A Junk Knife

Or as I usually refer to it, a cr@p-knife. Something to use for cutting packing tape, prying open boxes, and those things you really do not want to use a good knife for. I hate having to get tape residue off a good knife. And thus was created the cr@p-knife.

It needs to be cheap yet functional, something that if it gets gunked up or dull, doesn’t really make a difference. I prefer fixed blade knives, since junk folding knives seem to have hinges that break or springs that fail at the worst possible moment in the worst possible way. I don’t want the blade snapping loose as I try to defeat UPS’s box adhesive, for instance. Stabbing myself is not the goal. Continue reading

“…For the Glory of the Skies…”

Note: I wrote this while I was still flying EMS, thus the odd tense changes and rough prose.

I haven’t flown with Steve on the med crew since I’d made captain. Like many of our nurses and EMTs, he works at a couple of other hospitals when he isn’t be-bopping about in our King Air, and our schedules missed each other. So when he flops into the right seat that early morning out of Denver, I don’t know what to expect. (Steve will say he didn’t “flop.” After being on the run since one in the morning, everyone flops, author included.)

Anyway, we depart Denver at five something, heading eastbound. The sturdy turboprop slides into the clouds at twelve thousand feet, and stays in them. And stays. Puzzled, I look for stars and try to figure out how the layer has gotten so thick in the ninety minutes since we’ve landed. Then I see the morning star and catch myself. The paling sky blends into the clouds so well that it masks the horizon we’d crossed fifteen hundred feet after entering the deck. As the plane chugs up to nineteen thousand feet, we can see dying thunderheads silhouetted purple against the northern skyline. “How high are they?” Steve asks. Continue reading

The Buzz-heard Round the World

So, Friday morning, the sun was rising, the grackles were gracking, other birds chirped, a few joggers thudded past, and four very large birds settled into the neighbor’s ornamental plum-tree. Very large birds. Dark, large birds. One of the four lumbered off before I could get a quick photo.

Probably not what the neighbor wanted to see as he opened the blinds and started on the first cup of coffee.

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How Free is Speech?

Expression has never been truly free, so long as two or more people were involved. The moment Thag threatened to punch Og’s nose for insisting that mammoth tasted better than sloth, a limit existed. Og could continue to declaim the virtues of mammoth, but he also understood that there would be a reaction to his words and it might involve physical rebuttal, so to speak. However, the State did not attempt to prevent him from opining. That would come later, with the advent of the State and, I suspect, of state religions. Continue reading

Inevitable Empires?

Ancient Rome. China from the time of the First Emperor until 1912. The Mughals in South Asia. The Ottomans. The Inca, Aztecs. The Holy Roman Empire and its successor, the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nations, 800 – 1806. The British Empire. The Russian Empire. We humans seem to have a habit of building super-kingdoms and calling them empires, to the point that science fiction and fantasy have absorbed the pattern. What causes people to do this? And are they all truly empires? Continue reading

Green Beer Day

OK, not really. For some this is a day to honor one’s Irish ancestry and heritage, and to eat corned beef and cabbage and potatoes, drink good beer (Guinness, Harp, et al), listen to Irish music, and honor the efforts of an early Christian missionary who is associated with Ireland although he is a Briton. If you are a politician in Boston or New York City, you’d better be seen at an Irish event, or your absence Will Be Noted.

Yes, this is an Orthodox icon of an Irish saint from Britain. Next question?

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Scribble, Scribble, Scrunch into Corner

So there I was, peering over Old NFO’s elbow, trying to read the accession number on the little tag hanging off the 1878 Smith and Wesson .44 Russian, so I could record it along with the fountain of information pouring forth, but the floodgate had opened, hands were moving and it was all I could do to write down numbers, names, and details. Peter Grant was looking at another revolver, inspecting some modifications, and I couldn’t remember if I’d written that one down yet or not. Five more revolvers lay on the counter in front of us, swords and spears and a few maces hung from brackets on the wall, and Dorothy Grant had wisely tucked herself into the corner with a book, well clear of overflows of enthusiasm. The curator alternated between making note of what had been looked at and asking questions. I had unleashed a monster: knowledgable experts with nearly unlimited examples to inspect, poke, and teach from. What hath Alma wrought?!? Continue reading