Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Doctor and the Albatross - Prologue

What's All This, Then?

My oldest daughter is 14.5 as of the time I'm writing this. She is an avid author, mostly of fan-fiction with a little poetry and other stuff thrown in for flavor. Ask her what she wants to do for fun, and she'll ask you for a notebook, something to write with, and a few hours of peace and quiet. She's also very talented. I've read most of her stuff and it's really quite good.

The Tardis
In fact, she's inspired me to take my own stab at a piece of fan-fiction. That is what I'm going to present here, as a series of entries to my blog. What you are about to read, for those unfamiliar with the fan-fiction universe, is called a "cross-over." It's a story in which characters and  universes of two separate franchises interact to create a new adventure for both .. basically. Usually a cross-over assumes that the reader is familiar with both "parent universes," and this will contribute to his enjoyment of the story. I've tried to do that, but at the same time I've provided some details to try and help those who may not be overly familiar with either of the universes I'm about to unceremoniously smash together.

With that said, however, if you haven't seen David Tennant as Doctor Who, and/or you haven't watched Joss Whedon's masterpiece Firefly and the movie that followed it (called Serenity) then please stop what you're doing, go log onto Netflix or whatever, and watch them. Do it now. Not so much because it will help you better appreciate this story, but just because they are both excellent series and you will be a better, wiser person for having viewed them.

Firefly and Doctor Who are two sci-fi series on the opposite ends of not only the longevity spectrum, but others as well. The Doctor has been puttering around through space-time in his bizarre police box ship for over 65 years now, and is the longest running sci-fi show ever. Conversely, Firefly was canceled, most fans believe unjustly, after just one season.  Firefly portrays a more believable future than most sci-fi shows - there are no phasers, light-sabers, or photon torpedoes. Humanity, after having expanded into space to survive (and having done so without warp drive or transporters), still believes itself to be the only intelligent life in the universe, and maintains its conflicted nature which breeds corruption and war along with compassion and love. Doctor Who, however, contains some of the craziest, most outlandish, wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey, cheesy, steam-punk-ish, and mind-numbing .. stuff I've ever seen, complete with time travel paradoxes that inexplicably sort themselves out, alien robots with toilet plungers protruding from their forms .. the list goes on and on. Obviously, I am a huge fan of both.

Possibilities ...
So what would happen if the Tardis suddenly showed up in Serenity's cargo bay? To be fair, I did search the web for other Firefly/Doctor Who crossovers, and there are plenty. I didn't read any of them.

I had originally presented this story as a series of posts, but I have now consolidated it into one giant page that you can get to from the front of my blog, or here. I did this to make it easier on the reader to follow along since, in blog format, the posts appear in reverse order, and .. you know .. spoilers.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Catching Up and Giving up the Cup

Yes, I know it's been an awful long time since last I blogged anything. I've been awfully busy, still with the baby and family. I've also been devoting a little more time when I can to my amateur radio hobby by either making contacts or working to improve my antennas.  Once I  have something I'm reasonably happy with, I may blog about that, too.

I've had to go on another hiatus with regard to my ninjutsu training as well. It's just not realistic to continue that when I have a one-year-old who still won't sleep through the night. A friend of our family rightfully refers to the early years of a child's life as "the Cave Years."  Hopefully once everyone's a little older and more independent, I will be able to start up again permanently.

Part of my antenna system
Anyway, something that happened last week inspired me to write again, and that will be the main focus of this article.  On Friday, I spent several hours working on my antenna project. This involved climbing up and down off the roof, using ropes to lift a bunch of wires into the air with the help of some well-placed trees, a slingshot, and some 1.5 Oz lead sinkers - not to mention constantly fending off swarms of blood-sucking, bite-y sting-y bugs. Did you know mosquitoes come in two sizes here in Michigan? They're either small enough to crawl through your screen door, or large enough to knock it off its hinges and drag you into the woods.

After this antenna work, I was pretty worn out - it was a pretty good workout. I slept really well that night, and the next day I started to feel like utter crap after being awake for a few hours. I felt run-down, exhausted, weak, and completely lethargic. To top it off, I got the mother of all headaches that just wouldn't go away, in spite of taking a bunch of ibuprofin and drinking lots of coffee - the two things that usually help me with that. This was Saturday. Sunday was even worse. My headache never went away and kept me awake most of Saturday night - that is, when Isabel wasn't screaming for attention. I don't remember much of Sunday, other than it was bad. At one point, I felt like I was going to be sick and needed to lay down. I went to bed early, and felt even worse in the morning.

Monday morning was, thankfully, Labor Day, so I didn't have to go to work. I dragged my exhausted body out of bed at about 8:30AM and began to make my morning cup of coffee when something on the K-cup box caught my eye. It was one word - "Decaffeinated."
The Dreaded Decaf Discovery

As it turns out, my wife had bought the box on Friday because it was on sale and  hadn't noticed that it was decaf. Suddenly, it all made sense - I had been going through caffeine withdrawals the whole weekend! Fortunately, we had some of the real stuff, too, so I made myself a cup of that right away. Of course, as soon as I had some caffeine back in my bloodstream, I felt a thousand percent better. My energy level was back to normal, the nausea went away, the headache disappeared, and I realized that I am most likely physiologically addicted to caffeine.

So, I've decided to quit caffeine altogether.  I've heard people who have done this often feel much better and have more energy after their body recovers from the addiction, so I'm hoping that will be the case for me, too. Now, understand that I don't drink that much to begin with. I usually have a 10Oz cup three times a day, plus a diet soda with lunch.  Still, it's amazing how hard the withdrawal symptoms hit me! I think if Al Qaeda or ISIS want to really screw America over, they should disrupt our coffee supply - we'd all be too tired and worn out to respond!  I certainly know that if the zombie apocalypse happens, and I have to quit coffee cold-turkey, I'd have a hard time functioning.

Therefore, I've decided I'm not going to quit cold-turkey. Rather, I'm going to gradually wean myself off of it. I've already given up the lunchtime soda and my afternoon cup, and I haven't noticed any ill effects. I still have two cups first thing in the morning, though. I'm going to give myself a few more days like this, and then see about spreading those two out, shrinking their size, and eventually eliminating them and drinking more water instead.  For now, though ...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Hero's Passing

It's Christmas Eve, 1944 or thereabouts. A fleet of transport ships has set sail on the English Channel carrying fresh troops bound for France and the European theater of allied operations during World War 2. Their mission would be to bolster allied defenses in the face of a fresh German onslaught that would later be referred to as The Battle of the Bulge. For the moment, things are not going well - not for the allies, and not for the fleet of ships now being harassed and picked off by u-boats. Aboard one of the ships, a country boy from some no-name backwoods town in upstate New York tries to tune out the cries for help coming from his fellow soldiers who were so unfortunate as to be aboard one of the sinking ships. They can't be helped - stopping would make them sitting ducks and all would be lost. It wouldn't be the first time he said goodbye in his mind to everything he knew back home, including the wife and unborn child he had left behind, and waited for his own inevitable and imminent demise.

"Any minute now," he mutters to himself as he thinks of his wife - my grandmother, and her child - my dad, for what he is sure will be the last time.

It didn't happen. Ships were sunk to the left and right, but not his. A miracle?  Perhaps .. but miracles don't usually deliver a man into the depth of horror that was western Europe at the time. Over the next few months, that simple country boy would see things and do things that no one should ever have to see or do - freezing foxholes, concentration camps, massacres, bombed out cities, and God only knows what else. He would see and inflict death more often than he could track, yet somehow manage to avoid its grasp. There were probably more than a few times when he thought those men drowning in the Channel on Christmas Eve were the lucky ones. Some of those things he would never speak of, not even to those closest to him, and the things he would be able to discuss would be the stuff of nightmares.

Finally, it was over. The war in Europe had been won, and Japan would soon surrender after witnessing devastating fury of America's newest weapon. Against all odds, grandpa came home. Back to his sleepy little hometown in upstate NY. Back to his family where he finally got to meet his son for the first time. He would never forget what he went through, and it would always be there in the back of his mind. But, he would manage. He would raise his family as best he knew how, and they would turn out ok, too. That's what he had fought for, after all. He had done his duty, and the world, for the moment, would be safe.

Grandpa liked the 2A, too!
Grandpa went on to lead a simple life after the war. Two more children would come, as would grandchildren and eventually great grandchildren. He retired long before I understood the concept, and concentrated his efforts on things he enjoyed: music, motorcycles, ham radio, etc., and he would pass those interests on to his descendants - some of whom would carry on what seems to have become a family tradition of military service as well. More importantly, he and my grandmother would pass down their values and faith. Even though it took Grandpa a long time to rediscover his faith after all he'd witnessed, he spent the latter years of his life making sure he was a blessing to others and never hesitating to share what Christ had done for him and brought him through.

On February 7, 2014, having completed 88 years on this earth, Grandpa went home to be with his savior in the manner that every soldier hopes for - in his home, at peace, and surrounded by family and loved ones. He had run the race, kept the faith, and was ready to be at rest.  His funeral was a celebration of his life, full of country music, and touching, sometimes amusing stories about the man we all love and miss. I think I was the only one who wasn't able to sing along, but that was only because I didn't know the songs - country music isn't really my "thing," you see. In fact, I had to "cleanse my brain" afterwards with some real music (see video), but that's beside the point.

Real Music, ha ha

I've posted this story for a couple of fairly simple reasons. Mainly, I want the world to know that it has lost a true hero, but the world's loss is Heaven's gain. I firmly believe that my grandfather lives on in Heaven, thanks to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and he's now more alive than we are. Secondarily, I wanted to tell a small part of his story and let the world know that I'm proud of my grandpa and grateful for his sacrifices, and those of his comrades. I hope we will all remember and preserve the faith and freedoms Grandpa and those men and women fought and died to pass on to us.

"Greatest Generation," indeed.