks, fountain pens

I was in Manhattan back in the spring, teaching a class for Hitachi Global Learning. When I’m on the road, I prefer taking my backpack rather than the messenger bag I take to coffee shops when I’m home. When packing for the trip, this desire adds a step, shifting stuff from the “home” bag to the “travel” bag. I’m usually pretty good about this, but this particular trip, I forgot something. I left my current Bullet Journal notebook (BuJo) in the messenger bag! Not to worry, there’s a Staples on 5th Avenue around 38th or 39th. So, I picked up a Moleskine and kept on going.

notebooks, fountain pens

My “around town” messenger bag.

I filled up that notebook this week. Therefore, I’m going back to the one I left at home. So, now I’m back to a Leuchturm1917 brand notebook. I forgot that I really like the quality of the Leuchturm1917 when compared to the Moleskine. Now, please understand, I’m not saying the Moleskine is bad, just that the Leuchturm1917 feels better.

Cheap vs. Pricey

There’s another complication/issue with the German notebooks. While the paper is good quality, it’s thinner than the Moleskine. My love of notebooks, fountain pens is the complication. Most of the inexpensive fountain pens I use have medium-point nibs. The ink flow is a bit heavy. This was more of an issue when all I used to write in the BuJo were the pens. Now that I make my weekly planner page and daily headers with my “adult coloring” set of Prismacolor pencils, all I write in ink is the detail stuff.

So, that means I have to do something I haven’t done regularly. I carry my most expensive fountain pen with me. It’s a Waterman I bought for about a hundred bucks a few years back. My other pens are under-$10 items I buy off eBay. If I wear them out or lose one, well, I don’t shed many tears. I still may leave the Waterman home when I travel and just let notebooks, fountain pens bleed in Ohio.

Jeff Parish Library Workshop – Author Websites

Jeff Parish Library Workshop – Author Websites

Jeff Parish Library Workshop, just before the meeting of the RWA chapter

jeff parish library workshop

Jeff Parish Library Workshop

I had the privilege of speaking at the Jefferson Parish Public Library (East Bank Regional Branch) this morning. This Jeff Parish Library workshop was titled, The Importance of Author Websites.

Author Websites

The top-level topics of the talk:

  • What is your goal? – you need to have an idea of where you’re going with this.
  • Domain names and hosting – get YourName dot com at a minimum.
  • Content Management with WordPress – It’s the easiest way to do this.
  • Design – logos, banners, book covers, images/art, specific fonts
  • Content – write! fire up the blogging!
  • eCommerce – It’s OK to punt sales to Amazon and your publisher. There are ways to sell your own stuff (books and book-related merchandise) from a WordPress site.
  • Connections – Start everything from your blog. Syndicate your blog to Amazon Author’s page and your Goodreads author page. Push your blog posts out to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr
  • Personal Networking – promote your friends who are writers, as well as local booksellers, podcasters, and others.
  • Search Engines – spread the word about your blog.
  • Have Fun!

We went a bit over the time Chris set for us, but the group had fun, and that’s what it’s all about.


You can download the PPT file of the presentation here. This was a good talk, so we’ll likely jump off into some specific blog posts about this stuff. If anyone wants to discuss something in detail, find me on Facebook, or email me.

Facebook live

We did the “live” thing again today. I’ve got it sorted out now. You can click through and watch the entire presentation on my Edward Branley’s Author Page on the Book of Zucker. I don’t know which of Facebook and YouTube is the “lesser evil,” but I’m good with using Facebook Live for now. Fewer crazies and such there. YouTube is such a sewer.


Several folks asked after the wallpaper on my computer. Here’s the story.


BuJo Weekly Layout – (Bullet Journaling Part 2)

BuJo Weekly Layout – (Bullet Journaling Part 2)

How I use my BuJo Weekly Layout (Part 2 of Bullet Journaling)

BuJo Weekly Layout

BuJo: my weekly layout format

BuJo Weekly Layout

In Part 1, y’all learned how I came to BuJo as a time management/organization system. “Minimalist” characterizes my approach. At first, I started the ABC/123 of Franklin-Covey, but gave up on it quickly. I wanted a to-do list. I wanted to prioritize it. If I didn’t sit down and set it up one day, I didn’t want my planner to shame me. BuJo gets me.

Thinking Weekly

A comfortable place for a daily to-do was a great start. Then I followed some of the BuJo groups on the Book of Zucker. Many members of these groups possess much more artistic ability than I. Their work challenged me to “do more” with my BuJo. I’m not the type to embellish my BuJo with drawings in the margins, etc. I do like color, though. So, I looked at layouts and spreads and templates.

Then my friend Grey posted a pic of her weekly template. I fell in love with it immediately. It offered structure and coordination beyond a daily list. Here’s the breakdown.

Monthly Calendar

BuJo Weekly Layout

Monthly calendar

I start the week on Monday, in the BuJo and on Gcal. I like to indicate the week of the year, because my European colleagues regularly refer to “Week X” or “Week Y” when discussing projects and milestones.

Color appeared in my monthly calendar early. I usually have four pens in my bag, with blue, black, purple, and red ink. Sometimes the blue gets switched out for green.  The calendar contained up to four colors: current month dates (black), current week dates (red), previous month (blue or green), next month (purple). This was before the Prismacolor set.

Weekly Schedule

Essentially traditional, Monday to Sunday. The idea here is to force me to sync up Gcal with the BuJo on a Monday morning. BuJo notes transform into Gcal events/appointments. The engagement starts on the BuJo, since it’s easy to jot something down. Note on daily becomes item on next week becomes Gcal.

Master Task List

One of the features of the Franklin-Covey system I’ve always appreciated is the “Master Task List.” The F-C idea is, you put down all your tasks/to-dos. Then you designate them A-B-C, and prioritize within those larger designations.

We kick tasks down the road. When we do, they fall to “C”, and low in that pecking order. F-C recognizes this. After kicking the can a few days, the task moves to the “master task list.” When you have fewer tasks on a particular day, pick up something from the master list.

The sections at the bottom of the weekly layout are a take on the Master Task List. Some of the items are time-sensitive (podcast production, for example). They receive a “M” or other day notation. Others are flexible. I might not right something for a particular project on Monday. Then Tuesday becomes a hot mess. The writing moves to Wednesday. Maybe. Things move to next week if they’re not done. I should expand this to a master task list at some point.


bujo weekly layout

Daily page from my BuJo

As mentioned earlier, the early BuJo presented in monochrome. I wrote a day/date in black, then to-dos kept going. Red joined in as emphasis for scheduled items and important tasks. Then tasks morphed into purple, notes later in the day in black.

Enter my Prismacolor pencil set. I occasionally color, part of the “adult coloring” fad. I extended that to the BuJo. Color is pure whimsy. Date numbers for the current week still appear in a shade of read, for the most part. Otherwise, it’s whatever mood strikes me!

Is BuJo right for you?

Give it a try for a week. Buy the book, if you’re inspired. Check out some of the Zuckerd00d groups. Let’s talk about it all!


Bullet Journaling – weekly layout – part 1

Bullet Journaling – weekly layout – part 1

Staying flexible with bullet journaling

Bullet Journaling

Ryder Carroll’s book

Bullet Journaling

I make attempts to keep organized. For the last couple of years, those attempts revolve around using a “bullet journal.” Bullet Journaling got its name and start from a blogger, Ryder Carroll. Carroll turned the concept into a book, The Bullet Journal Method.

How I came to BuJo

I’ve used a number of different systems, programs, websites, and apps for task and time management over the years. The one thing I got very serious (and consistent in its use) was the Franklin-Covey Method, using their Day Planners. Back in the late 1980s, I had the privilege of doing contract work at a local office of an oil/gas company. Their HR department brought in a Franklin Institute trainer to do a couple of professional development seminars. I was invited to attend. I bought into the Franklin Day Planner hook, line, and sinker, and used it for about fifteen years.

Reconciling paper and electronic

This was a huge challenge for me. I liked my Franklin Day Planner, but the company focused most of their electronic offerings and effort on add-ins for Microsoft Outlook. Since I use Linux more than I do Windows, this presented problems. I needed something to work on my Linux desktop. A number of companies offer open source planning/scheduling/task applications. Franklin-Covey created the “ABC/123” and combined it with the “7 Habits” philosophy. These are proprietary. So, using something that wasn’t Franklin-Covey created gaps.

Locked into the system

I’m not as organized as I could be. My day planner often had blanks for a week at a time. The Franklin-Covey systems offer the pre-printed packs, six months or a year at a time. But what if you need two or three pages for a single day? They offer blank pages, some even matching the pretty theme (I loved “Monticello”) you used in your binder.All that added up to some righteous dollars.

Something more flexible

Between the cost of “filler” packs, “expansion” pages, and subscriptions to on-line services, using Franklin-Covey becomes a commitment. That’s all fine and dandy, until you look at your binder and all those empty pages for the last two weeks. So, I drifted away from the company. Other apps offered to-do list function. Some even had web-based and mobile versions. This was good, right up until the app company got bought out by somebody bigger.

Enter Bullet Journaling (BuJo)

Bullet Journaling

“Minimalist” in a basic notebook

That’s where Bullet Journaling (BuJo) came in. I learned of the concept from the lovely and talented Lady Duchess of the Red Pen, Dara Rochlin. Dara is a list-maker. When we’re in the midst of a writing project (she edits my books), I’m on multiple lists. Bullet Journaling offered Dara a method to organize her prolific lists. It didn’t do all that much for me, at first. I mourned the loss of my “ABC/123” structure.

Adapting BuJo

I discovered that BuJo isn’t a “system” like Franklin-Covey, or Outlook, or any other commercial product. The primary principle of BuJo is that you can use any sort of notebook. You’ve sunk money into a Franklin-Covey binder? Buy blank pages that fit it and BuJo on them. You like basic, student, spiral notebooks? Do that. I like the Moleskine style notebooks. I use them for writing projects. An excuse to buy another notebook? I’m there.

So, I dedicated a Moleskine as a replacement for my day planner. At first, I didn’t do anything fancy, just put the date/day on the top of a page, list to-dos, then add notes on how things worked out. Phone call? Text? Note it below the to-do. Need more space? Keep going to the next page. Writing snippet? put it in the BuJo. Sometimes I’ll just take a pic of the snippet and post it to Instagram.

Expanding the concept

Dara found a number of Facebook groups where people share BuJo ideas. I looked into them. The “minimalist” concepts and designs offered me what I wanted. When my friend Grey posted a photo of her weekly planner layout, I was hooked. We’ll go into that layout in Part 2.