Thursday, January 30, 2020

The speed of life

I am back. My life has been hectic.

New job.

Then new position.

Then new position again.



Travel for work like crazy.

My life is settling down a bit although I write this as I am far from home. But things are getting better and I feel the need to verbalize.

I have been reading; Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, the translated original of 1232 pages of goodness, of which maybe 150 make it into the play and the movie. You'll hear of some of what I have read there.

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Dumas. Currently "The Memoirs of a Physician", also by Dumas.

The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco.

But I am back.

More to follow from your humble scribe,

-- marcus

One less bell to answer . . .

She has been mentioned here previously. She protected our home from small, rodent invaders and other invaders as well.

For as sick as she is, this captures her surprisingly well.
We had moved to Texas, to the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) metroplex, for career related reasons. While not originally thrilled with the move to Texas, we warmed to the place as we spent time there. We originally could see horses and long-horn cattle in their pastures from our front yard. That changed during our first year as there was an explosion of development in our area. To the point that the pastures that surrounded us were replaced with housing areas, schools, roads, and other development. All of those field mice needed to find a place to live.

We had two hundred pounds of laughing, Labrador retrievers living with us, availing themselves of the dog door for them in the back door of the house. And so did the field mice and rats being kicked up by the earth movers and other heavy, construction machinery. To the point where we would catch movement in the corner of our vision, turning to find that there was a really good (bad) reason for that movement - rodents in the house. This kept going to the point where this time, when Number One Daughter asked for a cat for her birthday, My Bride was more than pleased to oblige.

Albeit grudgingly.

Still . . . Agreement.

So off to the local Humane Society we went, for to obtain a member of the species Felus Domesticus for to thrill the female of the progeny - and guard the manse and repel boarders. Number One Daughter managed to find a kitten that caught her eye. One that the vet once described as "a splendid example of a tortise-shell tabby". As a kitten our one of our friends who always had cats described the Kayli kitten as a "devil kitten". She was very active.

Your humble scribe was smitten by a cat while there, we returned to the Domestic Fortress with two members of the Felus Domesticus instead of just one. Kayli and Buffy the Mouse Slayer (My Bride has a way with words, but this also gives you an idea of the time frame involved here). Buffy was a stray that was rounded up and subsequently taught Kayli how to mouse. Well.

Buffy had a habit of taking off for days at a time until she was found in a ditch by some folks who were grateful to meet us and thank us for her activities in their backyard. Apparently Buffy had been eliminating the wood rat population and making their yard safe for their children to play in.

Leaving behind an experienced, well trained mouser in KayliKat.

Enter Angel about whom I've previously expounded. Sadly, in the past tense, but for the narrative as we are currently experiencing it, all in the future.  ;-)

So, to replace Buffy we took delivery of a barn cat. Instead of naming her Buffy (already done) we named her Angel. Go look up the series if it doesn't make sense. I'll wait here.

Kayli was a young, mature cat that took the young kitten under her wing and taught her to hunt. They became a team.

They weren't just good hunters, they were the chlorine in the gene pool where we lived in Texas.

Note: I began this post shortly after Kayli died, over four years ago. I am just now able to finish it though with surprising difficulty.

After Angel died, Kayli hung on for another 18 months. As I packed one morning, for to go forth and do my part to keep the Manse in cat food and other victuals, I scritched her behind the ear as she lay on the foot of my bed and said good bye to her. I was on my way to work and thence to do my best impression of a salmon and enter the City at the height of rush hour to the Port of Air. That mystical place whereby one may part with ones hard earned lucre for the opportunity to ride upon the wings of a Friendly Sky and be whisked to a distant land. Dallas in this case for to my eldest progeny, the one and only Number One Daughter. We spent a wonderful weekend with her and her girlfriend (now wife).

Upon our return we were unable to find Kayli. Normally said feline is at the door to remonstrate us with our absence and letting us know how worship of her personage has lacked and what are we going to do about it? And thence allowing us to immediately begin the worshiping and spoiling of said feline goddess.

But not this time.

No remonstration.

No guilt trips.

No scolding.


Nothing at all.

So we searched for her in all her usual places. To no avail.

Not downstairs in her usual haunts in the basement. Not in any bed. And not responding to any call on our part.

Which just doesn't happen. We have an understanding. We only call her when there is good reason for her to meet with us.





My Bride and I looked at each other with foreboding and switched from rescue to recovery.

Kayli was suffering from renal problems and we now began to suspect she had died while we were gone and we were looking for her body.

Only I looked in her heated cat bed and there she was. She looked up at me and lay back down again.

One had but to glance at her to understand that while she lived, she was very, very sick indeed.

This was a shock to me as only three days previously she was healthy, happy, and responded normally to me as I said goodbye to her and headed out the door.

As I had for 17 years.

She managed to get up and stagger around the house for a bit. We opened the door so she could go out on the screened in porch where she lie in the sun and enjoyed the outdoors.

The picture at the top of this post is from that last visit to her porch.

We took her to the vet who informed us her renal problems had morphed into renal failure and Kayli's time had come.
Even now, over four years later this is very difficult to write, the hole her absence left in my life is only slightly smaller after four years and still much larger than her physical size.

Kayli passed away in the clinic in our arms and it was one of the most difficult things I've done in my life. As the dust in the room I'm currently sitting in rises in a cloud.

She slept next to me every night. For over 15 years she would come to bed, butt my shoulder with her head so I would lift my right arm and bed covers. She would crawl down my side, then turn around and come back up to lie next to me with her head on my shoulder. Once in place she would roll into me whereupon I would lower the bed clothes over her and we would go to sleep with her purring in my ears.

It took me over two weeks to learn to sleep without her next to me, so much had she become a part of my normal sleeping routine.

It is four years now and while I am finally able to finish this post, I am raw with the rush of the memory. I can still see her lying on the foot of the bed when I am home even though her cremains sit on my dresser in a can.

Right next to Angel.

We belled the cat just before we made her an indoor cat but she retained the bell to the end. I would hear it as she scampered about the house still retaining some kitten in her almost to the end.

Hearing that bell all those years, knowing I'll never hear it again reminds me of this song,

"One less bell to answer, one less egg to fry.
One less cat to pick up after.
I should be happy, but all I do is cry."


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.