Monday, November 20, 2017

Not all which glitters is gold, not all unseen is gone . . .

As a colleague of mine has observed, these things take time. I changed jobs and my life took off.

However, while recently pondering a return to this pulpit my own sheet of digital papyrus, it was brought to my attention my musings were not without their admirers.

So, I am back. As they say, more to follow, but this is my staking out a claim to post once again.

HALO. CT. UW. DA. SICTA. Static line. MAROPS.

And more.

I ask your patience as I ply my amateur craft.

There are stories to tell, mysteries to explain, and people to honor. Living and metabolicly challenged.

In the meantime, peruse the writings of my brotheren and sistren in arms listed to the right. Some are still here, some have fallen along the way.

Some may see me posting and once again take up their quills in prose.

I shall return.


Thursday, January 08, 2015

Today, . . .



Je suis Charlie

'nuff said

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The least of my brethren

It seems that my muse arrives pulled by a team of Sorrowful Stallions. I was struck dumb by life this past year until once again I find myself unable to remain mute by the loss of a close friend.

The title quote was meant for another species, for Man. And yet, the intent was that how ever insignificant you find one, they are me. All of the creatures of this planet were made for us by God.

You may see it a bit differently.

And yet. To know one of these creatures over a period of time. To really know them -

interact with them

nurse them when they are sick

share their joy

have them share yours

have them share your sorrow

have them rejoice in the fact that you live, and perhaps acknowledge them, though they find that requirement frequently waiver-able on your part.

I am not a cat person

I am not a dog person

I am not a hamster person

I am not a guinea pig person

I am not a fish person

I love those that I spend or have spent a portion of my travel on this spaceship called Earth on our voyage through the universe and life. Those with whom I have shared this mortal existence, whom I have gotten to know.

Yet again on these pages I mourn the loss of a pet who meant a lot to me. Who shared my life for many years, who was a part of my daily life, and whose absence I find both painful and palpable.

I look around and see her in the hall, in her usual places, waiting for me where she usually was. Look up and expect to see her turn the corner. Enter a room and anticipate her greeting. Sit down and notice the absence of her head butt, "Hey!"

Hear her great me in the morning.

For the first time since we got the futon, notice the empty spot on it in the morning. The lack of her presence during the evening.

This is not real and sadly, will not last for very long.

Life will not wait. The bills must be paid, the traffic fought, time will not still itself. The press of modern existence is immutable and insistent and will not be denied.

So I pray that I can hang on to these images and sounds for as long as I can. I cling to her presence as best I can for she will fade. The images will become less real, the sound of her voice, like her, less vibrant.

So I enjoy this phase of mourning while I can for it will be too brief, a shame for someone who was such a part of my daily life for so many years.

She came to us sick, very sick. A barn cat whose owners cared not whether she lived or died, they had kittens to spare on a regular basis and they were not house cats. I laid on the floor with her the first night in our house, nursing her with Pedialyte and giving her contact and warmth so that she would know that she was not alone and that someone cared. I slept on the floor next to her and nursed her through the night until we could get her to the vet the next morning.

We were there when the vet opened, waiting. The vet examined her, heard what I had done over night and said that had I not done so, she would not have survived the night. They attempted to weigh her on a digital scale, but she didn't even register. 0.0 was all it showed. They gave her shots to treat the parasites that she was infested with - fleas and mites.

The mites became such a recurring issue for her that we nicknamed that condition as ear mice. She never stopped appreciating a good ear scratch, even to her last hour she appreciated that gesture.

She was a mouser of some skill. Mice, squirrels, birds, and other small animals.
Angel on the left as I'll best remember her with her fellow huntress Kayli.

We got her  while in Texas where our master bedroom was on the second floor. In the spring and fall we liked to sleep with the windows open at night. On weekends however, that was a non-starter - the tree in our yard was full of birds that started making noise at sun up.

A lot of birds.

How many? So many birds would sleep in that tree that the entire lower section was covered in white "guano". I couldn't let our kids climb the tree because of how much it was covered in bird droppings.

So, on weekends, I'd get up and close the windows, or just not open them at night.

Then Angel arrived. Kayli was already on hand and a mere kitten her self when Angel arrived. They both pretty much came of age together. Once they were old enough to make it out the dog door, they both became indoor/outdoor cats.

Within two months of that ability we were able to sleep with the front windows open and not have to get up with the sun. There were no longer any birds roosting in our tree. It remained that way until our departure - with the girls.

Eventually, feline AIDS and other diseases caused us to make the girls indoor cats exclusively, something I never really forgave myself for doing to them. However, by the time we departed Texas, all of the other indoor/outdoor cats in the neighborhood had died from these diseases.

All of them. No survivors. Not even one.

That she lived as long as she did was a direct result of that decision.

But she never forgot her hunting days in the outdoors.

As I drove up the street on the way home, the girls would see me in my truck and run up the street. By the time I climbed out of the cab, both of them were sitting by the side of the driveway to greet me. A quick scritch, some petting and they were back off on the prowl.

The next couple of places that we lived had things like alligators, sand hill cranes, bears, wolves, and fisher cats. It was just as well that they remained indoors. She learned to hunt lizards and about their tails.

The mighty huntresses meet Jurassic Park.

We lived in an old building in Vermont where she kept the mice in check. She was the chlorine in the rodent gene pool, a characteristic that my Bride appreciated.

Above all, through all of her 15 years, I heard and saw her almost every moment that I was home. Every room that I entered where she had  preceded me brought a greeting from her. Every time I sat at my desk my shins were head butted by her looking for some attention. Every night she jumped into bed to say goodnight and sleep with me, every morning she greeted me in the hallway upon my rising.

Her presence in my life was so pervasive that my Bride nicknamed her the "Puppy cat" because of how she followed me around. Her presence was so constant that the lack of it is deafening to me.

We spent all of her life together and more than a quarter of my life together.

Renal failure is the scourge of elderly, domestic felines. She was tested in June and was well along the curve of renal failure.

A month later she was gone.

I lay on the floor with her the last couple of nights and days she was here. Just like when we started this journey together.

She was my friend and my constant companion for all of these years and I cannot forget her nor make the pain go away.

Even if she "was just a cat."

For I love even the least of Gods creatures, especially when He blesses my life with them.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

May you live in interesting times

That is an ancient Chinese curse.

As I find myself once again relocating our house and home, I have to agree, for as much as I have many things about Vermont that I do not enjoy, I've discovered many things that I'll miss.

Chief among them having a life, a routine, and a comfortable rut that I enjoy.

I know things about here and they know me here.

I walk in the pizza shop and they know what I like and will sometimes cook me a whole, small, peperoni pizza instead of just fixing me the two slices I'm in for. Just because that is what life in a small town is like.

And Northfield, Vermont is a small town.

Actually, a village.

The Village of Northfield. With a Main street and a town square with the National Guard Armory on it.

And parades on national holidays.

And concerts and small town activities on the town square during such times, with the town square being completely closed off to traffic and folks being okay with that.

Your dog is welcome in the Village offices when you stop by to pay your utilities and they'll give your dog a treat when you stop by.

Not a perfect place, but nice.

Work was very nice, small place with lots of interesting things to do.

But times change, fortunes ebb, and I found myself looking for alternate employment.

And discovered that I'll miss this small town and the life we've had there with the folks in the town, my coworkers, and the students I've had the pleasure to know and mentor.

I taught a post-graduate course on computer penetration testing this spring. I enjoyed it, despite the work it took as I worked to ensure that I brought my "A game" to every session. All online, class and labs, I taught in front of a web cam for three hours each week then turned my students loose on their online labs for a week of virtual mayhem.

Attacking workstations. Attacking servers. Attacking networks.

Each week I'd demonstrate the techniques on a like target to show them ways that it could be done. Share insight into the though processes involved in penetrating the machines and networks despite an initial lack of information.

Scared the dickens out of them by showing them how easy it was to attack and take down a poor, innocent, Windows server quietly minding it's own business.

It was a very rewarding class, watching the students learn and master new skills, taking down machines and networks as they progressed through the course. Watching the light come on as they grasped the techniques and applied their knowledge and newly acquired skills. Coaching a student from dropping out to earning an A- by course's end.

And watching undergraduate kids I'd mentored through their four years here as they strode confidently across the stage to receive their diplomas and to head out into the world and make their way.

I'll miss the interaction with the students, but things change and now they are not the only ones moving on.

After a long search and interview process I have accepted and started a position with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory as a systems administrator.

Lots of smart folks and interesting projects for me to support and it will be a worthy challenge doing so.

And our 36th or 37th move.

Or so.

With all that goes with that, and we're having to do the move ourselves which adds to an already stressful time. But we'll manage, we have each other, come what may.

It's a bigger research facility than the one that I've been working for with much better funding. But I'll miss my previous coworkers.

Scott. Chris. Tracy. Katie. Andy and more.

Good folks one and all, who I knew not once upon a time. As it is with my current, new, coworkers.

Except for one that I've known for many years. A fellow SF commo man with whom it has been a pleasant opportunity to get reacquainted again.

The commute is a bit more than the 0.9 miles that I've become accustomed to. So, I go in early to run and lift and do things like that on base before work.

Boring and comfortable is vastly underrated.  

This is new. It is interesting. It is different.

And it is so much harder than everything that we have gotten used to.

Because, it is unknown.

And interesting.

Because boring is comfortable and familiar.

And interesting is not.

To live in interesting times is anything but comfortable and familiar.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Two wheeled thunder

So, last month I spent a weekend taking a motorcycle riding course. The Basic Riders Course that is designed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and offered over a weekend of Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday.

I had taken a similar course back in '81 while on casual status after completing the Special Forces Qualification Course (5-81 for what that's worth). Three days of classroom instruction and riding skill development exercises resulting in minimal competency on a motorcycle and your motorcycle endorsement on your drivers license. This one was similar in form and function. Four guys, six women, two instructors, and a bunch of bikes. The course is run by the State of Vermont DMV and the bikes are provided and maintained by the state. It was an excellent course and the two instructors were very capable. They had madd skilz, great attitude, and great coaching abilities. I cannot say enough about the quality of the course as implemented in the persons of Pat and Mike of the Vermont DMV.  Their insights into my handling and ways to improve it were spot on and everyone passed the test and walked away with their motorcycle endorsements.

Which leads to my purchasing a motorcycle a couple of weeks ago.

A beautiful 2008 Harley Davidson Cross Bones Softail motorcycle, part of their Dark Custom series from several years ago.

As you can see from the photo, it has a windscreen. Said windscreen had a very serious crack in it that went unnoticed by myself and the folks at the dealership.

"Aha" you're probably thinking, "I'll bet they missed it". My bride noticed it right off the bat when I got it home to show her. So, I went back the next day to inquire as to the best way to repair it, figuring that it was an "as is" thing with which I could live.

I rolled up, parked it and when my sales guy walked up, I inquired as to how I should repair it. Super glue and clamps? Something else perchance?

He examined it and appeared to be dumbfounded. "Wait a minute, let me get my parts guy."

Cool, a real expert will impart the wisdom of the ages on how to do this. I'm getting experience already!

Out comes the part guy, examines it, they consult, he goes back inside. He reappears momentarily with a measuring jig and measures the windscreen.

They look at me with solemnity and inform me that it needs replacement.

Uh-oh I figure, it must really need it, I guess I'm going to have to buy a new one after all.

Nope. They're replacing it.

Kostenlos. AKA, free. Gratis.

They feel bad that my first Harley experience has been marred by nobody noticing something so obvious and they don't want my first experience to be bad, so they're replacing it for free, they'll contact me when it's in.

Wilkins Harley Davidson in Barre, Vermont. I had heard good things about the folks there on a personal level, and good things about the dealership on a business level. All of which appeared to have been justified. I wanted to buy from them  before I left for just that reason, a reputable and trustworthy dealership for an expensive purchase like that is a rare find and I wanted to exercise that while I had one I could trust.

It's too bad I won't be able to keep coming back to them after this, but they gave me a name for a place that they would use where I'll be from now on.

I recommend them if you're in North Central Vermont.

The bike is trick. It's been modded for looks and performance and handles well. Plenty of power to move a big guy like me around and a commanding HD voice, which I'm getting used to.

A man and his bike.
It is a big bike but a friend observed, having not met me but knowing how big a HD like this is, that descriptions of my size were apparently not to scale. Having seen me now in this picture with the bike for reference, she observed that the bike appears a lot smaller than it really is. Knowing from my perspective that it is a big bike and reviewing these photos, I have to concur.
Making a big bike look smaller than it is.

Improved instrument cluster and flush gas caps.
It's a nice bike and I'm somewhat smitten by it. Straight pipes as I was informed, not having had previous experience with such things. So, it's a bit louder than your stock Harley. While down here visiting my in-laws I kept wondering why all the Harley's driving by on the street were so quiet.

Ah, it's not them. C'est moi.

Riding it is becoming more natural, though I'm not there yet. I'm beginning to get the hang of it and moving it and myself around in response to the road. In Vermont, if you're not on the Interstate, then pretty much every ride is a good ride for a bike. Even the ride to the Interstate is a good ride for a bike, let alone taking alternate routes to the places that I need to go to.

Of course, this requires a helmet, leathers - upper and lower, and rain gear. As my bride noticed, "it's like a boat - you have to keep pouring money into it." Sad but true, though they are a one time investment (more or less), they are not free.

Next weekend is the time to move it to the new location, the subject of another post.

I'm looking forward to it and I'll ensure that I document it as best I can.

Monday, May 27, 2013


Spring in North Central Vermont has come and gone, or is finally on the way out. It's 38 degrees out at the moment and there's a frost warning out for this evening.

At least it stopped raining. For the moment.

This winter was a real winter and the Rampaging Snow Beast saw a lot of use this winter. Not like last winter where the brand new snow blower sat in the garage, trotted out but a handful of times.

So ist das Leben.

Spring, when it starts is a tough call up here. But, there is a definite sign that Spring has arrived.

Sugaring Season.

When the collection of maple sap begins, it's Spring.

Nowadays, you see the pros linking the taps on the trees with plastic tubing which snakes through the woods about waist high. The tubing eventually winds its way to stainless steel collection tanks.

Which now have chains and locks on them to preserve their contents until the lawful owners show up.

It's a problem up here.

For those of us not in the business, the sign that spring is here looks like this:

My neighbor on the corner tapping the maple trees in his front yard.

This marks the official arrival of Spring. It lasts for several weeks if we're lucky for there is a lot of revenue derived thereof. While it's not exactly liquid gold, it's not cheap.

And the tourists expect it. And tourism is a big deal up here. Really big.

Like, folks will stop coming up here if they don't find maple syrup.

Well, not exactly, but when you come to Vermont as a touristy-type, you expect some things.

Mountains, Green, one each.

Bed and Breakfasts.

And Maple Syrup. You can't run a tourist stop without it.

Genuine Vermont Maple Syrup.

If you've not had it, it's good stuff. It's worth the cost and really is different than the colored, thickened, sugar water pushed off on the undiscerning.

With any luck, sugaring season runs for at least three or four weeks. The days are above freezing and the nights just below freezing. This is the perfect weather for the sap to flow. Once they've collected it, they boil it down until it thickens to the right consistency and taste.

40 gallons of maple sap produces 1 gallon of maple syrup. The sugaring shacks are where they boil it down and the folks that do this put in long, hard, lonely hours. The boiling continues 24x7 while the season lasts so the sugaring folks toil diligently while they can.

Those that tap the trees in their yards and produce their own syrup are called back yard sugarers. For those of us not from up here, the whole concept of tapping the trees in your yard and making your own maple syrup is cool. Like walking out in your back yard and picking a banana off a bush in your backyard (been there, done that, and it was really cool).

As for the official end of Spring, that does not exactly coincide with the end of sugaring season.

Not even close.

There are, however, signs every bit as definitive as the proverbial burning bush. The appearance of the old cars.

The coupes. The Mustangs. The Model Ts.

The '79 Celica.

When my neighbor takes his '79 Celica out of storage and parks it in his driveway, I know that I can take the snow tires off of my car, the snow is over.

And everything blooms. Everything. Riotously.

This is what the end of spring looks like.

I like Winter. I enjoy the cold, the bite of the cold morning air, the squeak of fresh, dry snow underfoot as you walk upon it.

But I like seasons and despite my love of Winter, I found that this year I really was ready.

For Spring.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The friends in the room

I've been reminded of some past comrades folks I know. They've been haunting my life over the past few weeks. Like they were around me, behind me and making me think of them.

Unbidden they've managed to insert themselves back into my life.

Not for any specific reason that I know of.

Except for one. My dad.

It was two years ago this last month that he passed.

At the time it was not exactly a surprise, but it was a surprise in the end. Even when you see it coming, it always is a surprise when it finally occurs.

I started calling my dad the Energizer Bunny because every time he went in to the hospital, very sick, he always came out.


He always beat the odds and the prognostications of the doctors.

Until he didn't.

Finally, even the Energizer Bunny ran down.

I still miss him. I still talk to him. I still relive memories of past times together, so that he's not really gone. When I remember these times, I laugh again, I feel joy again, I relive them with him again like he was still here.

And for those moments, he still is. He and I are still living, laughing, and loving.

So, the anniversary of his passing causes me to miss him, logical.

Fred, not so much. Fred Bozek passed this past summer, something that we saw coming. Fred is another old time SF guy. One of the senior guys when I joined 10th SF, who'd been around awhile. He'd seen things. He'd done things. Done combat things. The sorts of things that a young, impressionable troop with brand new shiny jump wings and a desire to be one of the action figures found fascinating.

And so not one of those. So such a new, wet behind the ears kid wannabe. But Fred was cool, gracious, and nice guy. He was equally at home with his buds that he had served in Viet Nam with and with us new "VolAr" kids.

Volunteer Army (VolAr). It started in 1977 when the military started only accepting folks that volunteered to enlist into the military. It was to be the end of a decent, effective, US military fighting machine. Well, that was the common take and prevailing wisdom of those in the know at the time. Actually, not so much.

But I digress.

Fred popped into my head for some reason. Turns out that he had been living around Palatka, FL, a town that I had driven through many times and watched Fourth of July fireworks several times with my aunt and uncle that lived near there. Had I known that Fred was there, I very much would have linked up with him, but twas not to be.

I'm saddened for the missed opportunities. I knew him for over 10 years while in 10th, during which time I became SF qualified, got experienced, and became a peer.

His treatment of me never varied. Not a bit.

I last saw him while he was working at Range Control at Fort Devens, having left group to get away from a spate of chicken shit mis-focused leaders that we went through for a time. Folks concerned with pole vaulting over mouse turds vice some operational issues that deserved attention.

That's the worms eye view.

I saw him during a HALO night jump when I landed off the DZ in a junk yard. The guy that owned the junk yard was used to this and graciously ran me over to range control in his pickup truck. Where I ran into Fred, who had more jumps then than I did by the time I retired years later. Gracious, of course, as ever that night. 

And David. My best friend for most of my life. He passed a couple of months after my Dad. Stood up at his desk and fell over dead of a heart attack.

We had known each other from the crucible of elementary school where we were the odd kids out, receiving the ire of the teacher and the scorn of our classmates.

David was distinct. He was avant-garde before folks were.

In the '50s he would have been a beatnik.

In third grade he was just weird. And I was his sidekick. Or visa versa.

He grew into himself as time went on, but he was always avant-garde.

I first heard Kansas, "Carry on" over at his house sitting around in his room. 10cc, Mott the Hoople, Queen, and many others I first heard because of David.

He had tickets to see Queen, ninth row center at the Santa Monica Civic Center in 1975. When he bought the ticket, no one on this side of the Pond had heard of them. Two weeks before the concert "Bohemian Rhapsody" hit big and the tickets were impossible to come by. I cannot remember how many folks tried to buy my ticket from me on my way in to the concert.

Yeah, my ticket. David got grounded (a common occurrence) and sold his ticket to me, after convincing me to go. I'm really glad he did. It was a great concert. Freddy Mercury and Queen were in great form, that night they presented an inspiring performance that made me a fan for life.

I cannot hear Dust in the Wind or Carry On without thinking of David. Never. We were friends through elementary school, attending school together first at one school, then another. His dad became more successful and they moved to a more toney neighborhood about Jr High School time.

Yet we remained close friends. I would ride my bike the three and a half miles to his place, or he to mine. Though it was mostly me to his, David spent a lot of time grounded even before he could drive. Once I could drive I would drive to his place to visit and/or pick him up and we'd drive around or visit other friends. Even when grounded, his folks allowed me to visit. I was a good influence? I guess so.

He went to Israel for awhile in the 70s while I went in the Army. He came back after a few years, I made a career in the Army and never really came back. But we reconnected via email and chatted online and on Facebook. He popped up while I was on a business trip to Germany and we had a good chat. That was the last time we "spoke" before his death.

Frequently, while sitting "alone" I'll start laughing as I remember something from my time with one of them. And I'll toss out a comment to which ever one of them I'm reliving a moment with. Just like before, with my friends in the room like nothing had ever changed. They'll be with me for the rest of my life, and I with them.