Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Wherever You Go, I Will Go.

Whatever your faith - I could not help but read these words this last weekend when we saw our first bit of snow in 3 months.  It was words from the Old Testament and I could not help but think of Barkley, and now Abby the Lab, who would never abandon me, and who would follow me, even out in the cold and the wet -always by my side.

"Don't ask me to leave you and turn back.  Wherever you go, I will go, where you live, I will live.  Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God." Ruth 1:16

Sunday, February 26, 2017

On Migration

 This is a post I wrote because I just needed to say it. But I hesitated to post it, because it's a  volatile topic. But being the offspring of grandparents who were immigrants there were just words I wanted to put down. 


Animals migrating. What is in their genetic code that drives them hither and yon, is it survival, is it intuition, that takes them to places that never disappointed in its appeal.

Birds of all sizes migrate, not just the mighty goose, braving thunderstorms and predators they move. Not all make it, Eagles, hawks, owls take them out. The mighty eagle has no consideration of noblesse oblige when he is hungry, he simply swoops down and takes, the divine birthright of he with the bigger talons.
Far below the waters of the land, the fish move, Salmon, Steelhead, for which I spent many an afternoon in waders, waiting for a fish, as they answered to that call upriver.

Caribou as well, migrate. I spent a summer in the Brooks Range after a death in the family, just to get away. Hours were spent soaring over the tundra in a little aircraft watching the herds of animals on the move. In spring the Porcupine caribou herd migrated hundreds of miles from their winter ranges just south of the Brooks Range to their traditional calving grounds on the Arctic Refuge's coastal plain and foothills, unless delayed by unusually deep snow.

The summer range provides ample and nutritious food for both calf and herd to grow, but it is not a place to linger in the winter, so they moved on back to a winter range where conditions of food and snow cover are more agreeable.

People migrate as well. The pressures of human migrations, whether as outright conquest or by slow cultural infiltration and resettlement, have affected the grand epochs in history, such as the decline of the Roman Empire. Under forms of colonization, migration has transformed the world, including the settlement of America. Many of own ancestors came here from far away, many eventually heading west as this nation grew. Others move on and move out, as well, simply to survive in times of famine and war.

But in doing so many have forgotten that there are rules, of nature, of man, that must be abided or there are consequences.
 here is a hue and cry right now in this country about illegal immigration. It's simple to me. If  I stayed past my visa to the U.K. illegally, fair skinned and redhead as I am, with British ancestry, I would be jailed and deported. My family fled Northern Europe due to hard times. That doesn't give me the right to go back and claim my piece of what I was somehow deprived of.  It's not about what generations before may or may not have experienced.  It's what is the law now.   There are ways and means to come into this country as my family did, through legal channels, swearing an oath to this country, paying taxes, not taking cash under the table as many do, to send it out of the U.S.

I don't care about your race, your manner of dress, or the God you do or don't worship.  I care that you come here with the same thoughts as my immigrant ancestors - to make America a better and safer place. Support our flag, support our economy. My grandparents did just that. They were proud of their heritage but they learned the language, the customs, proudly raised the American flag, raising children who would serve in the military, not for amnesty, but for duty, defending the nation of which their parents were so proud.

That is as it should be.
Embracing citizenship and our legal principles are exactly what has made our country successful, stable, and unique in the world. Personally, I don't believe the concerns of an individual state, who bears the brunt of the costs of illegal immigration in terms of services and education, means they have no compassion for those that seek a better life. They do, however, have a responsibility to the law abiding citizens who, economically and socially, are affected by such movements. It is not about discrimination. It is about being a nation of laws, the same laws that made this country attractive to live in the first place.

There are laws of nature and laws of men. The laws of nature keep healthy the herd, but often at a price. The animals come and go as they please, sometimes with a devastating loss. But we are so much more than the animals, which is why we have laws designed, not to isolate, but to protect.

The laws of men are designed to keep our resources strong and protect the lives and livelihood of those that wish to make this country their home in every way. Being a citizen is a responsibility, a shared one, not an entitlement, not something you can wear part time on pay day, and disrespect otherwise, waving the flag of your home country, hurling insults in your native tongue at the people whose tax dollars are providing shelter and medical care for you.

Immigrants have brought much to this country, those that came respecting the law and embracing it, as my grandparents did. I look at what our country has done with the efforts of those that came and took the effort to become a permanent part of the fabric of our flag. People that gave back generously in time, effort and loyalty for all they had been given here. I also look at the devastation to local and state economies in the West, my childhood home, as the movement is unchecked, criminals flowing in, drugs, crime that also come in with those simply seeking sustenance, schools and hospitals packed with non-citizens seeking betterment at the expense of the citizen.  Many head to "sanctuary cities" not to keep their family safe but to more easily engage in outright criminal activity, especially connected with the lucrative drug trade.  It is not a coincidence that Chicago, as a sanctuary city, has some of the worst drug and gang violence in the country, to the point, I've ever been downtown except for work, and won't ever, spending my money online rather than in local businesses, too many innocents taken out in the crossfire betwen rival gangs of differing heritage.

Add into that mix the tens of thousands pouring out of war-torn countries where there is a daily cry for American blood from many of those fighting and we have a situation that should concern everyone, even those legally immigrating hoping to find a safer place than they live now.
I am all for properly vetting those that wish to make our land their home bringing with them the desire to work and contribute to our society.  I understand wanting the best for your family, health, and well-being for your children, especially for those persecuted for their Christian faith. But compassion notwithstanding, it's not something the states have the monies to sustain as those numbers swell into the hundreds of thousands.

I'm out on the shoreline of a vast ocean, watching the sea, standing on shorelines touched by the ocean's glassy, manipulative touch. A river rushes into the sea, and the sea flows in, tangled together in a kiss of wet and salt. A fish jumps, swimming upstream to where he was born, and where he will die. Upstream are the fisherman,  Nature and man both have checks and balances to keep resources secure.  But like the laws that govern the rivers, the laws that govern our land were meant for a reason. They exist to protect the resources, ensuring a future. But like a river that becomes choked with fish, soon the oxygen is gone, and all that is left is bloated, gasping waste. Whether we agree with the law or not, it was put there to protect those that are willing to take on this country's oath of citizenship and all the responsibilities and support that entails.

We all want to survive, and I understand as a mother, about wanting the best for your offspring, for your future.  But the laws were put in place to protect more than just you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Author Interview today at NPR WNIJ/WNIU

My new novel is one of 4 featured at NPR WNIJ/WNIU today!

Read their coverage and listen to an author interview

At the top of the page there is a link where I read an excerpt from the book, one chosen by the station that they had particularly enjoyed, and further down is the interview.

Not only is there an actual picture of me, you can see if it's true what one of my readers said that after living in the Midwest 17 years I now sound like Erma Bombeck (hahaha). Thanks for your support!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Holding on to the Past to Move Forward - A Memory of a Dog

It was three years ago, in the last part of February. I had just gotten off duty and was headed on up to Chicago to join my husband of four months for the weekend. It was a 400-mile round trip I made almost every weekend when there was not severe weather over several years before we got married, and then again as I waited for a transfer without sacrificing pay grade so we could finally both work and live in the same city.

How this trip was different was that my dog of 11 years, Barkley, was not making the journey with me, only his collar and leash and a few toys in a box that I could not bear to part with. His remains were in the polished box on my crash pad dresser. I laid my hand on it as I left, imagining warmth that was not there and softly said goodbye, telling him I'd be back soon.

It was a solemn drive and a lonely one. You'd think an animal that slept a lot wouldn't be much company on a long drive but he was. He was the reason I'd stop at the rest stops so he could get a little walk; he was the reason we'd sometimes go through a drive-thru where he would get a kid sized burger, no mustard or pickles, and a soft serve cone. I'd take a point and shoot camera and hold it up without taking my eyes off the road. Many of the pictures continue to make me smile to this day.
One more inch and the Cheez-It's are MINE!

That day, I was fixed in the annealed spot that was his fate and mine as outside the miles of cornfields and the steady thump of late night tires flew past me as if I were frozen to the ground. The drive could have been five minutes, it would have been five hours but I remember thinking that if I would stop, he would somehow appear in the back of the extended cab pickup truck as if there was some quality of the eternal in the hushed journey forward. I did make one stop at a long deserted rest area, and of course, he was not there, There was only that box of dog memories and tears that stained the steering wheel. I sat in the truck motionless as outside of me the farmland stretched away from me, merging into the limitless silence of every loss I'd known.

We've all been there, going on about our lives, happy, with a plan, then suddenly, what was mapped out is literally shredded before us, leaving us to pick up the scraps laid down on the floor and move on, that rewind button nowhere in reach. It can be the biggest moments of our lives, it can be the smallest ones. It can be a relationship ended, or a friendship snubbed. It can be simply a day where nothing went as planned, unforecast weather aloft, a cantankerous crew chief, and you really can't complain, as everyone's looking at you for direction as you're the commander; you simply hunker down to the new challenge, sobered as you look out the cockpit window as you realize your deep dependence upon the invisible.
The key thing is we gather up we have left and look forward. Even more importantly, we do so with a communion of not just saints but of sinners. I remember so many days there after we lost both Barkley and my brother to cancer at the same time when my friends would stop by. They'd talk with cheerfulness of the good things they remembered, we would plan things in the future to look forward to. When they left, with a cheerful wave, it seemed as if they left a bit of themselves with me, some of their stores of strength and hope, renewed affirmation in the promise of life. I realized then just how much I needed them.

I'd always prided myself on being the kind of person that could handle things most people couldn't, so aware of how in those moments when man's bones and flesh are laid upon fate's altar to be torn, there is a moment when that will of bone and flesh to remain alive is almost enough to sustain it. I approached each day with that will, only to find that it took just one act of fate, that neither marked my flesh or my form, to make me as fearful as a child, suddenly left alone.

With my family and friend's help, with their shared stories, memories and laughter, my heart healed. There isn't a day I don't miss my brother, but I feel him close. There are days I still pick up Barkley's collar and tear up but there are as many days as I laugh as I relate a story I never put to paper about Barkley, sharing with the friends that knew and loved him.
For life does indeed go on. As I went for a walk earlier at one of the city parks, I watched Abby Lab jaunt joyfully ahead on the leash with my husband. When she was dumped at a high kill shelter, getting older and very sick, she likely had no happy thoughts of the future, only fear. When she was well again and her foster mom from the Lab rescue organization brought her over to meet me at the Indiana crash pad I wondered if it was too soon, that perhaps I should have waited to get another dog. The foster mom said before she drove over that I was under no obligation, there would be other dogs and she would have a good home with someone soon. But then that gentle dog moved towards me, drifting across the parking lot like shadow, to a stranger. She then leaned lightly against my leg so my hand could caress her head, looking at something only dogs can see off in the distance, vibrating like a released string. I knew then she was at home. Her trust in me indicated that like dogs will often do, she joyfully mistook the world as a place with a doubtless future. Here she would stay, my not wishing to shatter that illusion.
She's been with us almost three years now, and she acts as if her former home, the shelter, that great drive for emergency vet care, was all the memory of someone else.  When she bounds up the step from the yard, she pauses at the back door, as if sensing she had gone to sleep in one place and awoken to another. What is painful to her is only a dream.  When I come home at night, she is laying by the back door of our little 100-year-old Mission bungalow, rising only on the sound of my voice, as if she had laid guardian to all I held dear in my absence, only relinquishing it, these walls, and windows, and memories of dogs gone before, only when I was safely  home.

I will open the door and she will be there dancing around as if I'd been gone for years, and we'll enter the house together, those three years crowded into one moment, one room, one instant of time so full there is no room for tears, but only breath.
Today, I knew that even if cancer had not come into our lives, Barkley would still be gone due to old age. There are some journeys that are inevitable for us all.  Yet as I looked outside, I realized that whatever has happened to me, the world outside was just how we both would remember it. There was motion, there were laughter and tears, there would be new memories and love that ebbed and flowed like the waves upon the lake. As I looked out on the water's surface, the gentle waves swept away vast and drowsy, like a vision of life with a shadowed surface and somber depths. I gave it a defiant smile and ran after the dog, toward a future that sparkled off in the distance like diamonds. - Brigid

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Sticks and Stones

On the table at the gun show was a piece of meteorite on display.  There was a sign that you were welcome to touch it, but don't pick it up.  It's weight was such that to do so might cause injury.  There was a tiny one as well, that you could pick up. Midwest Chick and I did so. The weight for itx size was surprising.

Both were innocuous in appearance, yet in realizing where they came from it was if they possessed of some secret, to galaxies far beyond the limits of imagination, created somewhere in deep space, perhaps in a time when things were not irrevocably fixed to their form.

In a container in my vehicle is another stone, this one a sturdy chunk that posses neither beauty or function but was picked up from a lake high up in the Sierras where a hundred and fifty years prior, the Donner Family was stranded.  I'd gone up there after a death in my family, to just get away from the city and be alone.
I'd taken it from the water, and used it to form and contain my campfire, located a short distance away.  Before I packed up to head home, checked the fire to ensure it was out.  I'd checked before, but it only takes a spark to start a forest fire, though it takes an entire box of matches to get a campfire going. But I checked again, anyway, even though it rained, moving that larger rock away.. The rock was still warm, not enough to pull my fingers away, but enough that it possessed a luminance heat, not the sort that would burn, but a slow steady warmth that the dying fire may scorn, rain would dilute, but only time could truly deplete. I picked it up and held it in my hand, feeling it cool. Not everything of strength and density is cold. Watching a drip of water fall to the ground I thought, even a stone can weep.

I'm not sure why I picked it up and took it home , nor why I still have it, But it's there among the tools of my trade.
On my desk are beautiful, colorful stones, heavy with color,  many of them ones I picked up as a child, out with my Mom looking for agates. After the winter's snow had retreated, we  would head outdoors, just the two of us, along the shores of local bodies of water looking for stones, stones that may have not been unearthed for years, abundant embedded in earth and sand. They're quiet treasures on the shores of the the West, wind swept lands riddled with unclaimed treasures that people simply pass and forget, not knowing what they have underneath their feet. Beneath this great land lies jeweled richness of stone, and prehistoric bones, telling tales as they surface, dotting the future with pieces of the past.

There on the shelf in my office are other such things,  small bits of history, small stones, a piece of bone that appears to have been carved, a perfect, pristine shell, both delicate and strong. Water and history, two elements of life that draw me in deeply, draw me back to such places. Part of my childhood was spent on the shores of a body of water in the West where we stayed in a little cabin with a view of the water,  years before Californians discovered it and developers took over the place, building vast condos that blocked out the sun.

My brother and I would get up while it was still dark, and march down to the waters edge, hoping to get there to see the dawn explode over the water. I could spend hours there, just watching the way the water shaped itself around the rocks and me, the gentle waves moving against the shore, like breathing. In the bright cold water, there would be all sorts of strange creatures,  all sorts of mysteries.
Big Bro and I  wade along the edges, gingerly looking, while not harming anything that was there, hoping to find a prehistoric shell to take home, knowing that at some time, all of the land where our family homesteaded had once been part of this ocean.  We occasionally found bits and pieces of things, some strange, some so very familiar.

Many of you have seen a sand dollar. They're commonly sold in souvenir stores. But what you see is only the remaining skeleton of a living sea creature. When living, the sand dollar is covered with fine hair like cilia that cover tiny spines, soft, and almost purple in color. But the remaining shell is beautiful, fragile, white. The essential essence of what this creature was.
We'd come home at the end of an adventure, our pockets full of small rocks and shells and artifacts of the day. I felt somehow at home with these small bits of the ancient land, though I felt as if I was living in a alien world in the small eddy currents of their homes, among creatures that were so different from me, somehow I knew I belonged there. At night, we'd build a fire and sit and listen to the lapping of the waves, dreams of my future filled my head.

One of my favorite places in the world in the rocky coast of Northern Ireland.  Being there reminds me of those days of childhood,  the rush of the water an affirmation of what draws me to search and discover. It takes me back to the taste of salt on my lips, that of rain or tears, only the years remember. The water rushes, then waits, as I do, moving in, retreating, watching, still waiting. Remembering everything past, hoping for everything good of the future, in a bone deep calm that belies the deep ache in my muscles as I climb up ancient stone steps that lead to cliffs hundreds of feet above.
There at the top, a view, an expanse that is as untouched and unchanged as what drove me here in the first place.Steeling myself against the wind and looking at the distance down, I wondered for a moment if I'd made the right decision to come up here.  Like anything, you do your best with what you have, and you hope you make the right decisions. Sometimes the decisions seem to happen by themselves, as if found at the end of an invisible chain, somethings they are long drawn out thoughts, held in the hand and dreamt of in the night before taking human form.

I wasn't alone, though the rest of the group,took the bus back he short distance, there were a handful us, strangers but kindred spirits, not speaking, simply looking outward. The others don't dare the height, the edge, not with the wind that day, but we do, not feeling the fear until afterwards, only feeling alive, on the wind the smell and the taste of the longing to simply be here.

But for now, a few more hours, a few more artifacts of time I stole from the past, flirting with the ancients, hard rocks, the smell of peat and coal, a land brushed with snow, burnished with the traces of those that went before. Traces that say, remember me, remember this, for in it you will find yourself, and leave a piece of your heart behind.

There on top of a sea green cliff, I will throw out a rock to watch it splash down far below, as above, I watch above, from a strong, yet fragile, light shell that houses this old soul. The rock flies through the hindrance of the deepest sleep through the stiff fabric of the wind, into the warm sea.

It's only a rock, only a bit of artifact of the past that holds in it, not the prolonged burden of time that  too many embrace as they age, but the bright colored fluent movement of youth, the dancing heels of those days of risk and glory.  Perhaps the days of my youth are gone, as is the rock,  yet the feel of its absoluteness will remain in my hands, in me, long after the wind goes silent.
 - Brigid

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Popcorn and TV

I rarely watched TV at home even when we had cable. Sometimes when traveling for work, I arrive back at the hotel, peruse the room service menu, and too tired to post anything of worth, consider TV. But not for long. If I watch, I do like the History Channel, NCIS, Red Green, Firefly, Top Gear and some old shows and movies, especially westerns and old classics. But when I had the crash pad before transferring here to be home after I got married I had basic cable service and only because with Internet I got a deal. Now, we ditch the cable and just watch streaming shows or boxed sets.  But during that brief time of actual television at the condo, for lack of a lot of things to do in the evening since Partner was 250 miles away, I discovered several things.

There is NO subject off limits in commercials. (Seriously, I don't want to know about the amazing merits of "Panty Shields with Wings!". Wings? Good Lord, they act like we won WWII with those things. Also, "have a nice period" Shouldn't that be changed to "vehicular manslaughter is wrong")?

If you are dead due to Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (caused by breathing the microscopic dust of ground up yard gnomes used in older insulation) you are NOT able to call the attorney listed at the end of the commercial.

No matter what time it is and how basic your cable, on one channel will be Law and Order Special Victims Unit.
I also rediscovered why I don't watch much television.

One late night's selection:
Talk show with guest - liberal Hollywood airheaded "actress"
Zombie Strippers (wait, wasn't that just on the previous channel?)
Cindy Crawfords Skin Secrets!
Rock of Love
Murder She Wrote (look, every time Jessica Fletcher shows up at a dinner party someone gets murdered, and yet she keeps getting invited, hellooooo)
Great Horse Cleaning Tips ( Maybe that was "house cleaning", at least I hope so.)
Depression and Anxiety Help (you invited Jessica Fletcher over for beer and Brats didn't you?)
Pimp my mailbox (or some such home decorating show)
Petty Officer Junction(what I call the non-original NCIS show)

 BBC'w "Fastest Animals on Earth (sorry folks it's still a fully grown Holstein dropped from a C-130 at 150.626 ft/sec assuming a 0.7 drag coefficient)
And of course, Home Shopping Channel:
Buy Jewelry Now!
Jewelry and You!
Jewelry to accessorize with your wearable towel!
What /were/are your favorite shows? If the Internet was down tomorrow for something what would you watch? Or would you watch at all?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

February 14

It's that time of year folks, flying cupids, Hallmark cards, and expensive presents.

I appear to have received an old antique box.

My gifts to Partner in Grime were wrapped.  I had joked that all we had at the house was Christmas paper, and he suggested I could just draw some cupids on there to avoid spending money on new paper (we have expensive tastes in liquor and firearms but we are notoriously cheap on overall household costs).  I did one better and made my own paper online and printed it out.

Partner said, "add in a couple Leprechauns and a birthday cake and we'll never have to buy wrapping paper again!"

See here at the range, we do things a little differently (different is such a much nicer word that "weird"), and Partner and I often make each other something, sometimes serious, sometimes silly.  

Today Partner got a handcrafted paracord bracelet that any engineer would like, and a copy of Fire and Steam by author Christian Wolmar (and cupid picked up a bottle of Balvenie 16 to add to the Range Single Malt Collection.) But I still can't figure out what is in the old box.

Over the last 6 years together, there have been some pretty neat things, but today's gift was completely unexpected.

It started with a little stuffed animal in a coffee mug and a card of course, with a somewhat cryptic message.

Hmmm, it's a copy of the Blaster's Handbook (copyright 1949)

 Apparently, I'm going to need some directions with my "gift"
Time to carefully open the box.

It seems Partner in Grime has Put the BOMB in Bath Bombs!

If you haven't seen one, ladies buy them at the drugstore or from DIY Etsy shops for their bathtime. Made out of baking soda, citric acid, Epsom salts, water, oil and fragrance oil they are usually formed into round balls and make a wonderful fizzy and moisturizing bath. The DIY ones tend to be a bit more crumbly than the store bought but the ingredients are more natural.

Mine smell like something with lavender/sandalwood and perhaps orange, a restful scent, just toss in the bath water. By the time it was light enough to get a good photo, I'd already tried one out as I telework today, and didn't have to just do a quick shower.   I almost hate to use the other ones up, they just make me smile to look at them.

Well done Partner, well done!

I hope you all have a memorable Valentine's Day.
 I know for one I'm going to have a BLAST.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Knights of the Round Engine

For those of you who read  Borepatch,  you will see this post today.  On taking this blog private I found I was limited to 100 readers by Blogger.   I had a couple of dozen or more people I knew well that wanted to read but couldn't as I was at my limit.  Borepatch asked if I would guest blog now and again so readers that couldn't read here, could see some new posts.  Hence the dual postings.  Thanks to all of you for support, for my blog, and for my books.

Those rotary engines. . . the Le Rhones, the Monos, and the Clergets! They made a sort of crackling hiss, and always the same smell of castor oil spraying backwards The 0il in a fine mist over your leather helmet and your coat. They were delightful to fly, the controls so light, the engines so smooth running. Up among the sunlit cumulus under the blue sky I could loop and rolls and spin my Camel with the pressure of two fingers on the stick besides the button which I used as little as possible. Looping, turn off the petrol by the big plug cock upon the panel just before the bottom of the dive, ease the stick gently back and over you go. The engine dies at the top of the loop; ease the stick fully back and turn the petrol on again so that the engine comes to life five or six seconds later.
- Neville Shute

What always strikes me when I get together with a certain bunch of friends is as all the conversations going on all at once about such varied subjects - Heinlein, Cordwainer Smith, reloading, airplanes, caffeinated beverages, trains, planes and automobiles and scotch eggs.

One discussion was on starting steam engines on trains, and that launched a conversation on  starting round engines on airplanes as they are, shall we say, a bit temperamental.

You hardly see them any more, but those of us who flew them continue to share the wisdom, the collective bits of what I have read or heard I will share here.

The ancients wrote that the great things to be seen are sun, stars, water and clouds. I think they forgot the round engine.

I have a fair amount of experience flying jets and as much fun as I had, I do have to agree - there is absolutely no mystery to a jet engine.  The air travels through it in a straight line and doesn't pick up any of the pungent fragrance of engine oil, hydraulic fluid or pilot sweat.

The rules for the operation of a jet are basic.  When I first had some beginning airmen to teach there was this preprinted poster with the "four forces of flight". Lift. Weight. Thrust. Drag. Each were represented by a drawing of a man.  Someone, of course, drew a dress on Mr. Drag, which now would just get them sent to the corner for "sensitivity training".  But it wasn't all that much harder to teach airmen gas turbine engine technology.  I have kitchen equipment more complicated.

Teaching someone to start one is even easier.  Anyone can start a jet engine. You just need to move a switch from "OFF" to "START" and them remember to move it back to "ON" after a while. Sometimes you don't even have to remember to move it back to "On" as the switch is spring loaded. To start a jet engine you need a couple of fingers.  To start a round engine you need two hands that can move like a hummingbird on crack. The right hand for the primer, energize and engage switches, the left hand being busy with the throttle, magneto then back to the throttle to control the starting RPM and then for the mixture and. . .

Even being ambidextrous and nimble isn't enough start a round engine, you seduce it into motion, which requires skill, finesse, patience, a gentle touch and a fair bit if style. Failing that there are curse words. If that fails there is meditation and celibacy. If the mission is critical you don't let the new guy start the engine. On some planes the pilot isn't even allowed to do it.

Just as you don't want to start a conversation with your wife that starts with "what the hell!" or contains the words 'breast enlargement', 'Oprah',or 'your mother', you do NOT want to start the checklist with the preamble of "this baby always fires right up!".  You've jinxed yourself right there.

You've just got too much working against you.  For starters, there is no computer controlling the fuel/air mixture.  If the mixture is too rich you'll end up with parts of the engine that look like wet charcoal briquettes and then it's NEVER going to start.  If it's too lean it won't start.  The mixture is like being married, giving you new ways every day you can be wrong.

It's been said that jet engines start by whining for a while, then give a delicate girly little "poof"and start whining a wee bit louder. Round engines give a satisfying rattle-rattle, click-click, BANG, more rattles, another BANG, a big manly BELCH, followed by the explosive resonance of of a mechanical FART, more clicks, a bunch of smoke and finally, the serious perfection of low pitched roar. It's the sound that machines should make.

With that would be a shout somewhere from the tarmac of "YES!" flung outward into the air, carried away on the wind like a dropped scrap of paper

As many have said, starting a jet engine is about as 'exciting as turning on your ceiling fan'. Click. Done. The passengers look bored. When you have started his round engine successfully your Crew Chief looks at you as if he'd like to marry you, or at least let you borrow his car. If it's a particular cantankerous bird sometimes the passengers applaud. Successfully start your jet engine and your copilot yawns.

Jet engines don't break or catch fire often enough, which leads to complacency and inattention. Think about it, the round engine could blow an oil seal ring, burst into flame or sputter like a Democrat at a debate, then suddenly quit, at any given moment. Even a perfectly operational round engine at speed looks as if it's going to blow any second now. This helps keep the crew concentrated on the job at all times. You never saw round engine pilots playing on their computer or falling asleep in the cockpit. No sir.

Jet engines don't' have enough control levers or gauges to keep a a pilot busy. There's nothing to fiddle with during really long flights other than the FMS or your lunch. 

Round engines smell like your favorite shop or being in your favorite shop after barbecuing pork. Jet engines smell like a dirty flashlight. At the end of the day in a jet, you smell pretty much like you did when you started. When you go home from flying a round engine, you smell like Kuwait.

But if you are so lucky to have flown one, you will never forget. Those mornings getting to the flight line, the normal edge of nervousness that precedes any mission humming from within you.  The airplane looms into view, that big round engine looking bigger than when you left it as if it grew in the night.

The cockpit is as dark as space as if marooned somewhere in the cosmos, waiting to swallow me up if I screw this up. My uniform shirt is stiff, my hands are ready, time to show this airplane who the boss is, or remain forever still.  We wait for orders, we wait for light, a hesitation in cooling space across which blew the dense oily smell of a radial engine, laying like cold smoke against my tongue, so thick I can taste it.

How well I remember those moments, the small trickling of fear, not a fear that you can't conquer a simple engine, but the feeling we all have when entering a realm that man wasn't intended for.  I think about silent failures, of fire, of flame, the feeling of immortality that is the luxury of youth long having left as one takes on responsibilities not meant for children.

I'll lay my wits against a round engine's smoking passivity and if the stars align right we'll be on our way. We'll be up where the air is fierce and cold, surrounded by all that is familiar, the dials, gauges, switches, each with a mark of human hands and sweat on them. Shadows bow before a waving sun, the chill in the air an intractable summons of fall, cast upon summer skies.  From up ahead, another plane in our group, the spurt of smoke from her, the only sign of movement.

Constantly keeping the instrument in my scan, we're moving forward only by blood and sweat, history and instinct, compassing forever between safety and a horizon unknown. Clouds build in the distance, lightning flashes off to our right, the sky full of promise and danger, vast bodies of water into which we could disappear forever, tall mountains of ice and rock and fluid need. We are aware of little of it and all of it as we wonder just how many hours ahead it will be before gravity and sleep and a cold beer are in our view.

We must have patience, and we do, for we fly round engines.

 - Brigid

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Armed with Tooth and Claw - a Woman's Perspective on Concealed Carry

From outside the bedroom window comes the screech of an owl, a sudden war cry beyond its peaceful hooting. With it, a mouse or a squirrel cries like a baby as it perishes, blood spilling on the pure white blanket of snow. Inside the house, a girl with a shy smile, patrolling her own habits, not watching nature, not aware of nature watching her, loyal to the mythology of safety that has four walls, but no defense for it. She comes home at night at the same time, leaving in the morning at the same time, driveway dark, obvious to anything outside that watches her world with the same intensity by which she disregards it.

A couple of miles away, a moonlit lane between pine trees and stone. There in the shadows, only steps away, a long shadow shifts. A woman with a gun stops, sensing movement, sensing darkness within the dark, in the woods past her mailbox. Her hand moves to her firearm, poised. A bobcat, easing back through the trees. A shadow, a form that slides like light through a picket fence, slanting sideways, then disappearing under cover. Her hand eases away from her weapon, but she backs away, towards light, towards home and sleep.

The girl with the shy smile wakes after a night's sleep, window open slightly as the room grows stuffy with the door closed, the frigid air invited in to touch her forehead. She doesn't fear sleeping with the window open, the nearby town is small, she knows most of her neighbors. There's a phone on the nightstand; she can call 911 if there's ever any problem way out here. The morning finds small footprints under her window in the pristine snow, a raccoon or a fox, stalking its prey in the night. Out in the driveway another set of prints, melting in the morning sun, evidence of something much larger that watched in the night before shifting off into shadow.

The woman with a gun walks quietly along a country road, her revolver, just as quietly, on her hip. She goes a different time each day, knowing that predators rely on patterns. There in the distance, a couple of coyotes, trotting along the edge of the fields, through snow that clutched at their empty bellies, heads cocked, eyes forward, using instinct, tooth and sinew to find that one small morsel there breathing under the snow, trying to hide for its life, a small shivering rabbit, wishing as desperately not to be eaten alive as the coyote desperately wishes to consume. The coyote stops to look at her, with what looks to be a smile on his face, not one of welcome but of mockery. the smile of a predator. He watches as she moves on down the road, round in the chamber, ready if needed.

The girl with a shy smile readies her day, moving with the ritual of pattern, of expectancy, iPod buds in her ears, coffee brewing, she doesn't see the dark form, standing sideways between the trees outside, just watching. If she looked, she might see the smile, a coyotes smile, not one that hits of internal laughter but a laughter as mirthless as the smile of the Spinx, amusement as cold and hard as the ground. She gets the newspaper off her porch, not locking the door behind her.

The woman with a gun walks back towards the house, when from the edge of the woods comes motion and sound, a blurred commotion, a high pitched, soft pleading scream that breaks the lie of safety. She looks towards the trees, and sees something darting quickly, a dark shape, too small to be human, too quick for her to catch a good glimpse. There, in the ditch, a small white form, a jagged tear in it's furry throat, rabbity legs twitching in the remembrance of life.

The girl with a shy smile steps from her bedroom, knowing she's 5 minutes behind schedule. She wrinkles her nose. There is a smell in the house, the stink of a cat, the odor of resentment. From the hallway, a shadow coalesces, the smile of the Sphinx, flat morning light on flat edged weapon, the claw of this particular predator. There, just past the pure white blanket on her bed, is her phone. It is 30 feet away. The cops are 20 minutes away.

The woman with a gun hears the siren racing down the road nearby. She moves towards the house, ears listening to anything unusual, eyes looking for anything out of order, a habit that is not fear but caution, locking the door behind her, smiling in her freedom to live out here, prepared and aware. Outside the snow blankets the ground with the perception of purity, mother natures design that hides the evidence of how the processes of life and death, predator and prey, play out in both animal and human kind.

She's a woman with a gun because she knows that predators will travel the roads and quiet fields of our life as long as there is darkness, the derisive echoes of their need carried out on harsh wind. She looks around to make sure she is alone, before heading out to her truck, the morning air cooling the blood, the field empty and quiet, except for the steady sound of a small wounded animal, a ceaseless and unemphatic cry into the wind.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

It's Super Bowl Weekend

Everyone - we are busy with a house project this weekend and I"m going to beta read Old NFO's new Rimworld full-length novel, so I will just say "have a safe and fun Super Bowl Sunday". Since we don't own a TV, we will be curled up with books (and single malt).

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Lao Tzu - Quotes for the Evening

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

"To attain knowledge, add things everyday. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.”

“Time is a created thing. To say 'I don't have time,' is like saying, 'I don't want to.”

“A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.”

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

"Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key to it.”

"To see things in the seed, that is genius."

"Music in the soul can be heard by the universe."

“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”

“At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”