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1) slow-roasted turkey, basted with ginger ale and herbs and brown bits from the pan, and using those same bits and the giblets to make a deep, dark, brown savory gravy...

2) slow-smoked turkey, covered in herbs and margarine and a light crust of kosher-salted grilled onions...

3) home-made pumpkin pie, with a flaky crust and light touches of cinnamon and cloves in the topping...

4) slow-steamed corn on the cob, still in the husks...

5) home-made spicy italian sausage and mushroom and onion and herb stuffing...

6) deep-dish shepherd's pie, with crusty italian sausage and mashed potatoes and garlic and onions...

7) green beans almondine...

8) home-made chewy huge oatmeal-raisin-chocolate chip cookies...

9) slow-cooked simmered-for-hours hot spiced apple cider, infused with cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and lemon rind...

Stop Being An Idiot

No. Bill Gates is not going to send you money. Stop being an idiot.

No. The (insert hoax name here) Virus does not eat your hard drive and then send itself out to other computers. Learn some basic tech facts and stop being an idiot.

No. Yahoo is not going to start charging money for its basic service.
No. Dinosaurs did not co-exist with humans. Learn some science and stop being an idiot.

No. I am not going to send you a bloody impaled chicken for your Vampiric Mafia Farm Wars game on FB. I do not want the game having access to all my personal data, all my pictures and my friends' personal data. Neither should anyone else. Stop being an idiot.

No. I am not going to join AppX of the moment. I do not want the app having access to all my personal data, all my pictures and my friends' personal data. This is how peoples' Facebook accounts get hijacked. Stop it and stop being an idiot.

No. There is no Illuminati. Get the tinfoil hat off your head and stop being an idiot.

No. Taxes are lower under Obama for almost all Americans than they have ever been. Learn some facts and stop being an idiot.

No. Not all Republicans are anti-gay or pro-religion. Stop stereotyping people because you're mentally lazy and stop being an idiot.

No. There is no "homosexual agenda". Stop perpetuating fundie bullshit lies and stop being an idiot.

No. Not all believers are dumb. Francis Collins, Isaac Newton, Gallileo and many other key scientists alive now and historical have been believers. They may be mistaken (IMO) but that does not mean they are dumb. Stop being an idiot.

No. Stop sending me various internet memes about the latest urban myth that's going around and tell me, "it's true, it's true! Otherwise, it wouldn't be on the internet!" Learn to look for sites like snopes.com and stop being an idiot.

No. I'm not going to change my status. Not now. Not ever. I don't care if it's about breast cancer or child slavery or global warming or polluting the earth or whatever the latest cause celebre' is that's going the rounds on FB. Changing my status will not do one damn thing. If you want to support breast cancer research, give money or go on a Relay for Life walk or write a letter to your local newspaper urging others to do the same. FB statuses do nothing. Stop asking me and stop being an idiot.

No. Stop sending me knee-jerk patriotic flag-waving meaningless tripe. I served my time in the military when we were in the Cold War and could have died (along with millions of others) in the service of my country. I don't need some stupid poem about Santa and a soldier in the desert to love my country. Stop perpetuating lazy nationalism masquerading as patriotism and stop being an idiot.

The Clockwork Project: Prologue

Prologue:

"Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results. " Machiavelli

"History is never above the melee. It is not allowed to be neutral, but forced to enlist in every army."
Allan Nevins


Prologue

From Gaius Marius Brittanicus, Proconsul Roma Nova, to Lucius Aelius, Pinceps Senatus:

Greetings, friend. I thought you might wish to receive an honest rather than a politically filtered evaluation of the situation here, so I have appended this personal letter to my official report to the Senate. What you do with it is your business; if you wish to share it with other influential members of the Senate, that is your choice. Whether or not it should be made available to the rest of the Senate, I leave to you, since you are certainly more aware of the political aspects and circumstances involved, though I believe you'll want to keep most matters confidential even from them. There are certain matters as you will see that might be better left unknown to the Senate at large.
The trip here was uneventful, but fast, especially with the protection of the Ambassadorship through British sea lanes. It only took twenty seven days to get from Oslo to London. Our new air fleet in Norway is beginning to shape up well; if their offensive capabilities even come close to matching those of the British air fleet, our sailors will prove a welcome addition to the military in protecting our provinces. If we could get our technology to match that of our opponents, we could build a fleet of the steam-powered airships as fast and agile as they have. This would make us not only have equal power, we might well be unstoppable. Would that we had an inventor or scientist with as creative a mind as that of Britain's Sean Byrne. My sources tell me he's working on some new secret project for the British government. I've gotten one of my staff to strike up a passing acquaintance with his daughter, Fiona, who to my knowledge acts as his main secretary. We might get some good information from that quarter. If need be, I can take steps to ensure that if we don't have the benefit of Byrne's inventions and knowledge, through an untimely accident to him, the British won't, either.
As you know, the former proconsul has left me a mess, to say the least; I certainly hope that the courts, if not the Concilium Plebs, makes short work of his career. We are lucky in spite of his bumbling that our ambassador's compound is relatively secure, even though our enemies surround us. We have a fairly strong though low-key network here, in various areas of both government and commerce. On the western coast of France, our efforts there have created a subversive group, or Free France Alliance, as they've taken to calling themselves lately. In that area, we have developed an extensive network of information sources, all of whom are dependent upon us to protect them from discovery and subsequent governmental predations, probably even execution, by the British. To the far north, our ports and air ship facilities are gearing up for this war with this country that seems closer than ever. We are continuing to make secret overtures to the most powerful trading houses in the British capital to suborn them and I shall let you know how that proceeds. I can see that my major task here for some time to come will be primarily to deal with the opposition government in such a way as to protect our interests, and secondly, to ensure that they do not continue to enjoy a technological advance over our own ships and forces. If my predecessor had shown even halfway good judgment in dealing with the British, my task would have been much easier.
I will keep in as close a touch as the situation permits. I am going to take a short trip to inspect our network of spies north of the capital along the Thames river and in the Irish and Scottish highlands. I tell you, Lucius, I would readily consider moving our ambassador's compound somewhere other than its present location, were there any better place to do so. Unfortunately, there is not. Not only are we subject to the seemingly near constant rains and cold weather, but we are also too removed from the better food and even better wines of Rome. I sit in this damp cold city and yearn for the day when we can finish this war with the British and I can go home once again.
One last request, if you will indulge me. My cousin's son was elected to a lesser post in the administration here for this year. Please see that he gets a good assignment, and by that I mean one where he can actually learn and accomplish something, with one of our better “officers”, if you know what I mean. I appreciate it. Your own son-in-law met our ship when it arrived, and seems to be an impressive young man.

Liberty Screed

It was nearing the end of the Cold War but it was still going on. The Berlin Wall was still firmly in place, the hostages were still being held in Iran, and I was still stationed in Germany, right in the middle of what we, during our ORIs called "Nuke Central."

We went through our drills, our air raid drills, our gas mask drills. Every service member on base had a gas mask and knew how to use it. I was well practiced in its use and could grab the mask and have it on and sealed in less than 5 seconds. And the NBC suits - charcoal-lined head-to-toe suits that were designed to keep off, if at least for a short while, chemical and nuclear fallout.

Bombings from fanatics occurred even back then (the disco bombing in Berlin by the Red Faction Army, for example). Checkpoint Charlie wasn't just a "security point" with a few guards. And we knew that at any time, any time of day, any day, any week, it could be "the big one." Bombs could start falling, planes would take off, some might come back. It wasn't just a job. The military has never been "just a job." Any person who goes in, goes in with the Coast Guard unofficial motto in mind: "You have to go out. You don't have to come back."

All of you who know me, know I'm not a knee-jerk patriot. I don't wave the flag at people, I don't rant nationalistic jingos at citizens of other countries, I detest the "patriotic" emails flown around the blogosphere.

But I am proud of my service. And I am proud of my country. It's taken some dings of late, some rightfully deserved. But it's attempting to strive for success, to achieve greatness. And anything worth striving for is going to have obstacles along the journey.

And finally, especially, the dead. The people who gave their lives so that I, and others like me, could write pieces like this. Think about that the next time you write something. It's akin to someone walking up to you and saying, "OK, you want to write a blog? Fine. You can do that but I'll have to shoot your neighbor." And your neighbor volunteers to be shot so that you can write that blog.

This isn't, however, an "America: love it or leave it" creed. Those people, those service men and women, those human beings died so that you could write what you wanted to write. Not what someone told you to write, not what censors decided you could write but what you, yourself, chose to put to pen.

Freedom. Liberty. The ability to say what you'd like to, the ability to disagree with your government, the ability to speak your piece. I don't care if you're atheist, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, agnostic, pagan, gay, straight, transgender, Republican, Democrat, independent or whatever your world view is.

Speak your piece. Say it. Loudly and proudly. Say it. Because if you don't... if you don't speak up... if you don't exercise that blood-won privilege of saying what's in your heart and what's on your mind... then all those people, all those humans, all those neighbors, those mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and cousins... they will all have their deaths diminished.

They EARNED that right for you with their life's blood. Don't throw it away.

No Coffee Blues


(in 12-bar harmonica blues)
"No Coffee Blues"

(Chorus)
I got the No Coffee Blues
I got the No Coffee Blues
I got the low-down, funky, No Coffee Blues...

Woke up this morning
crawled out of bed
looked in the mirror
thought I was dead
went to the kitchen
there plain to see
Lord have mercy, I gots no caffeine

I got the No Coffee Blues
I got the No Coffee Blues
I got the low-down, funky, No Coffee Blues...

I went over to my friend's house
I said I was in dire, dire need
I said, girl, you got to get me
somma that liquid black speed
She turned real mean, you know she did
and said with a terrible laugh
"I can't help ya, chile
All I got is that damned de-caf!"

I got the No Coffee Blues
I got the No Coffee Blues
I got the low-down, funky, No Coffee Blues...

A Letter From Your Puppy

 

 

I'm sorry I chewed up the furniture. I was teething and didn't have any toys to chew.

I'm sorry I got scared when you yelled at me for peeing on the rug. I couldn't open the door by myself.

I'm sorry I got so big. I know you didn't want to play with me as much then. If I knew how to stay small, I would.

I'm sorry I barked so much when you put me on the chain for days. I was lonely and I missed you.

I'm sorry I didn't make you happy. Hitting me didn't teach me how to change that.

I was so glad when you had me get into the car. I love riding in cars.

It's all strange here. There's no houses or people or anything.

And it's getting cold and dark out here. But that's okay. I know you'll be back.

I'll just wait for you.

My skillset (so far)



- design websites, build, repair and maintain computer equipment,etc
- paint, including rooms, walls, outdoors (like houses), murals, design work,etc
- minor plumbing, up to and including replacing any pipes, installing toilets, tubs, showers,etc
- minor electrical, including house wiring, washer/dryer for 220V, fuse box installation, etc
- minor carpentry, including roofing, framing, shingle work, door and window installation, flooring, carpet installation, furniture building, etc
- hang and mudd drywall
- install kitchen cabinets, drawers, stoves, appliances
- do tile and grout work, and caulking of windows and plumbing fixtures
- cook many different genres of food (jewish, american native, syrian, german, italian, french and 'yankee')
- hunt for food
- milk cows and goats by hand or machine
- make homemade wine
- do hard, challenger and expert crossword puzzles in pen
- decorate the house for any and all holidays I choose to celebrate
- minor surgery, including setting bones, stitching up, lancing and clearing up infections
- well trained in CPR and emergency techniques
- somewhat versed in homeopathic remedies, used in 'stopgap' measures until proper medical care is obtained
- 'get by' in french and spanish
- write and design short stories, children's books
- amateur astronomer
- chop and stack wood
- make wooden and leather toys of all sorts
- make wooden furniture, from stools to waterbeds
- know many types of photography and PS skills

"The Handle That Died"

(parody sung to Don Mclean's "American Pie")

I can still remember
How the troll posts used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make attention-whores dance
...And, maybe, we’d be happy for a while.

But new-found posts, they made me shiver
With every screed that they’d deliver.
Bad news on the doorsill;
Their posts couldn't be any more shrill..

I can’t remember if I split my side
When I had read they tried to hide,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the handles died.

So, troll, troll, that is just how they roll
Drove their keyboard to the Atfo but
the posters were droll.
Them good old boys were posting all their goodbyes
Singing, "this'll be the handle that dies..."
"this'll be the handle that dies..."

Do you want us to be stoned,
And do you have faith in God alone,
If the Bible tells you so?
Do you believe you have to troll,
Can your crap prove a mortal soul,
And do you know your I.Q. is really low?

Well, I know that your chances are slim
`cause I've seen your posts are, really dim.
You don't have much to lose
so Pascal's Wager you choose.

I was an atheist looking for some luck
not a troll whose brains fell off the truck,
And I knew you'd no longer, spew your muck
The day the handles died.

So, troll, troll, that is just how they roll
Drove their keyboard to the Atfo but
the posters were droll.
Them good old boys were posting all their goodbyes
Singing, "this'll be the handle that dies..."
"this'll be the handle that dies..."

Now for ten years we’ve been on our own
And trolls grow fat on their posts alone,
But that’s not how it used to be.
When Snakebyte sang for the Goddess Phy,
In the words that promised, no more lies
And a voice that came from you and me,

And while the Goddess was looking down,
Snakebyte stole those trolls' crowns.
The AtFo did rejoice;
Trolls lost their only voice..
While Raven read a book on the Tao,
Darkstar danced nude in the park,
And Elpus fed them to the shark
The day the handles died.

So, troll, troll, that is just how they roll
Drove their keyboard to the Atfo but
the posters were droll.
Them good old boys were posting all their goodbyes
Singing, "this'll be the handle that dies..."
"this'll be the handle that dies..."

Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
While CaptainJack played a marching tune.
The trolls all ran away,
Oh, yes, what a happy da!
`cause the trolls, they tried to take the field;
The AtFo folks, they refused to yield.
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the handle died?

So, troll, troll, that is just how they roll
Drove their keyboard to the Atfo but
the posters were droll.
Them good old boys were posting all their goodbyes
Singing, "this'll be the handle that dies..."
"this'll be the handle that dies..."

Oh, and there we were all in one place,
A generation in our own space
With no time to spare for all those trolls..
So come on: Noah be nimble, Noah be quick!
Noah pwnd those retarded dicks
Cause stupid is the godtard’s only friend.

Oh, and as I watched him play the trolls
My hands clenched on a-nother bowl.
No troll born on Craig's List
Could outrun Snakebyte's fist.
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite,
I saw Snakebyte laughing with delight
The day the handles died.

So, troll, troll, that is just how they roll
Drove their keyboard to the Atfo but
the posters were droll.
Them good old boys were posting all their goodbyes
Singing, "this'll be the handle that dies..."
"this'll be the handle that dies..."

I met a girl who told the truth
And I asked her for some happy news,
And she just smiled and told me so.
I went to AtFo's sacred door
Where I’d seen the troll posts years before,
But DemonBastard said the troll posts wouldn't show.

And in the streets: the children laughed,
The lovers cried, and the drinkers quaffed.
But not a word was spoken;
The trolls' handles were broken.
And the three men I admire most:
Snakebyte, Toole, and Eel's old ghost,
They did their best to make trolls toast
The day the handles died.

And they were singing,
"Troll, troll, that is just how we roll,
Drove my keyboard to the Atfo but
the posters were droll.
Them good old boys were posting all their goodbyes
Singing, "this'll be the handle that dies"
"this'll be the handle that dies..."

They were singing,
"Troll, troll, that is just how we roll,
Drove my keyboard to the Atfo but
the posters were droll.
Them good old boys were posting all their goodbyes
Singing, "this'll be the handle that dies..."

Sneak peek at The Phlogiston Project

Fiona nodded as Lily waved and went down the corridor, fussing with her hair as she walked to her office. Fiona took the other hall entrance to her main office. She opened the great oaken door that had her name engraved on a brass plaque in the middle of it and walked in. To her left was the desk where she spent most of her time, covered with drawings and sketches of the machinery she was designing. In front of her was the fireplace, already lit by the office staff. On the right were two wooden and leather chairs for visitors and a wall behind them, lined with bookshelves stuffed with technical journals and scrolls of diagrams. This was her place, her “grounding” as her aunt, a long-time believer in omens and portents would call it, and she loved it.

 

She sat in the chair behind the desk and relaxed for a moment, till her eyes fell upon a small plain metal box on top of the desk. She brushed some of the papers aside and placed the box in front of her, then opened it up. Inside lay only a cheap necklace made of glass beads, strung with rough twine and tied together, not even a clasp on it.

She reached out a tremulous hand to the necklace and picked it up, the distracted stare on her face showing that her mind was not on the office work. The flashing of the lights on the glass beads made her remember... made her remember...

 

 

Pandemonium ruled the village. Low-standing peat houses were on fire, people were screaming, her friends and family being chased by the angry dark men in strange clothing. She hid under the fireplace supports of one house till finally, it, too, was set on fire. She darted out to escape but a rough strong hand grabbed her long hair from behind.

 

"We could sell this one to the Sinese, Lieutenant. Wash her up and she might get a pretty price". She struggled futilely in his grip and the men laughed at her.

 

A third man walked over and she could tell, even at her age, that this man had power over the other two, over her. He looked her up and down for a moment, then spoke.

 

"I know this one, I think. She's the daughter of the... what do they call that? Shaman? Priest? of their tribal council. What are you doing here, girl?"

She said nothing but spat at his feet, receiving an immediate blow to the side of her head from the man behind her that left her partially dazed.

"Tie her up and pack her away for safekeeping, we'll see what we can get for her. This will be proof we have her". He reached down and before the girl could protest, yanked the glass bead necklace from her neck, the one her father had given her after his last trip to the trading post. He held it up and it glinted as it reflected the light from the burning houses.

 

"What about the rest of them, sir?" asked the other man standing next to her.

 

The leader looked at the remaining captives being grouped up, beaten, bloody, the other children crying and frightened.

 

"Kill them. Kill them all."

 

As the man holding her hair picked her up, the last sight she saw that night was the dark-skinned men wading into the group of survivors, swinging already bloodied swords and clubs as she whirled down into darkness...

 

Just One

As the small frail girl lay in the hospital bed, she couldn’t help but overhear the nurses and medical staff, though they tried to keep their voices low when around her.

“…terminal, I know…”
“…sad case, no parents or family…”
“…terrible for an eleven year old girl to have to suffer like that…”
”…not much longer, now”…

She didn’t feel like she was suffering like some of the others she’d seen. And the nurses here were so great, especially the one called Janet, who seemed to take special interest in her. Maybe it was because Janet had kids at home her own age, she didn’t know, but she liked it when Janet was on shift. She’d fluff the pillows, bring her a movie to watch or read a book to her, though lately she’d been too tired to listen for long without falling asleep. Janet came into the room and said,


“Hello, how’s my favorite girl?”

Lanny smiled but didn’t say anything, the effort to talk much being too tiring for her now.

“I’m going to go off-shift now, but I will be back tomorrow.”

“You have to work on Christmas?”

“Yes,” said Janet, “but not until seven in the morning so I’ll be able to watch my kids open their presents. Is there anything you want? Anything I can get you?” Lanny smiled and turned her head slowly toward the window.

“I wish I could,” Janet said sadly, knowing what Lanny meant. The little girl had grown up in an orphanage in the deep South and had never seen snow, only on TV and that only rarely. She had been transferred to the small hospital in northern Michigan where Janet worked when her diagnosis became apparent, and from the first day she got there in October, told all the staff about how she wanted to see snow, even one snowflake. But Janet knew the weatherman had forecast an inch of rain and 40 degree temps for Christmas day.

Even if it did snow, being on the fourth floor with her window only overlooking another wall of the hospital, it was unlikely that Lanny would ever even see one snowflake and Janet knew she wouldn’t be there for the next Christmas. But she had to keep a professional attitude, one that was designed not only to not unduly upset patients, but also to keep herself on an even emotional keel. She knew that if you got too attached, it would devastate you when someone you cared for passed away. She had been able to do this for most of the patients she’d ever met in her career, but somehow this girl was different Lanny had told her the night before that she’d never seen snow, not ever and all she wanted for Christmas was to see even one snowflake, just one.

“Do you want me to read to you tonight?”


“No, Janet, I’m just too tired.”

“Alright, Lanny. I’ve got to go home to my family. Merry Christmas”

“Merry Christmas to you, too, Janet.”

As she left the room, Janet stopped for a moment, looked back once more and saw Lanny staring at the window, as if hoping for something. She hurried away, tears in her eyes. She knew that the weatherman was forecasting rain for Christmas day and it was highly unlikely that there would be any snow, even the "just one snowflake" that Lanny wanted so badly.

She went home that night and had her normal fun Christmas Eve with her husband and children, but Lanny was not far from her mind. The next morning, she woke up to the sounds of her children out in the living room, exclaiming over their presents. She thought of Lanny and it made her sad again to think that she’d never get her Christmas wish. Her husband came into the bedroom and said excitedly,

“Come out and look at something.”

“What?”

“Come on, just come and look.”

She got up and went out into the living room, seeing her children with their presents, but stopped suddenly, mesmerized by what she saw outside her living room window. Snow! And lots of it! She turned and looked at her husband, who had a grin on his face. He said, “We had a cold front suddenly come through last night.” She started to turn away, and then stopped suddenly, remembering Lanny.

“I’ve got to go.”

“But the kids… and their presents!”, her husband said.

“I’ll be RIGHT back, I’ve got to go to the hospital.”

She dressed hurriedly, just in sweats and sneakers, not caring who saw her, and got into her car, after scraping the new-fallen snow off her windshield and drove to work, past people shoveling out their driveways and kids playing joyfully, throwing snowballs.

As she entered Lanny’s room, she started to say something to her about the new snow, but the quiet, still, small form halted her steps and stopped the words in her throat. She walked up to the bedside and looked down at the child for a moment, tears beginning to run down her cheeks, thinking to herself, ‘you didn’t even get to see one’. As she stood there for a moment, she realized that something suddenly didn’t seem quite right. Lanny’s face was smiling and it seemed odd somehow, like the light from the window was playing colors across her face. She looked at the window and caught her breath in awe. There in the window, the one facing the other hospital wall that she wasn’t sure would even hold a snowflake at all, that would be Lanny’s last sight of this world, was a true wonder. There was a snowflake at least two feet across, beautifully captured in frosty curlicues and fringed spikes all over the window, spreading icily across the frame and the light from the window shown through it on Lanny’s smiling face.

“Just one,” she whispered through tears, smiling. “Just one.”