Works of fiction appearing here are © 2011-2017 by Jack H. Tyler, and are not to be assumed to lie in the public domain.
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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Giving Thanks

"When you drink water,
remember the source."
                                                     ~ DENG MING-DAO

          Today, for those of us residing in the United States, is Thanksgiving, or our version of it (many are celebrated), commemorating, depending on which version you accept, that momentous fall day in 1621 when English colonists in the New England area harvested the native crops that native American Squanto had taught them how to cultivate earlier that year.  The colonists spent the next four hundred years showing their gratitude for that act of kindness, and the celebration remains with us to this day, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.
          While the date of the first true American holiday, by which I mean not that we "own" it, but the first holiday that wasn't brought from elsewhere, such as Christmas or Easter, has been remembered and celebrated continuously over centuries, what it means has been harder to pin down.  To some, it is a fully religious, specifically Christian day for worship, and although that wasn't the intent, the Pilgrims and Puritans who settled New England would certainly have included thanks to the Almighty for the bounty that sustained them.  To others, my childhood family included, it was a time for scattered relatives to gather for a day of feasting, stories, and companionship that overshadowed Christmas, unless you were a small child hoping for legendary toys a month down the road.  I knew four generations of my birth family, my great-grandmother dying when I was 25, and the house was overrun at the end of November with relatives of every stripe and temperament.  Once "Gan" passed beyond, though, the others followed quickly, until these days, our "extended family" consists of our adult son and daughter, and our son's four children, one of them an adult himself.  This year our celebration will be held on the 30th, as they both work in retail, and that's their next coordinating day off.  We don't mind; it isn't the date, it's the love.
          While everyone who is willing to keep a civil tongue in his or her respective head is welcome to read and comment, this little blog is written mostly for and read mostly by friends, and it is my hope on this day of celebration that you all have something positive in your lives to be thankful for.  Whether it's cherished loved ones, security, a decent job, or a loving home to come back to at day's end, find something to warm your heart, and take joy in it.
          My childhood Thanksgivings sometimes included two turkeys, or a turkey and a ham, and side dishes brought by everyone, showpieces of their culinary skills.  These days, with the smaller numbers involved, we usually buy a couple of turkey breasts and broil them, basting them in their own juices.  Delicious, waste is minimized, and everybody likes the white meat, which is all there is this way.  But no matter what you make, traditional or non, no matter where you are, surrounded by loved ones or far away, take a moment to give thanks for the things that make your life a positive experience.  They have value we often take for granted.


          I did say no matter what you make, and those with an adventurous bent might like to whip up this delightful bit of fowl, or should I say "foul?"  The roast facehugger comes from the devious mind of Helen Die (yep, that's her name), and consists of a whole chicken butterflied out to make the body, snow crab legs, and a chicken sausage for the tail.  She writes the incredible NecroNomNomNomicon blog where this lovey is a featured recipe.  Surprise your guests this year with a Thanksgiving they'll never forget!
          But whatever you do, don't forget to include the love...

'Til next time,
~ JT

Friday, November 17, 2017

Dawn, Moment of Infinite Hope

                    "This is the moment of embarking.
                         All auspicious signs are in place."
 
                                   ~DENG MING-DAO
 

          Last week, I was blessed to be able to bring you a beautiful sunset.  This morning, the Lords of Beauty presented me with a sunrise of stellar proportions, and the Gods of Coincidence allowed me to be up to photograph it.
          Dawn, whatever form it takes, is that moment where all things are possible.  At the dawn of a new day, you don't know what it might bring, but you are filled with hope for the possibilities.  The beginning of a new job,  the first day of school, opening day at the ball park, when every team is a contender; all are dawns, in one form or another, and all are overflowing with hope.
          I hope we all find the fulfillment of our dreams today, and every day.  Decide to be decent today.  Just today, decide you won't snap back at that snotty cashier, you won't blow your horn and show your finger to the asshat who cuts you off in traffic, that you won't look for opportunities to snarl, but rather opportunities to smile.  See what kind of day you have; maybe you'll decide to do it again tomorrow...
           I don't face the daily challenges that most of you do anymore, having retired over a year ago, but even I have choices to make, and the easy one is always not to fight.  Now go forth and, not conquer, but embrace your day.  You might be surprised at the difference it makes!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Moment in Time

          "Sun shines in the center of the sky.
                    All things turn their faces toward the light."
                    ~ Deng Ming-Dao


Gift from Heaven, November 8th, 2017

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Having a Bad Day, Are You?

          "There is only one trait that marks the writer.  He is always watching.  It's a kind of trick of the mind, and he is born with it."
                              ~ MORLEY CALLAGHAN

          You know, some days are more entertaining than others.   Also more instructive.  I don't get out much these days.  It's strictly by choice; I've spent most of my life "out," and I'm enjoying the home that I put together over my working life.  I don't miss it out there.  It's too "peopley" to suit me, but I get plenty of stimulation at home.  At this very moment, my son and three of my grandkids are over for a visit, and things have taken a turn for the exciting.
          It's fairly well-known that I live in a mobile home park.  It's the 90210 of mobile home parks, and I have it on good authority that Jerry Springer has not recruited one guest from out community.  That doesn't mean the place is without its moments, though.  Our neighbors up the hill sold their place and moved a few weeks ago.  Over the last week, a crew has been here preparing to move it somewhere else.  Don't know, don't care, but earlier this afternoon there was a bit of a commotion, some unexpectedly loud noises, a ripping sound, a couple of booms, and I stepped out onto my porch to see this:

          Apparently, they got the wheels under it, and it started rolling.  They had a pickup truck hooked up to the end that you can't see, and of course it got dragged right along with it.  It stopped when it slammed into the hill hard enough to lift the wheels at this end off the ground.  The picture was taken about 5:00 PM, and if you look closely at the little pole lamp at the top of the retaining wall, you can see that it has just come on.  It's 8:00 PM as I write this, and it hasn't moved an inch.  This is a dead-end street.  There are two houses on the other side of that train wreck, and one of them belongs to the community manager.  What she thinks of this I haven't heard, but her assistant doesn't live in the park, and her car is trapped on the other side of this.  If they haven't gotten that moved by about 10:00 (and I don't see how that's possible), I'm going to offer her a spot on my couch.
          And people wonder where I get my ideas...  I don't have to "get" anything, they come to my door unbidden!  Now, I'm not one to make light of another's misfortune, but it's uncanny how, no matter how bad a day you're having, you don't have to look far to find someone who's having a worse one.  I don't know how these things get started.  I don't know why two guys with a pickup truck thought they could move a double-wide mobile home, and I don't know how they convinced the owner that it was possible.  But maybe that's my superpower; I've always been able to look at a job and accurately assess whether I would be able to do it, or if I needed to call in a professional.  It's hard for me to understand how other people can't see it, but it's our differences that make it interesting!
          Anyway, this little drama fell out of the sky today, and while I'm sure it didn't happen solely for my entertainment, don't fault me for finding the humor in it.  That said, I wouldn't be one of those guys for all the tea in China!  I wish them luck, and they have my sympathy, but I do appreciate the snicker.  Now, I'm off to play a little bit, and I hope your day tomorrow goes better than these guys has today, but if the roof does fall in on you, no pun intended, look around.  It won't be long before you realize your troubles aren't so big after all.
          Read well, and write better, and have a great weekend!

All the best,
~ Jack

Monday, October 23, 2017

A Time to Rest

          What a great thing is this retirement business!  Having invested one's entire adult life in labors great and small, one then reaches a point where, unable to carry the burdens he or she has been asked to bear any longer, one is put out to pasture to enjoy a few good years free of alarm clocks, time clocks, rush hours, meetings, bosses, impossible projects, and unmeetable deadlines.  I never expected to retire, but I can truly say that if changing circumstances hadn't forced me into it, I would have gone to my grave not knowing what life was!  Presented here for your consideration, a few snapshots of my weekend.
          Last Fathers Day my son got me what is billed as a "steampunk blade," a short sword or long knife, as your preference decides.  The graceful blade is set off by rosewood grips and decor, there are two catch-slots in the blade to snag an enemy's knife and twist it out of his hand or snap the blade, and the hand guard makes a credible knuckle-duster if you're crowded.  If you look closely, you can see where he had "Blimprider," my sobriquet in the world of steampunk, engraved at the base of the blade.  The non-functional pistol, which is a Very-type launcher, is one of four I have received over a couple of years, and the only one without a stand, so I've been casting about for some sort of display.  The two items came together with a nice plank salvaged from an old TV stand we were showing the door, and this is the result.

           Looking at this has inspired a possible story about a meek bookish type with a secret life as some sort of goblin hunter.  Nice set of tools, I must say.
*          *          *
          My other great acquisition this weekend was XCom: UFO Defense, the greatest game ever made.  For those unfortunates who haven't had the pleasure, XCom is an old DOS game first released in 1994 for the PC.  It's available on emulator sites such as steampowered.com, and sells for a song.  The premise is that UFO abductions are real, and becoming more aggressive as a coalition of aliens prepares to invade.  You are the commander of a world-wide organization formed and funded to oppose their activities.  You decide where to put your bases for optimal coverage.  You decide what goes in them.  You hire staff, conduct research, and build new equipment, the fruit of that research.
          Once your base is up and running, and you can have up to eight, assuming you can produce the cash flow to support them, you manage every aspect from this screen while watching the radar for uninvited guests.  Here you can monitor your research, manufacturing, buy and sell equipment, and manage your all-important assault squads who will meet the invaders wherever they can be engaged.  Each soldier is rated in a number of categories, from the typical strength and stamina to accuracy with guns and grenades, morale, personal bravery, and reaction time.  You then have to compare all these factors to decide who carries the heavy gear, who scouts, who snipes, who kicks doors, and who handles the demolitions.
          With all these decisions made and your base construction underway, you will sooner rather than later sight an invader on the radar screen, and dispatch an interceptor to bring it down.  This usually succeeds (wouldn't be much of a game if it didn't), leaving you with a crashed UFO to deal with.  So you saddle up the troops, and send them off to war.  Arriving at the crash site, you'll have to find the UFO, and beat the bushes for an unknown number of little ragamuffins who are eagerly waiting to ambush you as you come off the transport.
          Sometimes you haven't shot down the UFO.  Sometimes it has landed to pursue some nefarious project, your satellite spots it on the ground, and the squad has to go break up the party with all of them healthy and fully equipped.  You'll find them on farms, in the suburbs, in cities, and out in forests, jungles, and deserts.  Oh, and on the frozen tundra at both poles.  They'll hide anywhere, in caves, storage sheds, stables, and on rooftops, and you have to ferret them all out, because the battle doesn't end until you get them all.
          One thing you can generally rely on is that at some point, you'll have to have to enter the alien craft to get the last few guys, and that never fails to be an exercise in tension.  Notice the black areas on these battle screens.  When you first arrive, the whole screen is black, except a narrow cone that you can see from the door of the transport.  Everything is hidden until you scout it.  Want to know what's behind that hedge?  Send somebody to have a look!  Their ships can range from simple scouts like this to four-level battleships that look like wedding cakes.  The aliens know every inch, and will use that knowledge to great advantage.  You can expect to have your fun meter pegged frequently, as is the case with that fellow with the yellow arrow over his head, who's just rounded a corner to come up nose to nose with a hostile Gray.  Later in the game they'll build bases that have to be found and eradicated.  Sometimes they'll send an assault team to try to eradicate your bases.  Eventually, if you're successful, you'll learn to interrogate captives and learn the location of their off-world base in the Solar System, which you have to destroy in order to win.
          But that comes much later.  As your squads battle the invaders and bring back more and more alien equipment, it needs to be researched, and the useful discoveries implemented in new and more effective gear.  Bases need to be expanded, newly developed facilities added, and all the while, the cockroaches just keep showing up to wreak more and more havoc.  Small wonder that one of the PC game magazines back in the day said, "If you don't play XCom, you aren't really a gamer, you're just some guy with a computer!"  I couldn't agree more.
*          *          *
          And that's what went on this weekend.  Two days.  And virtually every day has been a version of this for the last year and a half.  Retirement suits me.  I may be going to hell, but at least I'll have had this time in heaven!  So, how was your weekend?

Semper audax esse,
~ Jack