Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Day Of The Year Blog...


Happy Dishwasher Repair, Utah Utes Win       New Years Eve!

The final rays of sun are setting on 2011 as I type this humble post. I look back on the day that was and am quite pleased. It was a well-received day.


I began my day in repairs mode. Our dishwasher--a daily workhorse for our family--needed some attention. A couple of years ago we called a repairman to help us out with our dishwasher. Since I was home at the time, I noticed how he dismantled the dishwasher and I saw how he fixed it. I've taken it apart twice since. I'm glad to say (at least as far as we know...) the machine works fine.


New Years Eve, 2011 means another thing...the University of Utah Utes played in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. If you haven't heard, this picture tells it all:

Friday, December 30, 2011

Mowing Lawns And Taking Down Lights In December...


Lawns And Lights...

Usually I like having the outdoor Christmas lights up past New Years. I'd like to have them up and on all winter, but they can be a little tacky (but never during Christmas, of course...). But the weather today was so unbelievable that I couldn't resist taking down the outdoor Christmas lights. And while we were doing that, we decided to do a couple of other outdoor things...

 

On December 1st of this year we had some wind hit the area. Some people lost trees, some lost fences, some lost trees and fences, and car windows, and barbecue cookers, and maybe even small pets. We have several tall pine trees next to our house. Our trees were not blown over but they had many many pine needles blow off them. Many of the many many pine needles managed to jam themselves into our rain gutter. I've found the easiest way to clear our rain gutter of pine needles is to climb out onto the roof from my kid's bedroom and scoop them out from above. While I was out there, our cat (or katt--according to Brian Regan...) came out onto the roof with me. I turned around to finish removing the many pine needles and when I looked back, and the cat was gone. I (incorrectly...) assumed the cat went back inside the open window. Nope...I went inside, closed the window and left the cat on the roof. We did get him down...eventually.


Many of the many many pine needles not jammed in our rain gutters ended up on our lawn. We found the best way to clear them from off the lawn was to use the lawn mower. I don't believe I've ever had the lawnmower out in December and/or used the lawnmower in December. And even though it wasn't used to actually mow the lawn, the lawnmower was used.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bob Aamodt, Inc.


 A Welcome Place

It was about a year ago that I got another job. When I first began this blog in January (I can’t believe it’s been almost a year…) I wrote about my second job more than I did my main job. I did this because my part-time job was more fun than my full-time job. I worked as a Director of Marketing and Communications for Bob Aamodt, Inc.

In the spring I worked every Friday. Due to the former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, he gave all of us Fridays off—something that has since been changed. It was a perfect set up for me—work 40 hours Monday through Thursday, then go and have a great time working with a friend I’ve known for over 30 years on Friday.

The summer came and my duties changed a little at my part-time job. I was switched and given a different focus. This was okay with me…I still had the part-time gig and I was still having fun.

As the summer progressed it became obvious to everyone that the work just wasn’t there to justify working eight hours a week. I could always work more or less than eight hours a week. I just worked until the work was finished. In September the work was basically done, and when the work ends, so does the pay.

I’m working on one project now, possibly the biggest project the company does all year and it is an amazing project. It’s called the Bob Aamodt Vertical Challenge. It’s a charity event held each year at Snowbasin Ski Resort. All proceeds go to ScoutReach, the charity arm for the Boy Scouts of America. I made a couple of promotional videos that I’m really proud of. You can access them: HERE and HERE. The 2012 Challenge is on February 28, 2012. It's truly a great event. You can get more information about the Vertical Challenge: HERE. Please consider it.

It’s sometimes difficult to tell the people you care about just how important they’ve been in your life. Everyone at Bob Aamodt, Inc. always treated me incredibly good. It’s how they treat all their clients and vendors. It’s how they treat everyone who walks in that door first built by Mormon pioneers over a century ago. If you’re in need of financial services, please consider using them. Here’s the link to their website: HERE. I guarantee they’ll make you feel at home. Thanks again for the year that was. All the best for the year that is to come.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The New Calendars Are Here! The New Calendars Are Here!


Most people would not even notice the new wall calendar I have hanging on my cubicle wall, but to me, it's hard to imagine working without the assistance of a Carpenter Paper Company Wall Calendar.

So what's so special about this particular calendar? That's a fair question. Let me explain. For the past 15 years (almost...) I've looked at that same calendar every day I've worked. I worked for 10 years in the same building downtown in Salt Lake City. And for 10 years a co-worker visited the Carpenter Paper Company in North Salt Lake and picked up several dozen calendars and distributed them throughout the 3rd and 4th floors. If you were late, you'd go without. I've since moved from that downtown building, but every year I've had the same calendar. For the last couple of years I've made the trip to the company myself to get my calendar fix. Sometimes you've gotta do what needs to be done.


There's a couple of things I like about the calendar. First, there's a beautiful picture of a Southern Utah landscape--each year a different picture. I've saved all the pictures for the past calendars so that if I ever got an office of my own, I could hang them up. But the main reason I like the calendars is because I can see all the months together at a glance. Many times I need to look at several months at a time and this calendar is perfect.

In a few days, it will be 2012 and according to the Mayans, it will be the last calendar I'll ever need (and the last one Carpenter Paper Company will ever make...).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Literary Lab Presents...


Variations On A Theme...

While enjoying a wonderful Christmas break, I received an e-mail from a fellow writer. Let's call her, Eve (actually, that's her real name...). Eve was so excited because she had just submitted an entry to the Literary Lab writing contest...the subject: Variations On A Theme!

(just click HERE to learn more)

I decided to take an extra day off today before returning to work and I thought the day was perfect to conjure up a short story to submit for the contest. And, the day was perfect for just such an activity.

The Lab's contest asks writers to present an original story based on one of two choices, one short story written by Hans Christian Andersen, and the other short story written by Anton Chekhov...I chose the latter.

For anyone interested, the contest ends midnight, p.s.t. on December 31st, 2011. A 3K work count maximum should keep things tidy, and there's even cash prizes for the best and second-best stories. About 20 submissions will be compiled into an anthology. I mean, what have you got to lose? Just click on the above ad and all your questions will be answered!

I finished mine up today. I'll do some editing and submit it later this week. I've entered a Literary Lab contest before (my story wasn't chosen--shaken fist of rage!). It's okay that my story wasn't picked. I had a great time writing it...just like today. Eve sent me one of the stories she submitted, and it was fantastic! The competition will be fierce, but that makes for a wonderful work of literary art. Happy writing, everyone!



Monday, December 26, 2011

2nd Christmas Day...


In many European countries, they have a holiday to follow up Christmas. In Denmark it's called Anden Juledag, or Other Christmas Day. Since my work gave me the day off to celebrate the holiday, today was our 2nd Christmas Day.

 

And how did we spend our holiday? We spent it with family. We spent time with my wife's side of the family in the morning (and into the afternoon...) and the evening was dedicated to my side of the family. The first party included great food, good times, and an exchange of presents. 

 

The second party included great food, good times, and lots of blond-headed kids running around.

 

For the first 26 years of my life there was only "my side" of the family. I couldn't believe how lucky I was to be brought into such an amazing family. 

 

How amazing? Consider this...tonight my uncle looked at a painting my brother has hanging in his living room. He said that the representation of Christ was okay, but the sheep he was holding didn't exist at the time of Christ. He knows this because he was part of a team that developed that particular breed of sheep (he's got a doctorate in such things...).




And so I got married and my family instantly grew another "side." In the past two decades my wife and I have juggled both sides. There's been some times when obligations for both sides came in conflict, but nothing too serious. I hope my wife and I feel comfortable in the company of each other's side.


A child asks the old man if he knows what Heaven is like. The old man says he has an idea of what it might be like. "What's it like?" asks the child.

The old man says, "You know how on Christmas Day and you're with your family, you lose track of time...like you don't know what time it is and before you know it, the day is over?"

"Yes," the child says. "I love Christmas, but how is that like Heaven?"

"It's simple," said the old man. "When you're with people you love, time doesn't exist at all. To me, that's Heaven."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sugar-Induced Thoughts...


I snapped a picture of tonight's sunset. It was one of those nights when dusk promises a painted sky. I snapped a couple of pictures, but the colors weren't as vibrant as other times.

But the picture speaks volumes. It shows a valley where my family and I live. The photo was taken off the back porch of my house, a house where a family of two adults, four children, a flighty dog and a disinterested cat all live. There's no way to tell the photo was taken on Christmas Day, but those in the house know well the day that has just passed.


For my Christmas present I got a down comforter. It's to replace the one I bought 25 years ago when I left Europe. I gave the comforter to my mom back then, and when she died, it was given to me (based on the policy that we got the things we gave to her when she passed away...). Tonight I'll break it in.

 I sit in my sugar-induced state and think about the day. Late to bed, early up, incredible food, good times with family and neighbors. We had moments of pure elation, unbridled joy, a little disappointment over some things, and pride watching my daughter play a piano solo last minute at our congregation's Christmas program. An afternoon nap was perfection. And as the children return to their rooms to hopefully get a good night's sleep, I realize this--it has been a great day.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fix-It Christmas...


A couple of things made this Christmas Eve unusual, namely, things that needed to be fixed. I was fortunate enough to be able to be home and with the family today. I've worked Christmas Eves in the past--I like not working them better.

The whole family worked together to get the house cleaned up. I think we did a pretty good job. Around 4 p.m. in the afternoon my name was called...the kitchen sink would not drain. Out came the trusty plumbers snake and we tried to clear the drain. It didn't work, so we ended up taking apart the pipes under the sink to clear things out. It wasn't too bad--kind of yucky--but not too bad.

The next fix it project centered around out new tree topper. The kids wanted to buy a new one (like most of you, our tree topper was decades old...). We told the kids we would buy one when they went on sale. This morning the kids went shopping with us and we found one on sale. The kids were ecstatic! They loved the fact it lit up. We plugged it in, put it atop the tree and cheers could be heard throughout the house. Sometime after Christmas dinner (an incredible success--thank you Pioneer Woman!), the kids looked at the tree and asked who unplugged the tree topper. No one had unplugged it--it died. I tried swapping out bulbs as I watched "It's A Wonderful Life" but it was no use. The cheap Christmas ornament was broken. I took it apart, used a line of lights already on the tree and put them in the topper. I had fixed it.


These physical things are easy to fix. And if fixing doesn't work, one can always buy a replacement. But what about those things that are no so easy to fix? What if the kids are bummed because they didn't get what they really wanted for Christmas? What if they get embarrassed when they hear what their friends got? It's hard sometimes for kids to understand when they're expecting something different. Those are the things that are not so easy to fix...

But tonight is Christmas Eve and I'm not thinking about these things. I'm sitting on the bathroom floor wrapping presents while "A Christmas Story" plays on TBS in the background, and pretty much everything is perfect. Merry Christmas, everyone! God bless and take care.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Red Iguana...


The Red Iguana Restaurant

If I say Red Iguana to anyone in the Salt Lake Valley, chances are they will not be thinking of a reptile adorned in my favorite color. They'll be thinking of a Mexican restaurant...a particularly good Mexican restaurant. My wife and I took a break from the hustle and bustle that is Christmas shopping and stopped by today.

The restaurant is located downtown, but not quite downtown... If you know where the place is, you know what I mean. Literally millions of cars fly by it every year (it's only a block from I-15). The road in front of the restaurant is being ripped up to put a light rail line down the middle of the street. It takes a little work to reach it, and--driving by--if you don't know of its reputation, you'll think it's just another Mexican restaurant. The cars filling the parking lot and the people waiting outside in the cold during the lunch rush may persuade you to think otherwise.

We were lucky; we timed it right. Today we arrived around 11:30 a.m. and since it was just the two of us, were seated quickly. The owner of the restaurant was even there chatting it up with customers. The patrons returned her huge smile as she walked in between the crowded tables. We were seated below a framed chef's smock. Interestingly enough, the smock lacked many of the food stains (and possibly grease fire burns...) one might expect on such a garment.

 

The Mrs. ordered burritos. Me--a beef chimichanga...oh, so so good. On the wall opposite us hung awards printed on dinner plates, each plate representing a time in which the restaurant won the Best Mexican Restaurant award of the year by some publication. Between 1997 and 2008, I believe I counted eight plates (and, to be fair, there was only one award for the years 1999-2000, so it was even more impressive...). 

The food came fast and we ate fast. Soon we returned to the broken road leading back to the freeway and back home. I've only had the opportunity to dine at the Red Iguana a few times. But, if I'm with a group of people and we are wondering where we should eat, if someone suggests, The Red Iguana, a dissenting vote from me you will not get.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Yummy (Christmas) Popcorn...


A Christmas Treat

Last week our office had a Christmas party (the link's: Here). As I left I took a recipe, a recipe to a confection that was, in a word...delicious! The creator of this treat called it Yummy Popcorn. I think it will forever be known at the Taylor household as Christmas Popcorn.

When I got home from work today, I was starving. Having huge piles of deliciousness is not good on an empty stomach, but I did it anyway. Needless to say, I've eaten so much of the stuff that I need a break--at least a couple of days...

So, as my gift to you, I'm including the recipe so you can rustle up a batch (or two...) before the big fat man come's a callin.' Here is is:

Christmas Popcorn

3 1/2 bags microwave popped popcorn
1/2 bag of stick pretzels
Mix these together in a large bowl

2 cups brown sugar
2 cups butter (not margarine)
Bring this to boil over medium heat--stir constantly
It will start to thicken but heat to 275˚
Then pour over popcorn and pretzels and toss to coat all the popcorn
Let cool

2 bags white chocolate chips
4 squares white almond bark
Melt on low--stir constantly
Pour over popcorn and stir until all is coated
Spread mixture on cookie sheets lines w/wax paper
Cool, then break apart
1/2 of this recipe will make a good sized batch

Eat and enjoy!


Tonight we followed a long held tradition of sharing our bounty with our neighbors (which include my home teaching families--100% this month!) ;) My son was an enthusiastic helper. This activity helps confirm that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Ruth Gatrell Singers...


The Annual Ruth Gatrell Christmas Concert


Every community has one (or more...) and chances are, you know them. It seems there's someone--maybe your neighbor, or your friend's neighbor--is one of those people who seems to find the time to do amazing things. Ruth Gatrell is one of those people. Tonight I helped out with her program.

 

Ruth has written a lot of music. It's hard to see, but each one of these lines is one of her songs and tonight her woman's choir sang most of the Christmas songs. For the second year in a row two of my friends and I sang "The Sign Has Been Given."

 

We had a good crowd tonight (more than last year, I think...), and considering the number of times we rehearsed the number, I think we did okay.

 

I don't know if I'll participate in next year's Christmas concert. If not, I suppose that's fine. You may never hear a Ruth Gatrell song. All that work she's done over the years may not reach everyone, but that's not the point, is it?


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Little Piano Player...


Tonight we attended a piano recital. It was my daughter's recital. We have one daughter and she is of small stature. I say this because it relates to her piano playing. She's about a head shorter than most of the girls her age. From what I can tell, her height doesn't bother her--especially since it helps her in gymnastics.

Her two older brothers both took piano lessons. Our oldest son has long fingers (he's grown into them...) but our daughter does not have long fingers, at least, not yet. During the recital I watched my daughter play the piano. I've heard her practice numerous times over the past month, but tonight I noticed the way she played the music. It was very interesting.

What intrigued me while I watched my daughter play was the things she needed to do to compensate for her size as she played. I don't think I've ever seen a piano player move up and down the length of the piano bench in order to reach the keys needed to successfully play the piece. Even though she's not tall and has short fingers, my extremely biased opinion feels she did a wonderful job.
video

Monday, December 19, 2011

Death of a Microwave...


It only takes a slight change to realize just how dependent we are on things. Take yesterday, for example. Around 11 a.m. our microwave decided to give up the electronic ghost. So long, Big Whitie...you served us well--it was 10 years old, after all...

Simple things like lunch stymied the family. Since it died on a Sunday I even wondered if the situation reached "ox-in-the-mire" status. Of course, it didn't (but it was considered...).

Today I decided that since I am a man, I should be able to at least take the microwave apart and try and find the fuse to fix it. One website I checked said swapping out a bad fuse is a simple and inexpensive (two words that could not better describe me) way to fix a microwave. I thought, "let's give it a shot!"

 
Of course, another website said there's enough power in an unplugged microwave to kill someone. Gone forever were my dreams of self-reliance. So, we made five trips to four stores and bought one.

You know, I did measure, but in 10 years microwaves have apparently changed. They appear to be either bigger or smaller and definitely bigger than the space we have in our cabinets. If the cabinet opening were just 1/2 inch wider--no problem.

The new appliance now sits on our counter. Maybe it's a sign of old age that things that used to fit into places no longer do so.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Photo Booth Fun!


Fun With Photo Booth

You see it everyday (well, if you look hard enough , it is....). You're on Facebook and someone posts something ridiculous--something you know that person would never say. Something like, "Brad thinks his sister Becky is the smartest, most beautiful girl he knows. And he thinks she's smarter than him, too!'

Of course, if you remain on Facebook for any lenght of time, Brad's next post says something like, "This is the REAL Brad and I DO NOT think my bratty sister Becky is either smart or beautiful. She's a booger!"

And, if Becky happens to be a Facebook friend to her brother, she will comment on his post by saying something like, "Shouldn't leave your computer open, Brad!!"

One thing my son likes to do is climb up on my bed when I'm either writing or net surfing and ask if we can take a picture. My MacBook has a wonderful little program called Photo Booth. My son loves the effects pictures. Me...I'll take a true representation. The other day I noticed some Photo Booth pictures I had not seen before. It appears my little son came into my room and fired up the Photo Booth program. I know this because here's the evidence:






Busted! 

Of course, had I not left my computer open I wouldn't have these adorable pictures, so maybe it's worth the risk. I should probably be more careful, though. We'll see...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chat Room...


  Yesterday I joined a writer's online community. It looks promising and hopefully it will help my writing career. As others in the group have stepped forward to offer assistance, I always wonder if those behind the photos and the bios are really who they say they are. A few years ago, I wrote a little story about a chat room. As I spend time on the new website, this story returned to me. I thought I'd include it for today's blog post. Sorry if it's too long...

 CHAT ROOM

Arty flips on the kitchen light as he enters the darkened room. At the table usually reserved for food, the man begins his weekly ritual by opening his laptop computer and accessing his favorite web browser. Once running, the man chooses from a list of "favorites" and the screen dances to life. He's in the chat room.

Arty:
Gang...it's midnight, Sunday--time to log in! Bill? DJ? Catala? You guys there? Hello...I'm waiting...and waiting, and waiting...guys? Anyone? I've got some big news!

Bill:
Arty--you KNOW I'm here. What's the big news?

Arty:
Let's wait for Cat and DJ. I think they'd want me to wait...

Bill:
Come on! Tell me! They won't know and if you tell me, I'll act really surprised. Really!

Arty:
No, I'll wait...after all, we've been chatting for over a year now. I think you can wait a few minutes more.

Catala:
Wait for what? Sorry I'm late...

Bill:
Cat--glad you could make it! What kept you? Since you're a princess on a Polynesian island (like you've told us so many times...) was it some royal function that made you late? ;)

Catala:
Actually, yes. I was helping my little sister prepare for tonight's celebration! I told you guys last week. Today is my 21st birthday which means I am now queen. Everyone on the island will be there! I'm so excited!

Bill:
Okay, Arty--Cat's here. What's the big news?

Arty:
Nope...not til DJ shows up.

Bill:
Come on! He's always late--probably can't get that old laptop of his working. There's NO WAY he's a vice president at Microsoft!

DJ:
Bill...you talking about me again?!

Bill:!
Finally! Okay, Arty--we're all here...what's up? (and, yes DJ, I was talking about you!)

Arty:
I don't know exactly how to tell you guys...but here goes. Friends--I've made a major decision in my life and this will be my last chat session with you guys.

Catala:
Really?

DJ:
No way! You're just messing with us!

Bill:
Don't believe you!

Arty:
No, I've made up my mind. Last night I was driving home from the symphony rehearsal. I was about to turn my Mercedes into my driveway and as I waited for the gate to open, I saw a homeless guy digging through my garbage dumpster. I got out and started yelling at him--I was going to call the cops if he didn't leave.

Catala:
No! Arty, you wouldn't do that. He was just trying to survive!

Arty:
Cat--I said I STARTED to yell at him, but after seeing the look the man gave me, I just stopped. I couldn't do it. For a moment we just stared at each other...it couldn't have been longer than a minute, but it felt like forever.

Bill:
I hope you called the cops on him. Some of those guys can be dangerous. I've heard they know karate--the teach each other.

DJ:
Nah! He wouldn't have hurt you at all. So, Arty--what'd ya do?

Arty:
I walked over to him, reached into my pocket and took out all the cash I had on hand--it was only about $2500--and gave it to him along with the keys to my Benz.

Bill:
What?! Are you insane, or are you trying to tell us another of your really bad jokes?

Arty:
Guys, that's what I did, and that's just he start. That homeless guy made me realize something and it's something I've been avoiding for a long time. For too long now, I've been worshiping a false god--the god of money.

Bill:
NO!

Arty:
Since my wife died building orphanages in Colombia last year, I've tried helping others who are less fortunate than I, but I was a hypocrite. I really didn't mean it. That homeless guy made me realize that. So I've decided to give everything away--all of it. I'm actually at the airport right now.

DJ:
Seriously man?

Arty:
I'm about to board a plane bound for Nepal. The plan is to take a year of meditation and then I'll begin my life's quest--perfect harmony with the earth. So, I guess this is goodbye. They won't have computers where I'm going, or cell phones, or pretty much anything. I'll be one with the universe.


DJ:
Arty--what are you going to do with your laptop? Don't give it away! Give it to me!!! Have someone at the airport send it to me! I could REALLY use it! Quick--write down this address! I live at 1457 W Elm, Gunlock, New Mexico, 75087--have them send it to me, I'll pick up the shipping! That's 1457 W Elm, Gunloc--

Arty:
DJ? DJ, you there? I guess his computer died again.

Bill:
I told you he didn't work for Microsoft! What a liar!

Catala:
Bill--don't be so hard on DJ. So he wasn't completely truthful to us. What about you? Do you really live on a 5000-acre ranch in Montana. Do you have the trophy wife you're always bragging about? And is your son really a genius like you've said? Sometimes I don't feel you're completely honest with us.

Bill:
Cat--we've been over this before. I was the youngest PhD graduate ever at Cornell and I did invent phase-shifting nano technology that's about to revolutionize cancer treatments forever. You can google my name if you don't believe me.

DJ:
I'm back! 1457 W Elm Gunlock NM 75087! Arty--you got it? Just tell the airlines that it needs to come to me--they'll do that! I saw it in a movie onc--

Catala:
I think his computer really died this time. Arty--will you please send it to him?

Arty:
Of course I will. Bill, tell DJ (if he ever logs back on) that the laptop is coming. Cat--happy birthday! I'm sure you'll make the prettiest queen your island has ever seen. Oh how I wish I could be there! Remember--if you see inside your soul I will be there. Take care, friends, and goodbye! God be with you all!

The man at the kitchen table stops typing and reads the responses from those in the chat room.

Bill:
Cat--I can't believe he's gone. What a bummer! You think you, me and DJ should continue our chat room?

Catala:
In a way I'm glad Arty brought this up because as of today I'm not longer princess, but I become queen of the island and I won't have time for the chat room. So I guess this is goodbye for me, too. I wish you all the success in the world! Take care.

Bill:
Yeah, whatever! Have a great life Cat, and happy birthday.

A frustrated Bill turns off his computer. The teenager sits in the basement of his house. From upstairs we hear Bill's mother calling to him.

"Bill? Are you finished chatting with your friends? You're done kind of early tonight, aren't you?"

"Yeah," Bill responds. "It's also the last time I'll be chatting with them. Arty's moving to Nepal and Cat's becoming a queen tomorrow."

"You have such interesting friends," Bill's mother replies.

The man reads Bill and Catala's responses and laughs at the last electronic correspondence he will have with the teenager, the Polynesian queen and the man from New Mexico. He turns his attention back to his laptop and opens a new browser pages as a woman enters the kitchen.

"Hi honey," she says in a kind voice. "How'd it go tonight?"

"Oh, about the same," the husband responds. "Looks like the Asian stock markets are still looking good How was work?"

"Terrible," the tired woman says as she slumps down in the empty chair beside him. "We had a server crash that kept me busy all night. I'm going to go check on Jr. then hit the sack. You coming?"

"In a minute," the man says. I just have to check one stock."

"Don't take too long."

"I won't. Goodnight."

The woman leaves and the man opens a new chat room website.

Arty:
Howdy! Anyone there? I just retired from the military--37 years--and my daughter-in-law thinks I should do something social now that my wife's passed on. The handles Artimus, but you'all can call me Arty.

Arty smiles as others log on and welcome him to the conversation.

A half a world away a beautiful bronze-skinned woman closes her laptop and leaves the room. She walks through an open courtyard to a beach where gentle waves kiss the sandy shore and palm trees bend slightly in the warm morning air. It's her 21st birthday today and she's to become a queen.