Friday, January 28, 2011

Are We There Yet?

For my pilot readers, yes, that is Jeppesen CSG-1P Slide Graphic Computer (E6B as we knew it as student pilots) used by Spock to figure the time before impact. I wonder if I still have one.

In a few weeks, as soon as the doc gives the OK, I need to get back out and get a checkride in an airplane for currency. I don't fly often but it's a skill set I not only enjoy, but don't wish to lose. Even if it means a checkride.

For, like any pilot, I hate taking exams.

Written or otherwise. I think it started in early school years when I got a question really wrong.

The question was: "Where do women mostly have curly hair?

Apparently, the correct answer was Africa.

Checkrides are the one part of the job that I think most civilian commercial and military pilots hate. Doesn't matter how many hours you have, how many missions you've flown. And they don't get any easier. Doing maneuvers to perfection while everything on the airplane seems to fail, one after another, while a check airmen is peering over one shoulder and those stripes on your uniform are resting on the other. It never mattered how many years I'd done it or the fact that I'd never failed one, taking that first step into the briefing room to start the oral, my mind would go completely blank. Circumstance and fear had a way of subtracting information from my brain with surgical precision.

Yet somehow, when the first question came up, everything resusitates, not by sheer brilliance but simply from the fact that I'd studied my rear end off for weeks ahead of time. To this day I can still draw the entire electrical system of a 727 on an unfolded cocktail napkin.

I think it looked something like this.

click to enlarge

Thursday, January 27, 2011

On Recollection

"It has been said that crowds are stupid, but mostly they are simply confused, since as an eyewitness the average person is as reliable as a meringue lifejacket." -Terry Pratchett - Unseen Academicals

If I personally were to have a choice of witnesses to a tragedy to talk to, give me the child. Their view is simply what they have seen, normally unclouded by judgement, history, politics and expectations. Certainly intelligence bears into it and the developmental differences of the child. The child also needs be of an age where they can remember and describe events, understanding the difference between the truth and a lie. But they often pick up on things that the adults miss even if, in and of itself, it might not be admissible in a legal setting. Sure the technical detail is not there and children can often mix reality with fantasy, but often the heart of what they experienced is ascertainable, containing details often lost to others.

Those that piece together such places, unfortunately, have had to use such recollections before. You can watch all the TV shows you want, but unless you are a first responder or LEO you don't really realize what it is like. Air laden with smells of fuel perhaps and smoke, stale sweat and the dense coppery smell of death close up. The frantic sounds, shouts and fluid movements of water or people, trickling down to a slow drip as the EMS vehicles move away. Sometimes in a hurry, too often not, the sound expanding away from the hollow rumbles of voices left behind to glean the concrete fields of evidence, searching for words and actions that explain.

Sometimes there is a crowd, sometimes in that crowd is a youngster, looking around, taking it all in, while the adults eyes are frantically forming words in their head while look for a TV camera, or swaying in shock, zombie-like, eyes closed in almost drugged immobility.

A child's recollection is simple, not so much words, but sounds, smell, movement, direction,things others might have missed. With a parents hands hovering near, those movements we all know of protection, it will be asked if the child could give their remembrance, just as was done with any adults that were present, letting them make a statement of what they remember, to define the things already known. Sometimes their statements, made with simple words and hands, are startling in their detail; details that confirm the tangibles that are known at that time. Tangiles that can become evidence. With that the search for truth continues.

For some adults do not do so well in recollection. An event to one person is seen in a totally different way than another. Both believe they are totally accurate and it's often hard to derive the reality from their truths. I've read accounts in the newspaper of events I actively participated in, only to shake my head in wonder at how very inaccurately it was portrayed, the words written for sensation and effect, not for accountability. I've seen it in a court room, a place where even in the scrubbed emptiness, the smell of spent violence, lust, graft and vengeance are discernible. Where even in the quiet you feel the reverberations of badgering and bitterness, sinners and saints, actors in a role, while we the public hope for that one legal expert that can see through all of that to do what is right based on reality, not motivation.

But getting to the heart of the matter is difficult. Look at the media, at some of the written chronicles on the Internet of recent tragedies, and the variances in discussing the same person or event, the same bit of history. Some are honestly detailed yet succinct, while others, especially when they feel they or their cause have been wronged, are so outside the realm of what happened that they do nothing but provoke incredulity.

Tragedies bear their own truth and it is usually NOT what is in much of the mainstream media.

Life is never easy, and finding out why things happen as they do remains something that haunts the edges of not just a crime scene, but our very lives. We want to know, desire it. Yet, unless we look at events with the clear eyes of a child, unmotivated by greed, political leanings or prejudice, we may find that the words we read, the blames being made, are no more sweet deceptions.

Monday, January 24, 2011

How about a Little Coffee with Your Cookie

Molasses Cookies With Espresso Sugar.

The sugar is from the amazing Artisano's in Indianapolis. I don't know if they ship, but their flavored sugars are something as are their other products. I tried the onion sugar sprinkled on some aspargus, drizzled with olive oil and roasted(mmm) and then had to figure out something to do with the espresso sugar I purchased. It's not table sugar mixed with finely ground espresso powder, it's chunky sugar crystals infused with espresso.

I made the recipe up, so there was no telling what the end result in the lab was going to be. I was cooking in a friends kitchen and I promised I wouldn't create too much mayhem. It didn't start well.

First off I broke the spatula.

Me: (walking into living room with object) "Mayhem has begun"

Friend: (laughing) "What!? I've had that spatula 20 years! That spatula survived college parties!! (meaning, that spatula survived pre med students and tequila).

Me: "Well, let me explain scientifically.

(No, wait. That's the plan for an impending date.)

Me - "It just, uh. . . broke".

I was forgiven when the first batch came out of the oven.

Soft, crisp just around the edges, a little chewy in the middle, but not too much. Flavored with nutmeg, Vietnamese cinnamon and ginger with the slightly sweet undertone of espresso, and rolled in more crunchy expresso sugar.

A lot of molesses cookies harden into little kevlar pucks on day two. Day two these are still soft. I have a feeling there's not going to be a day three.

click to enlarge photos

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sharks with Lasers

"You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that can't be done. Can you remind me what I pay you people for? Honestly, throw me a bone here." — Dr. Evil (from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery)

Lasers. Occasionally misspelled "lazer" in fiction. Actually the name "L.A.S.E.R." is an acronym of "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation", since that's what lasers do.

The majority of us learned about lasers from TV. Laser weapons and Hollywood. Laser weapons on TV hit high on the cool scale but how real is it? Remember, Hollywood science rules and the energy weapons depicted usually move at the speed of light. In actuality, energy weapons move a lot slower than the speed of light (and sometimes slower than the bullets on the same show). The Hollywood ones can also be dodged. You're seen it, our hero sees the person aiming the ray gun at them and going for the trigger in in that split second he's able to hide behind a rock or whatever. If the bad guy is hit, he is instantly zapped and vaporized. If the good guy is hit, he just stumbles back a few feet. There were all kinds of such weapons in the movies. Retro ray gun was the death ray. Real handguns bowdlerized into energy guns were TV's version of space age family friendly firearms. A lot of it was simply made up, a lot of it was technology even now, terribly outdated.

But TV physics is TV physics. There's a common misconception that laser beams cauterize wounds, but trust me, real laser wounds are every bit as ugly and bloody as knife wounds. Heat from a laser only makes a tiny bloodless hole on TV. NOT. In reality, it can cause the water in the body to boil, expand and rip the surrounding tissues apart, mimicking the injury from high velocity bullet impact.

Energy weapons in fiction will always have knockback (which would be OK) and recoil (which makes absolutely no sense at all), in spite of the fact that energy has negligible momentum. Of course, no matter what the laser's frequency and the medium through which it is shooting, it WILL make loud futuristic ZAP noises. But laser weapons on TV aren't a realistic depiction of how real energy based weapons would work, they're not intended to be. They are stand in's for some real guns to appease the liberal producers or more often to simply establish the show as being sci fi (and thereby higher up on the cool scale). If you look at some of the very early futuristic TV and movies, the laser bolt effects looks a lot like machine gun fire using tracer bullets. This may be that many of the artists and engineers that worked on the earliest of such films have have been relating their own war experiences in inspiring that effect, many having served in WWII.

Some later shows confused lasers weapons with plasma weapons, which fire really hot gas, not light beams.. Necessarily, plasma weapons can't use light speed projectiles as, having mass, they would be susceptible to all sorts of physics that make approaching the speed of light extremely difficult.

Plasma weapons are almost always depicted as producing ludicrous (usually green) glowing puffballs that somehow avoid mixing into the air, sometimes hand waved as magically auto generated magnetic containment. An actual plasma weapon might be as useful as a gun that shoots steam; sort of like your very own flamethrower, only hotter.

Laser weapons are here, and they're being continually refined. One of the first known to the civilian science geek was the Airborne Laser and THEL. The Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser Testbed, (formerly Airborne Laser) weapons system is a megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL) mounted inside a modified Boeing 747-400F. Designed primarily as a missile defense system to destroy tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) while in boost phase, the YAL-1 with a low-power laser was test-fired in flight, at an airborne target in 2007. A high-energy laser was used to intercept a test target in January 2010, and the following month, successfully destroyed two test missiles. (1)
It's pretty impressive. The COIL, is comprised of six interconnected modules, each as large as an SUV turned on-end and weighing about 6,500 pounds. When fired, the laser produces enough energy in a five-second burst to power a typical American household for more than an hour. (2)

The cooperative Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) Demonstrator ACTD was initiated by a MOU between the US and the Government of Israel in 1996. The THEL is a high-energy laser weapon system that uses proven laser beam generation technologies, proven beam- pointing technologies, and existing sensors and communication networks to enhance active defense capability in counter air missions.

The joint program was initiated to develop a THEL demonstrator using deuterium fluoride chemical laser technologies. THEL uses a Deuterium-Fluoride (DF) laser. NF3 and C2H4 are first reacted in multiple, side-by-side, high-pressure combustion chambers using an oxidizer (NF3) rich mixture that generates free F atoms. After ignition the combustion-generated F atoms, mixed with combustion by-products and a He diluent, flow into the laser cavity. A mixture of He and deuterium is also injected into the laser cavity, and DF is generated in an excited state as deuterium reacts with the free F atoms. The laser cavity is now ready to produce a laser beam.

Can I say "awesome" without sounding like a nerd?

THEL uses both Hydrogen Peroxide and Nitrogen Trifluoride. Nitrogen Triflouride (NF3) NF3 is used as a fluorine source in high-energy chemical lasers. Two applications are THEL and MIRACL (Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser) at White Sands Missile Range. Type 70 Hydrogen Peroxide is a critical element in the Anti-Ballistic Laser (ABL) and THEL Programs. Chemical lasers are the only class of HEL able to achieve megawatt power levels at century's turn. The MIRACL is a deuterium fluoride (DF) laser operating at a wavelength of 3.8 microns that has been in operation at the megawatt level since the mid 1980s at the White Sands HEL Systems Test Facility. It suffered from inherent propagation losses at full power in the operational wavelengths. DF technology found a home in the US Army/Israeli THEL, where propagation losses were mitigated by lower power levels and a crossing target.

Lasers - Deadlier, cooler.
Then, there is DARPA's HELLADS (High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System), light enough to fit on a fighter jet or drone aircraft, yet powerful enough to fire a 150 kilowatt beam of energy.

The Star Wars laser cannon may be closer than we think.

There have been high energy laser weapons in development powerful enough to bring down missiles (i.e MEHEL Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser). However their sheer size and weight (from the cooling systems needed) has precluded placement on just the largest aircraft.

HELLADS has a unique cooling system to save weight. The high-energy laser uses a liquid that has the same angle of refraction as the mirrors inside the blaster. That way, the "ray gun" can fire away, even while it's being cooled. Currently in development, the demonstrator device will be tested and scaled to achieve the low weight specifics and size needed for smaller airborne vehicles. Then the final phase of engineering, fabricating, integrating and demonstrating the complete HELLADS weapon system on a tactical platform. (3)
This sort of compact system is getting very close to what science fiction writers since H.G. Wells have envisioned when writing about the heat rays. More recently, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle wrote about laser cannon in their 1974 novel Mote in God's Eye:

"The intruder came from here. Whoever launched it fired a laser cannon, or a set of laser cannon - probably a whole mess of them on asteroids, with mirrors to focus them - for about forty-five years, so the intruder would have a beam to travel on... "

Solid-state pulsed lasers, which fire bursts of energy and which are lighter than fluid-based lasers, but harder to cool, and electrolasers which ionize the air so that electric current can be sent along the beam's path, are already in development. More science than we ever saw watching Star Trek as children.

In actuality, these characteristics make lasers far more effective, and terrifying as weapons than anything we see in TV or movies, sharks not withstanding. It's probably also why we're not seeing realistic laser weapons in children's shows ("I love you, you love me. ZAP !!")

Since I won't get to play with any of these such toys, I'll happily embrace laser technology as I need and can obtain to protect my world. Viridian makes one of the better laser sights on the market, hands down, and they have their new catalog out.

Why green? The guys on TV got that part right. Green is much brighter and more effective than red in most conditions. Ordinary red lasers can be next to impossible to see in most daylight conditions. The benefit of a green laser is that it is much more visible, allowing for it to be used anytime, day or night, indoors or outdoors, permitting the LEO or civilian defense or sport shooter to track the target point quicker and more accurately. Additionally, because green lasers are so much more visible to the human eye, you can actually see a very intimidating visible beam in low-light conditions.
Nothing knocks the fight out of bad guys like the sudden appearance of a C5 equipped sub-compact. The brilliant green laser says “don’t mess with me", 24 hours a day.

For may not have to worry about storm troopers but I do have to worry about home invasions, muggers and murders. I'll take the best technology out there, and craft it for my use.

1) DoD 4120.15-L, Model Designation of Military Aerospace Vehicles. U.S. Department of Defense, May 12, 2004. (2) Grill, Tech. Sgt. Eric M. "Airborne Laser fires tracking laser, hits target". Air Force, March 21, 2007.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dessert - A How To Guide

How to cheat at dessert.

Pistachio Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake

It uses a cake mix, and a few simple ingredients, mixed in one bowl. You don't even have to marble the batter, it does it as it bakes. With pistachio and dark chocolate, with a subtle undertone of vanilla and orange, it will score as high with your household as any time consuming creation.

click to enlarge photo, come on, I know you want to

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A View From the Edge, and Back

The biopsy report came back from the pathologist today. The tumor was invasive but NOT malignant. Surgery over, no further treatment is required other than to just take it easy for a few more weeks.

I can't thank everyone enough for their prayers. Somewhere up north the sun is shining and my guardian angel will be resting a little easier after his mission today is done.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A View From the Range

In the reloading shop, high speed bovine. (click to enlarge).

The day started with a conversation about flying cows and ended up with my own batmobile. Welcome to life on the Range. I wasn't up to the blog meet, still a bit puny, though on the mend, so part of the blog meet came to me. Og, Ed Hering (Atomic Fungus), Mr B and Midwest Chick stopped by to visit with me WITH a Batmobile, still in the original packaging (to sit next to my bat phone).

There was also a get well gift of a Green Hornet Black Beauty model kit from the show The Green Hornet (known as The Kato Show in China), complete with paints, brushes and some model glue (either for the model or for the fact that Indiana is a dry state on Sunday), two Gina Koch books, and a bag of Midwest Chick's infamous brownie cookies.

Yes, we DO accept cookies (especially these).

Throw in some pie from a nearby restaurant, some conversation involving, knives, gun shows, oversexed oompa loompas (don't ask) and it was, as always, a good time. Good friends, good fun, and laughing so hard we hurt.

Now tonight, conversation with family and just hanging out with my favorite airman, and dreams of another day. Life didn't turn out the way I planned lately, but boy is it still good.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

SHINY! Saturday Food Porn

h/t XKCD

I'm starting to get bored, I'm starting to want to get out of the house and go to the range.


Even better, I'm hungry.

Let's see, ham in the freezer, in the fridge just staples, butter, onions, milk, some various cheddars. Oh yeah, this will work.

Homestyle Mac and Cheese

Start with some smoked ham sauteed in butter and some caramalized onions.

Next a roux made from scratch and poured all over the top. This isn't your average roux. In addition to half and half, it has garlic, nutmeg, parsley, kosher salt, and a dash of Crystal Hot Sauce.


if you don't click to enlarge these photos you may regret it.

Feedback page: Would definitely make again.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Fate lies within some blades of grass,
the cosmos in the morning dew.
Tread infinity as you blindly pass,
and lose what you never knew.


Saturday, January 8, 2011


click to enlarge photo

I'll be home in a day or two and that thing about burgers for dinner was JUST a rumor

Friday, January 7, 2011

Off I go

Turn your sound up!


What? You thought I listened to Enya while driving my truck home each day?

If you are reading this, (thanks to my offspring) the surgery was moved up due to a scheduling change or a sudden leak and is either done or going on now and is going well. (There was a post drafted if it wasn't going well but that involved a picture of Nancy Pelosi, an ice flo, and starving wolves).

I will be released to the care of friends who I will stay with until I'm less wobbly. Og asked that I bring my eebook to the hospital for some "posts on drugs" but I think I will pass, so I asked a friend to update everyone.

I tried to talk the doc into throwing in some extra lifts and tucks while he was at it but then thought better of it, not wishing to wake up looking like Joan Rivers shar-pei.

Thanks for the prayers, the calls and the notes.

UPDATE: B. did fine. The tumor was removed surgically and sent to the pathologist with what it was attached to. It was pretty large but all by its lonesome. In about 10 days they'll have the cross section and biopsy results. It was not a fibroid but the doctor was optimistic. And Brigid said to tell Audie Murphy that the song is by Tab Benoit but I'm not sure that statement makes sense. - M.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fire and Ice

I watch very little TV, some Discovery Channel, some hunting shows, Mythbusters, Top Gear, Dirty Jobs, tapes of Firefly and Dead like Me and Red Dwarf. But once in a while I just can't resist and in a fit of boredom I will watch some cop or CSI type show.

It's more entertaining than most of the TV shows out there now, so removed from actual reality that they hardly bear watching. The original CSI Vegas though I actually liked, shelving the science and just watching the interactions between the characters which were well acted and crafted. But the spin offs were painful to watch.

Opening Scene -Young party girl in the New York subway has her face suddenly start to melt while vomiting blood.

In the distant city, Mac the steely eyed investigator, to his date: "sorry" (damn, my beeper went off at the opera. . . AGAIN).

Here comes the CSI Team, back from their night on the town, arriving in terribly expensive fashion wear, from their homes or dates, with all the traffic, in minutes.

Mac (entering the scene with no gloves, no mask, no eye protection, as he bends closely over someone that looks like a sleeping supermodel, except with lots of blood splashed on her): "Detective Angel, What have we got ?"

Detective Angel, Victoria's Secret Model in tight pants and a skin tight low cut sparkly t-shirt under her suit jacket: "Looks like a Chemical or a Biological ! ! "

Female CSI assigned to the scene: "Oh Happy Birthday Mac!" (giggle, giggle, blush stare at ground, forget to work the scene)

Mac smiles and pokes closely at the body again, steely eyes glinting since he's not wearing any eye protection.

Mac: looking closely:" hmmm. . . doesn't look like small pox or anthrax"

(Time to look a little closer and poke in the blood spatter to make sure it's not the incurable ebola, which you can get by exposure to (ahem)the blood of the infected person.)

Dr. H.: "No pruritic macular or papular rash" (Good thing, as that might be Ebola or Cutaneous Anthrax, which means you're standing in the minefield.)

Mac: "So no hemorrhagic fever!" ( Wow Mac, you diagnosed with just that steely glance. You didn't even have to isolate the virus from the patients blood and have acute serum samples inoculated into tissue cultures of mosquito cells or directly into live Toxorhynchites or Aedes mosquitoes or try a Immunodiagnostic method such as detection of anti-dengue IgM and IgG by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and detection of hemagglutination inhibition antibody. Good job Mac, you'll have this solved before the hour is up!)

Pretty girl in a $700 outfit playing with something that I swear is an Etch a Sketch: "It's OK now! This subway tested negative for all hazmat and biologicals!".

Mac: " great!"

Watching any more would have made me laugh so hard I'd spill my beer. Besides they'll have their DNA evidence in oh, like 10 minutes.

TV is fantasy, what remains of a life is seldom so pretty. If you don't suit up properly, to protect yourself from elements, the terrain, or a hoard of nasty biologicals, you will likely join them on the next table. But then again, there's not too many jobs where you can on occasion rappel into work.

But it's not easy work, and sometimes one has to let it out somehow. Myself, only rarely, others bloggers, first responders, LEO's, EMT's, openly writing about it, words that ignite, words that heal.

I thought about those words as I went for a morning walk and found the bones of a small animal out in the woods. How long had it lay here? Long enough for the bones to bleach to soft white, the flesh now part of the earth, the eyes, dark orbs of history. The shape was benign as if the creature simply stopped quietly and died, unlike other bones one finds in the wild, the animals of the tar pits, trapped in the primordial ooze in the posture of shock. Other animals dropped while running, the bones scattered by predators til the remaining pieces are simply laid out in a question mark.

These bones were in the shape of quiet sleep, as if the animal simply lay down, waiting for death to catch up.

It only takes a few days for an animal to decompose at this time of year. Why I've seen hunters lose good game, simply because in the occasional hot temperatures of an Indian summer, a kill left too long can turn quickly. Only a few days to return to bone, to the simplest components of life, carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur. Only bones left, pressing into the soft welcoming earth, the soil a rich bed of late summer.

Sometimes all we find are bones, laid bare to the elements, or burned clean.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
Robert Frost

With the right temperature all things will burn, yet bone itself stubbornly resists all but the hottest of fires. Even when all the carbon is burned from it, bone will still retain it's shape. An insubstantial ghost of itself, it crumbles easily, the last bastion of the person's being transformed into ash. Yet in that ash remain large pieces, calcined and with the consistency of pumice, yet when held in the hand, almost seeming to posses a trace of warmth from within their core.

But even if they can not speak to me, sometimes what is left gives us a clue. Who was this person? In what manner of violence was their end? It's a world few wish to visit, yet it drives me, the mystery, the puzzle . . . . perhaps because I realize that the final mystery is ourselves.

The use of physical evidence to build a theoretical model of a given crime or accident scene involves a number of sciences, the chemistry of death, and the engineering of the body. Even in the cold quiet of the wood, I stop and survey the scene, making mental notes in my head. How long had it been laying here? Bones, especially ones that have burned, do not give up a time of death. For that you need to trace the extent of decomposition in volatile fatty acids, in muscle proteins and amino acids, all which are normally destroyed in a hot fire. Even in the woods, simply surveying my environment, my brain sifts through ideas, time lines and theory based on simple white bone.

So often, while fire and EMS valiantly does their work, I wait quietly in the wings, waiting to do mine. Skin almost blistering in the heat, hoping to get close enough to see a clue before its burned and gone, a time line of life and death lost to the flame. Fire doesn't just destroy paper and combustible evidence, it's disruptive to the analysis of bone trauma, especially separating fragmentation patterns resulting from perimortem trauma, such blunt force, projectile impact, etc., from those resulting from postmortem heat and fire modification. Fire suppression
, though necessary, even if there is no chance of life remaining, also does its damage. The sudden cooling of hose streams fracturing or spalling bones that are hot, especially if they've gotten hot to the point of delamination of calcination, can cause harm that may or may not be salvaged in a laboratory. Then there's mechanical damage, direct hose impact, falling debris.

The tiny pieces of life's remains that still can speak to me are drowning in water. I stand helplessly by the scene, like a person watching a too late rescue swimmer, knowing the outcome, yet hoping for something from which I can put the dead to rest. I wait, too close for safety, not wanting to turn away, as fire roars right up against the night stars and the deep dark spaces. Wait, while the ice, the silent ice, drips from the trees, melting in the heat of the flame.

I wait among the dead, sometimes without cause and sometimes for reason. Treading carefully on the small broken artifacts of life, part pathology, part engineering, going beyond either. For after the mechanics of motion have stopped, after human physiology has broken down, and what once was animated life, a heart that loved, a soul that dreamed, is reduced to flesh or ash, decay or dried bone, the dead will still bear witness.

They can tell me a story.

It is usually not a story that would make a good television show, and it rarely can be wrapped up in a neat sixty minutes, but it is a story that needs to be told.

Today, so that others may learn, I craft another story as I watch a small fire, tended to warm a house surprisingly cold after a front came through. I watch the flames twist and sway in their age-old dance. As humans, we are more than our past, yet we are the same, seeking life and comfort. Seeking answers. As I do, gazing at a flame in a fireplace that warms something deep in me, something stirring in memory from the ashes as I go back to my work. Back to bones that will tell someone their story in front of the morning fire, as my own heart, beaten and darkened by soot, contains in its core, one small piece untouched, that smoldered back into life. with just the right breath on it.

Dreams in front of a fire. Entwined with well being, warm from a meal, sipping a Guinness, reinventing kissing, watching skin play in the firelight, snuffling against a neck glistening with the heat, a salt lick of nourishment. Not speaking, future or past. No promises. There might be no future, time and fate has changed that for all of us, but there was the present. This fire, this moment. Too soon, perhaps to be be only the past, gone up the chimney with the pinion smoke as the night recedes and soft dreamless sleep on the rug comes creeping in as that fire dies, though the embers remain

Life is ice and fire. You can't control what you will feel, who you can save or how they will impact your life. What you can do is take what remains that brings you joy and move forward.
It is not the glamorous drama one sees on TV, done for the excitement, the money or the time off to go to the opera. You do this work because you want to, for no other reason. This was a mission that was not assigned, simply a garment of duty one felt compelled to pick off of a bare floor one cold morning.

That fire burns bright in you, as it does me, exposing what is strong and good. What is still useful. You can not save every heart, but you can save your own. A heart diligent in its task, even if wounded in battle. Diligent perhaps because we've learned through our work that life is prescious. We will all die, but we will not all truly live. In doing this, with the small tools we have, with the mind God has given us, we do our part to see that perhaps just one person inherits more than the wind and the dark. In that, no matter hard the duty, I live fuller, breathe deeper, and sleep with peace.

The scent of woodsmoke remains in my hair, waiting to be breathed in deep, thankful to be alive so that I may speak for the dead and treasure that which remains. Life is a risk, never a posession, love and live accordingly.

Carpe Diem.

- Brigid

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Not much that can't be fixed by. . . .

part of this complete breakfast, click to enlarge photo
Dessert for breakfast. Blueberry crumble. Pardon my French, but screw the healthy weekday morning meal. :-) I can have my usual grapefruit juice and Cheerios tomorrow.

Yes, that is ice cream on top. At 6 a.m. I couldn't decide on something pie-like or a dessert with chocolate so dark it has its own gravitational pull. The blueberries called to me (plus you only have to be half awake to make this).

Thank you all for everything. Surgery will be right after the 12th, I'm getting the best doc in the state for this sort of thing so there was a week wait, one I will happily do so I don't wake up missing parts I may use later. I am not going to write further about it unless there is a major change. Just come on back for some sporadic but usual fun and shooty goodness. Until then, your wishes meant ever so much.

If I could share this bit of blueberry goodness with each of you I would.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

The question remains, just WHAT holster to wear concealed carry with the latest in hospital wear.

"The latest in hospital tactical wear. An off-center breast telemetry pocket allows secret squirrel gadgetry to pass through a buttonhole inside the pocket, staying out of sight. The over sized pocket conceals. Sleeve length guarantees easy access to your own defense items. Demure print will draw your mugger's eyes away from that .357 magnum, ensuring no extra harm will come to you (hospital cafeteria not withstanding)."

Blogging will be light for the next couple of weeks (thank goodness for a few saved posts and a couple old favorites I can repost for the new readers).

I am going to be scheduled for surgery pretty quick. I walked into the doc for a simple follow up check today and next thing you know I'm picking out proper concealed gear for the latest in "show me your junk" wear.

It's a tumor where there wasn't one last time anyone actually looked that close. It's likely nothing, but in either event, I may be getting turned from family sedan into sports model here soon, with a "act now and get a free biopsy!" special with my tactical hospital wear.

Prayers are always welcome, but no need to fuss, I'll be fine.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


New Year - the possibilities are endless.

Especially with Warm Vanilla Sugar Drop Biscuits. Made with 2 1/4 cups Homemade Baking Mix, and 2/3 cup milk. Mix just until moistened, drop on cookie sheet and sprinkle with Vanilla Sugar. Bake 10 minutes at 450.

click to enlarge photo, warning if you are hungry