Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Incredible Adventure Of Thaddeus Moore...A Story, Part 3

Foggy tree*

* Photo used without permission from: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/14512773 

 This is the third part of the story I began earlier. You can read Part 1 by accessing the link: STORY PART 1. Happy New Year everyone!
Part 3
 
Max and I said nothing as we witnessed a scene better suited for Deity. We watched creation at the hands of a masterful god. Titus stood and built the intricate workings of the metal man with the precision of a skilled craftsman. When finally my senses returned I asked, “How, sir, can this be?”
“Titus can operate at this pace for days, weeks, perhaps forever. If he breaks, he can be easily repaired by any number of his fabricated counterparts. He can singularly replace an entire factory of workers. He has no allegiances, no loyalty to governments or religions. He is mankind’s greatest achievement. He will change the world.”
The weight of this realization, in connection with what I saw before me caused my head to swim and the strength supporting my weight failed me. Max saw the change overcome me and he stopped me from falling to the ground.
“Good sir!” he said as he caught me. “Perhaps we should retire to my private quarters for a bit of refreshment.” I agreed this would be best.
“Titus,” he commanded. “Come.”
Our threesome traveled to an as of yet unseen section of his grotto after leaving the assembly room. I sat and I felt life return to my extremities. Max retrieved a flask of spirits and poured each of us a drink.
“Titus, rest.” I watched as the man became a monolith and I swear a light extinguished from its ocular cavities.
The liquor helped immensely. I felt the warmth spread from my mouth and throat to my arms and legs. After several portions of scotch, we spoke.
Now, my young Prussian friend, I can see from the way you are looking at me that you would very much like to know what great mysteries we discussed in the privacy of Dr. Thatcher’s home. As far as specific details, unfortunately I cannot expound with adequate specificity. The effects of the alcohol combined with my already overwhelmed mind make the recollection of such details suspect at best. Some things I can recall, while others, no. However, I do remember many of the general topics of our discourse.
Dr. Maximillon Thatcher proved to possess an amazing mind, one I believe, is unequaled in the educated world in which both you and I live. He spoke of the moment when he first assembled Titus and the realization that his creation could create others just like him. I kept looking at Titus as we spoke, the silent form forever watched over his master.
We spoke of the future of steam power and that’s when our conversation took an admittedly surprising turn. I first believed it was the strong drink which affected my understanding of the man’s words. I was wrong.
Max spoke glowingly of his inventions, and the change for good his army of mechanical automatons would bring. He then discussed work being done by Lemuel Wellman Wright, William Barnett, and that American, Morey. He spoke of new discoveries with coal tar distillates and the possibility of combining these new discoveries currently under development with motors using alternative fuels for operation.
I must tell you, my student friend, what Max said next caused my head to spin anew. Dr. Thatcher expressed his desire to investigate using these fuels and new designs to make his inventions more efficient. “Steam,” he said. “It may represent the greatest achievement in humanity’s ability to harness the raw power of nature, but the era of steam may be coming to an end.”
Though my understanding was somewhat cloudy I asked him to repeat what he said and he did indeed confirm my suspicion. He stated his opinion of steam power’s demise and suggested that new technologies would replace heated water as a motivating force.
“But what of your men? What will become of them? What of Titus?”
A silence enveloped us. Finally Max spoke.
“They would need to be refitted.”
“Refitted?”
“Yes, dismantled and equipped with new modes of power.”
“You mean to destroy these amazing miracles of our modern industrial age?”
“It must be,” he said as casually as a butterfly lifting itself into the air.”
“Sir, I beg of you to reconsider,” I pleaded. “These beings belong in a museum. They must be studied. We can learn so much from them.” I glanced at Titus and though I could not be sure, I detected something behind his eyes, an acknowledgement of our discussion. I felt it understood the ramifications of Dr. Thatcher’s words.
“Thaddeus! Please, you must understand. These are machines. When improvements are made to a plow or a knife, do we worship those items now made obsolete?”
“Sometimes,” I said. “When they change the world.”
Max poured each of us another drink and he came and sat beside me. “Dr. Moore, Titus will be honored, and revered, but not in a manner you believe is appropriate. Titus and the creations he’s made will serve as the foundation for another age, a new age where machines will do more for us than anyone can possibly imagine. Trust me, Thaddeus. It is the only way.”
            I knew further discussion would be fruitless. A man such as him could not be persuaded by my inconsequential arguments. Eventually fatigue and the effects of strong drink resulted in us retiring for the evening. Max showed me to my quarters and I fell into a deep and disturbing sleep.
            As I slept frightening nightmares plagued me. Creatures with the body of Titus and each possessing the brilliant mind of Dr. Thatcher descended on me. They pursued me with relentless drive. I awoke, my clothes drenched in my own sweat. I felt the need to escape this cave, this dungeon and ingest the air of the Scottish highlands into my lungs. I needed to escape.

Link To Page 4

To Be Continued...

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Incredible Adventure Of Thaddeus Moore...A Story, Part 2

Foggy tree*

* Photo used without permission from: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/14512773 

 This is the second part of the story I began yesterday. You can read Part 1 by accessing the link: STORY PART 1. Enjoy!

Part 2

 With the fog as our constant companion we traveled for about an hour’s time. I was as lost as if I found myself on the surface of the moon. We spoke little as the curious wagon made the journey in an efficient, all be it, uncomfortable manner. I tried asking questions. Each time Thatcher simply replied, “You shall see.”
Being a man of science I could extract the machine’s mode of propulsion. Power from the engine, obviously driven by steam, engaged through a series of gears and propelled a rear wheel, which, in turn, drove the object on. Max operated a lever—one of three he commanded—and moved the front wheel which allowed steering. Ingenious, simply ingenious.
Eventually we stopped at our final destination.
“Now,” the doctor said as we disembarked. “We have arrived.”
I expected to find a house, or perhaps, a castle. Instead I found a series of caves.
“Come inside and you shall know all.” I followed.
After concealing his vehicle in one of the caves, we entered his dwelling. Though it appeared only a humble cave on the outside, inside its opulence rivaled that of royalty. We sat and for the next two hours Max explained his situation.
He began by telling me the reason for his shroud of secrecy. The system of caves contained several compartments in which he could conduct his work. It provided him room for a laboratory as well as assembly rooms. He explained how the cave was unique in that he found deposits of iron ore, ore which he used to produce the steel needed for his inventions. The carriage was designed and manufactured in the damp walls of the very cave in which we sat.
I see from the look on your face you doubt the validity of my claims. But I tell you, young Prussian, it is true. After our conversation I received a tour of his operation. Every word of what he said can be verified by my testimony. If my opinion of his genius were based solely on his steam-driven transport, everything else I saw only strengthened that opinion.
The time proved late and my head swam with the visions I had seen. We had a light supper then decided to retire for the evening. He showed me my quarters then said as he closed the door, “Everything you have seen today will be dwarfed by the miracles your eyes will behold tomorrow.” He then wished me a good night.
I found that the doctor did not lie.


I woke, prepared for the day then met Max in the same room where our discussion took place the previous evening. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast prepared by my host. For the first time since we met I began asking him questions, the main focus of my curiosity centered on his lack of openness. I understood the need for secrecy, but were the lengths he took his camouflage justified? He told me that once I saw his latest project, surely I would understand the need for concealment.
He asked what I believed to be the mankind’s greatest obstruction would be in the year 1863.
I offered my opinions, many of which he agreed.
He asked if I believed science could relieve the world of its ills.
I responded in the affirmative.
“Good,” he said. “Follow me.”
We proceeded to a section of the cave previously unexposed to me. “Behind this door, is a key to man’s immortality.”
What I’m about to tell you, young man, no one has believed.  Everyone laughed at me when I told them of Dr. Thatcher’s amazing wagon. They demeaned me in academic circles. They called me mad. Me! I was only the messenger, and they called me mad. So forgive me if I ask of you your loyalty at this time.
You agree? Good.
Max unlocked the massive door that separated us from his ultimate secret.  After all that I experienced the previous day I concluded that nothing the good doctor created could surprise me.
I was wrong.
The door opened and before us were dozens of mechanical beings. Yes, you heard me. They were metal men in various stages of assembly.
Not only were they human shaped, but the metal was fashioned to give the beings as human an appearance as possible. Dr. Thatcher understood by the expression on my face just how overwhelmed I was at this discovery.
The specimens were everywhere, those most complete stood, while others lay on tables awaiting attachment of limbs, or heads. I could not comprehend the man-hours required to assemble just one, let alone multiple copies.
“Dr. Thatcher!” I exclaimed.
“Call me Max,” was his reply.
Max spent the remainder of the day explaining in great detail how one goes about designing and constructing a mechanical man. His technique would shame any scientist currently living—it was poetry, it was art, it was beautiful. He used his obvious command of thermodynamic knowledge to ingeniously power his creations. A boiler located in the center of the men’s chest provided energy to the entire apparatus through a series of finely tuned gears and sprockets. I contend its complexity is only surpassed by the creations of God himself.
“Max,” I said. “How did you accomplish this? The sheer amount of fabrication alone would require…”
“Now you’re ready to see my greatest success,” he said, cutting me off. He turned and called out, “Titus! Come.”
I looked about, fearing another person lurking somewhere in the cave. That’s when I saw him.
“Allow me to introduce to you Titus,” Max said as a form moved from deep within the cave. I looked up and saw a metal man walking toward us. Candle light from the cave danced off his polished metal skin. His blank face showed no emotion, but the eyes, the eyes glowed in the low light. As it walked the muted sounds of gears interlocking accompanied the metal man’s progress.
“You asked how one man can accomplish all this,” Max said waiving his arm, a gesture that stopped Titus only feet from us. “Without him, none of what you see would exist. Look at his hands.”
I looked. The digits appeared as if built by Gustav Faberge himself, so delicate. “Titus built all that you see before you.”
“But how?” I asked. “How can Titus understand your commands? How can metal think?”
“Titus is unique, for sure, as for how he understands me.”
“But how can it be? It is a compilation of parts, metal and steam. Please tell me how it can obtain cognition?
“Let me answer your question with one of my own. The train that brought you to Scotland…to its engineer, it is just a collection of boiler and wheels, the smokebox and the blast pipe? Are these only parts of metal? To the engineer they are as real as muscles and bones, teeth and a beating heart of a human man.”
His response, of course, failed to answer my question, but I could tell from him that this was the only answer I was to receive.
“Please, my friend,” Max said as he gestured me to follow. “Allow me to demonstrate just how unique Titus is.” We moved to a table where a half-completed automaton lay.
“Titus,” Max’s strong voice echoed down the lamp-lit cave. “Build!”
Will this world of wonders ever cease? I tell you, my young student. It will not! I watched as Titus came to life. He turned and walked to the table. In actions I can only describe as miraculous, I witnessed Titus, this God of machines begin to assemble its twin. The delicate fingers worked with parts small enough to operate my pocket watch. I stood in awe of its skill.

Link To Part 3

To Be Continued...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Incredible Adventure Of Thaddeus Moore...A Story, Part 1

Foggy tree*

* Photo used without permission from: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/14512773

It's been a while since I included a story on this blog, a story longer than 500 or so words. When I first began this blog I had several stories written, just for fun stories, grad school project stories, stories I wrote for others. I broke them up in several sections so they weren't too long.

This is a new story I wrote. The reason I'm doing that with this one is two fold. First, I submitted this for an anthology last month. It was not chosen, so I'm letting everyone read it, and I have four or five blog entries already to go for next week. Also, there's another anthology story I'm currently writing and I need the time to write when I get home from work this week.

This is a Steampunk story, and I'd love any feedback you might have concerning it. But most of all, I hope you like it!


The Incredible Adventure of Thaddeus Moore

            There will be many who will endeavor to persuade you to disbelieve all that I am about to tell you, but you must not allow the prejudices of weak-minded fools to implant doubt. For the story I tell is true, though fantastic, it remains forever true.
            You have sought me out and I wonder as we sit across from each other in this wretched place, a place of debauchery, where the heavenly souls of men have long since abandoned their cocoons of flesh leaving only the dross of humanity, why? Why would a young man, a man of education—from where did you say you attended, Polytechnische Schule, my Prussian friend? Why would you want to hear my story when all of society calls me a fraud? What makes you different? Do you wish to expose me as many claim to have already done? Or is your heart pure, your intent just?
Whatever your motive, I hope you understand the consequences of your curiosity for once you hear the tale, you will be responsible for its understanding.
            You smile and nod your head. Good.
Considering my reputation since returning from Scotland, you have no doubt heard something of my travels. I cannot possibly guess to the extent of this knowledge so I shall begin at the beginning and try to include all pertinent facts so when we part you will have as complete a telling as possible, and if you do remain until the end of this incredible adventure, you will become one of the few who know the truth. Many have sat when you now sit expecting knowledge, but few there are who possess a mind capable of accepting what I will tell you. I pray you have such a mind.
            Before the autumn of last year, the name…
Careful, young student. Do not allow that which occurs beyond the sound of my voice to distract. These women you see who tempt you with their painted eyes and worldly smells—they care not for you. They see your handsome face and think only of themselves. Nor do these men who remain here and drink away their worthless lives look upon our meeting as a search for enlightened truth. You will be judged mad by association. But I see in your eyes a spark in genuine interest.
            Before the fall of last year the name Thaddeus Moore garnered respect and admiration both in the worlds of society and academia. I say this not to boast but for you to imagine such a person of rank an honor and not the vision of the personage you see before you now. Perhaps, as a student of science—for I too roamed the hallowed halls of your school in my many travels—you have studied my many writings on thermodynamics.
            But those days are forever gone, lost as is my reputation, my honor, my sacred name. I curse the day I ever answered the correspondence of Maximus Thatcher.
            At the time I had no idea a man of such highly regarded character as Dr. Thatcher could bring such ruin upon me. I remember the day distinctly. I sat in my parlor when the letter arrived. At first I thought the message a ruse for it contained no notice from whence it came. Imagine my shock when upon opening the letter I discovered it originated from Dr. Thatcher. No one had heard from the good doctor in over a decade. I must tell you, young man, though now his name means hardly a mention in the annuls of history, there was a time when all of the educated Christian world knew of Dr. Maximus Thatcher. His disappearance generated a scandal the likes of which are rarely seen.
            Upon realizing who sent the letter my hands shook as I read the printed words. Dr. Thatcher heard of a lecture I gave in Edinburgh the year previous and he wanted to meet me. If I wish to reciprocate his desire a list of strict provisions were included. The first and most important of these was that I could tell absolutely no one of either the existence of the letter or his desire to meet. A train leaving London on the morning of April 1 at exactly 9:10 a.m. would be my transportation to Scotland. If I missed that particular train we would not meet. I would, of course, travel alone and bring with me personal items requisite for a stay of no longer than one week.
            I could not reply to the letter, nor did I know how. My arriving in Scotland on at the appointed time while on the appointed train would signal my agreement to these demands. I had exactly two days to make my decision.
            It is obvious which decision I made. Like a madman I prepared for the trip. Explaining to my dearest friends proved the most difficult aspect of my great adventure. Somehow, by the grace of God, I made the train and the next day stood alone with my travel bags on a cold train platform in Edinburgh.
            For many moments after the last passengers vacated I remained, not knowing what to expect. Thatcher’s note mentioned nothing by way of plans. Finally through the morning fog a man emerged.
The man, dressed entirely in black approached until he stood directly before me. He said only one word.
“Come.”
I obeyed. We walked to his conveyance, a small carriage. After stowing my belongings, the man climbed aboard and directed the two workhorses to a destination of which I knew not.
The morning fog masked my sense of direction. Upon my life I could not tell where we were or even which direction we traveled. It was as if Dr. Thatcher himself controlled the weather so that I would be hopelessly lost.
After an hour’s time the carriage stopped. I looked out the door’s small window and saw nothing but the dull grey of precipitation. Any thoughts that I would remain aboard the wagon were immediately dispelled by the stranger’s vacant voice.
“Get out.”
I considered protesting, but the man’s presence alone chilled the very blood in my veins. Again I followed the man’s instructions and stepped from the black carriage. As I began to question my deliverer as to where I was, he cracked his whip and the beasts of burden drove him and his carriage from my sight.
Again, I found myself alone in a strange land. You may be asking yourself what would you do if found in the same situation. Believe me, many an unsettling thought came to mind.
What did I do, you ask? I waited where I was deposited. Wandering would only complicate matters. Dr. Thatcher, if he indeed orchestrated my adventure, then it was meaning I should remain at the spot where I then stood.
The experience was eerie, as if the fog itself depleted God’s world of breath. It took roughly an hour of waiting before I heard the sound of what I could only guess as a steam locomotive, which baffled my already confused mind. As the noise drew closer, the sound of carriage wheels accompanied the metal working of an engine. Though the mists came Dr. Thatcher.
As long as I will live, I cannot erase the moment when I first saw the man who would forever change my life. The elements seemed to part as the fog lifted to allow this man of mystery to make his entrance. The man I recognized; the contraption he commanded I did not.
“Huzzah, my good man!” Dr. Thatcher yelled over the noise emanating from his iron beast. He grabbed a lever and pushed it forward. The machine held aloft by three large wheels slowed then finally stopped. He pulled another lever and the internal workings inside the metallic vehicle ceased and the hypnotic sound of steam-driven power evaporated into the foggy walls around us. Any vocal response I could possibly give disappeared with that noise and I remained where I stood, speechless.
            “Dr. Moore,” the giant of a man said as he jumped from the mechanical wagon and took my hand in his, shaking it to the point of near separation from my arm. “I am honored that you would accept my invitation.”
            “You gave me no choice.”
            “All men choose. It’s God’s greatest gift. You could have remained in London, but you would have surely missed out on an adventure the likes of which you have never known.”
            “Dr. Thatcher…”
            “Call me Max.”
            “Apologies, Max. I have many questions I would like to ask you, however, I feel now is not the most opportune time. I also deduce the reason I traveled these many miles to meet you cannot best be explained in the middle of a Scottish moor, or what I believe is a Scottish moor.”
            “My thoughts exactly,” The good doctor invited me aboard his machine—an incredible invention, to be sure. I will tell you more of this at a later time. He climbed aboard and begged me follow.
“Come! Do not fear this incredible contrivance for it is the future!” Against my better judgment I joined Dr. Thatcher and he brought the beast to life. If I could construct a device to navigate the chapters of time and space, I would so construct such a device and return to that cursed day whereas I would refuse the doctor’s invitation. As God as my witness, I should never have joined him on that damned thing.

Link To Part 2

To Be Continued...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Farewell, Old Friend...


I knew it was coming. Still, the shock of seeing it in person...well, it made it real. Driving home today we saw it, the big yellow sign over the big blue sign: Store Closing, This Location Only. We knew we had to stop.

I wondered if the shelves would be bare. I had no idea how long the sale had been going. I hoped there would be something left, something worth buying. We walked through the doors and passed the--what I can only assume were turned off--security gates and possibly for the last time, entered a Blockbuster Video Store.


They did have videos on the shelves, almost like nothing had changed. What surprised both my wife and I the most was the Previously Viewed Movies packed in sleeves. There were so many of these movies, they were literally, (and I'm using the word correctly, here...), literally popping off the display. I personally saw several DVDs fall as people walked by.

We tried searching through these because it looked like the best deal in the place. It soon became evident that most of these movies I had not only not seen, but had never heard of before. And they had a million of these unknown movies. It was incredible! And under the bulging shelves of DVDs, there were boxes and boxes of more DVDs of movies that I never knew existed.


We found Disk 1 of The Ten Commandments. Disk 2 might have been there somewhere, but we didn't have hours to search for Disk 2. I guess Charlton will just have to stay where we left him.

Years from now, when someone recalls those days when you couldn't just download a movie instantly, when you actually had to get in your car and drive to the store and either rent or buy a movie to watch, younger generations will look at that older, more experienced person and wonder how they ever survived. The older, wiser person will smile and fold his arms over his/her chest. "Blockbuster," they will say, "was a great place."

Friday, December 27, 2013

Meet The New Bookstore...(Not Quite) The Same As The Old Bookstore


Yesterday, while waiting for a train, I spotted a bookstore, Eborn Books. It's not unusual for a bookstore to be at that location. In fact, one of the state's iconic bookstores occupied that spot on Main Street for decades.

I didn't have a lot of time to look around, which was a shame because it looked like there was a lot to see. One thing I did notice was a table in the middle of the floor with books from local authors, some of these authors I have met. It's kind of a cool feeling when you see a book that was written by someone you know.


The bookstore that was there before, Sam Weller's Bookstore, moved several blocks away. When I heard I was a little disappointed because I don't usually have a car at work and their new locations is too far to take a work break and go browse. However, now that I know this store is there, I may need to walk the block and a half and spend some time inside.

I wonder if the new store in interesting in a couple of really good anthologies? If so, I might go in one day and see a book for sale that I helped write. Now that would be a cool feeling!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Photowalk: The Train Station...


Thanks to the season and our bosses, we were given a few hours of annual to us between Thanksgiving and New Years. Because of this, I found myself leaving work a little early and waiting for a train to take me to another train to take me home. And as a bonus, I was at the train stop while the sun was still out. I decided to take some pictures.


I wish I had noticed the birds earlier. I wish also I had something the birds would like to eat so I could have set up a shot or two. Just when I spotted a shot I liked, those darn birds would bolt and find more interesting environs. I got a few pictures, though.


Across the street from the train station there's a bookstore. It used to house another bookstore, but they moved. At that bookstore I saw a signed copies of The Golden Cord by Paul Genesse. I met Paul last September and he's a very cool dude! I seriously need to read one (or several...) of his books. If you get the chance, I recommend it.


Lots going on downtown SLC on Boxing Day. Though sometimes you have to look for it.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Home For Christmas...A Video Trailer


Here's a little video of what our family did today. And I'd like to make it clear that I didn't have to travel far to get home for Christmas. In fact, I didn't travel at all.

Here's the YouTube link to the video: HERE.

Or, you can see this lesser-quality Blogger video below. Either way, I hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas day. May your new year be full of good health, good times, and amazing experiences! God bless. Goodnight.

video

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Facebook's Year In Review...Pretty Snazzy!


I saw something the other day on Facebook, something Facebook offered and my sister-in-law took advantage of. It's their Year In Review and I decided to check it out.

The concept is pretty simple. They chose several photos and Facebook update posts and grouped them together. You know, to give those who were interested a look back on the year that was. I decided to do one for me.

Now, I could have done the same, but having posted at least one photo and one post every day, I would have had a tough time choosing only a handful of comments and pictures to present. Then again, anything that was posted would have reminded me of this year.

I had a fantastic year--plays, books, conventions, and children getting older (of course, we never age, do we?). Thank you to all who made it so wonderful!

It's almost Christmas so I just want to wish all my family and friends a happy Christmas! I hope you are fortunate to be with your loved ones this year. Take care and God bless!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Home (Teaching) For The Holidays...


In the culture where I live there's something called Home Teaching. It's part of our religion. Basically, Home Teaching is when each church member is assigned to visit a number of families in the congregation each month. Depending on where you live (and the activity rate of the group...), you might be assigned to one family or ten. It just depends.

If you are steadfast and faithful in this calling, you set up an appointment with the families in the first part of the month. We've been asked to visit our families before the middle of the month. That's the goal, anyway. Our responsibilities are to check with them and make sure they're okay. We should also deliver a spiritual message each month. Again, that's the goal.

Home Teaching gets a bad rap, sometimes. Many (like us...) seem to be scrambling as the end of the month arrives. There's a joke that goes something like this: "I only do my Home Teaching 10 times out of the year because I don't like to visit my families on Halloween and New Years Eve." 

Why do we do this? We are told we should be our brother's keeper, and neighbors constitute brothers, and sisters. Tonight my son and I loaded up the car with three loaves of homemade bread, so freshly baked they were still warm. Because I did not make appointments, we were 0 for 3. No one was home so we brought the bread back. We'll try again later. After all, we still have a week to go, and I'm not above visiting on New Years Eve.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Sunday Before Christmas Christmas Party...2013 Edition


Christmas traditions. If you celebrate the season, chances are you observe a few. A couple of decades ago I married into a family that had a few of their own. They've now become mine as my family's become this hybrid of mine and hers. Tonight was the Brady Sunday Before Christmas Christmas Party, and I've taken several pictures so that years from now, we can remember some of those Christmas traditions.













Merry Christmas Traditions!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Maybe I Should Start Wearing My Fraternity Ring Again...


I ran into a fraternity brother this morning and we had a good time catching up. He lives only a few miles away, but we hardly see each other. This is mostly my fault. Every year he invites my wife and I to his annual Halloween party (I've blogged about it: HERE), and each year something comes up...something always comes up.

This isn't to say we don't want to go. This year we tried. We really tried. I owe my fraternity brother more.

Back in college we commissioned O.C. Tanner to build us a fraternity ring, and back then, I had some disposable income so I sprang for one. I used to wear it all the time. Tonight I dusted it off and tried it on. My fingers, following the example of the rest of my body, have grown wider over the past two decades. It fits, but it's a little snug.


We've all changed since college. One of my brothers posted a photo in Facebook of us at a dance. I remember all their faces, but the names have faded. It's too bad, too, because they are such good men and we had some fantastic times as members of the Delta Chi Chapter of the Sigma Gamma Chi Fraternity.

We've each taken a journey from that night. Most married and have families, though some have not. We got and lost jobs, cars, homes, pets. We pledged loyalty to each other and I'm proud to say when I met up with my brother today we greeted each other in the bonds of friendship. Maybe I should start wearing my ring again. Just as long as it doesn't turn my finger purple...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Curse You, James Dashner! A Book Review Of The Kill Order...

13089710*

Yesterday I finished my second James Dashner novel, The Kill Order and it was pretty good. I very much enjoyed it! So why am I cursing the author? Good question.

The first time I read a book from this author was last summer. I just heard that James had been invited to attend Utah's first ever Comic Con. He was one of the first authors announced. Since I was going as an author, I thought I should read something from the other authors, you know, if case I run into them or we're on a panel together (we didn't share a panel at the Comic Con, but I did run into him and said, "Hi"...). The book I chose to read last summer was The Death Cure, the last book of the Maze Runner series. I enjoyed it, but I think I would have liked it better had I begun with the first book.

Fast forward six months and I read the series prequel. 

James Dashner is a deceptively good author. And what I mean by that is when you start one of his stories, it's not flashy--at least, it isn't for me. His characters are presented well, almost to the point of cliched. We discover the conflict in The Kill Order (solar flares wreak havoc on the planet...) then all hell breaks loose.

Dashner puts the pieces in place so well that when things start to go crazy, you buy into it; you believe it. It works and a dystopian story that you think might be predictable, takes you to places you weren't expecting.

Usually, I'll read (or listen because prefer audiobooks...) going to and from work and sometimes at work. When I get home, I usually shut down the audio feed. But James Dashner made me keep listening last night until I finished. Why curse Mr. Dashner? Because I thought I had him figured out.

* Photo used without permission from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13089710-the-kill-order?from_search=true

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Taylor Family Christmas Card, 2013 Edition!


Merry Christmas From The Taylors!

Because this is the digital age, and in order to be more environmentally conscious (or due to blatant laziness...), we present to you our digital family Christmas card! This is a first for us, so instead of sending it to select individuals, we're making it available to everyone! Of course, not everyone accesses my blog (really, I've seen the stats...), but for those who do, here you go!

It's been a busy year for the family. Our oldest turned 18, earned the rank of Eagle in scouting, and worked all year to earn enough to help support himself on his mission. He'll be serving in the California Rancho Cucamonga Mission and he leaves in February. Keep checking back on the blog for more details. We've seen a lot of growth and development in him. We couldn't be more proud.

Our next oldest has grown as well. So much so, he's taller than his mother. I suspect it won't be long until he's taller than his father--just like his older brother. It's the way of things, it seems. He has begun taking Seminary classes and is a wonderful baker--just ask anyone who's sampled his chocolate chip cookies! And since he turned 15 this year, he'll be starting to drive soon...yeah.  We love that he's part of our family.

Next comes the lone girl among the siblings. This year she began taking voice lessons in addition to the writing classes she and her older brothers do on a weekly basis. She loves singing and is excited to get better. In the spring she enjoyed being in the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with many friends and her dad. We love the way she lights up any room she enters and can't wait to see what amazing opportunities are in store for her.

Finally, our youngest turned nine this year. He loves his older brothers and sister and loves hanging out with them and the dog and two cats that are part of our family. His newest passion is puzzles--he can't get enough of them and has been putting together one puzzle or another almost every day for the past couple of months. He can't wait for Christmas and he loves participating in any conversation. If you know him, you understand. Love that kid!

As for the parents, we're plugging along, homeschooling and working. There were a couple of short stories published (complete with royalty checks...), a family reunion, a fire on the mountain, Comic Con, Salt City Steamfest, trips to Lagoon, and the first Taylor family vacation lasting more than two days that we've taken in almost a decade. Thanks Pam, John, Leisa and Gary! We loved California!

2013 was an amazing year for the Taylors! If you want to know more and see more pictures of our adventures, check out more of the daily posts on the blog. I've tried to include as much as possible.

I pray we may all appreciate the year that was and commit ourselves to making 2014 even better. 

Take care and God bless.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Remembering...A Short Story

Weir area 1



Christmas presents under the tree

I've missed a few weeks in the weekly writing prompt. I feel bad about that, but it's a crazy time of the year. Something caught my attention with these two pictures and I wanted to participate. If you'd like to write a little story, here are the rules:

1) Write a story using both photos.
2) Keep your word count to 500 words or less.
3) Submit your completed story to your blog hostess (Nicole, Carrie, Tena or Leanne) via the inLinkz linky on their sites. (If you need a bit of help with this step, just leave a comment on their sites and they’ll get you linked up!)
4) You have the next week to post.
5) Have fun, don’t stress, let those creative juices flow!

Hope you like it!

Remembering

The boy, now man closes his eyes and recalls a time when snow fell on the streets of his memories. The carpet of white engulfs his world with promises of unimaginable joy. He sees his form running outside with his friends, coats and sweaters smother, condensation rises past his red cheeks as he struggles to keep up with boys of similar age as the gang of youth moves as one into the winter night.

The snow acts as a prelude to an even greater event, a night amongst nights, a 24-hour period of time unequaled in both importance and awesomeness. It's the one night every child looks forward to, dreams of and can't wait to arrive. The night when a child can wish for almost anything, a night of miracles.

At school children discuss the man who will visit their very house only days away. They compare stories of years past when they heard hooves on top of their homes, witness irrefutable evidence that someone entered their house, deposited packages wrapped in colorful paper, and consumed a plateful of cookies and a glassful of milk. Yes, he was there--physical proof confirms it!

The man opens his eyes, the road before him silent and encased in a cocoon of snow. He stands taller than he did as a child, his perspective higher, clearer. He imagines his lifelong friends no longer here, they having moved years ago. The buildings--some known, some new--tell him he is welcome, but at the same time, a stranger. His heart yearns to return to what once was. He is alone with his memories.

Word Count: 270

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Blue Sky...Just Wait


You know how it is. You are looking at a couple of the 1500 or so photos that are still stored on a SD card in your digital camera and you come across some pictures you took months ago and you see something you haven't seen in a while.


Blue sky.


We live in an amazing place, geographically speaking. We have mountains and valleys, rolling hills and high plains. When the temperatures dive in the winter pollution gets trapped between the ranges and the air gets dirty. It's called an inversion.


I've heard that this phenomenon occurred even before civilization came to the area, that the native Americans told settlers that in winters the whole area was covered with fog and bad air. I haven't researched this, but it doesn't really matter. It's bad now. Finding these pictures reminds me of how things were, and how they will be again. We've just got to be patient.

Monday, December 16, 2013

On Saturday Night On The Hill...Balance Was Restored!


I saw progress for the past couple of years, and yet, they could not get over the hump...the boys in blue were just too darn good. Last year they came close, but it was not meant to be.


This year, however, things were different and last Saturday night, balance was restored! When I attended the University of Utah Rick Majerus had just been hired and he put the school on the map. I remember a student could attend football games by just showing your student I.D. We had to buy basketball tickets. Fast forward a couple of decades and things have changed.

 

Back when I was in school, I remember attending games at the Huntsman Center when the U of U had some of the best college basketball teams, not just in the state, but in the entire country. Those were good times. It's been tough watching the boys in red compete since then, but on Saturday night, some of those painful memories were swept away.


I'll bet it was fun being in the building as well. Just like old times. The team has some tough challenges ahead, but thoroughly dominating your rivals is a great way to start. Hopefully we'll see more of this on the hill.

http://cleancomedypodcast.com/files/2013/10/Captain-Literally-Balance-Restored-clean-comedy-podcast.jpg*

* Photo used without permission from:  http://cleancomedypodcast.com/literally-the-ramen-noodle-162/

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Cute Christmas Story...


At church I was asked by the instructor to read a story. The teacher, by the way, makes the best caramel on the planet, and he's an even better man than caramel-maker. As it turned out, he spent too much time teaching and so the story he asked me to read went unread. Of course, as we left the room he said if anyone wanted to hear the story, to contact Scott Taylor.

Hence, today's blog post.

This is a cute Christmas story and I want to make it clear that I did not write this--not that it's bad, just the opposite. I don't want anyone to think I'm taking credit for something I didn't write. The teacher took this story directly from a website and you can access this story: HERE.

And so, here it is!

On Santa's Team
Author Unknown

My grandma taught me everything about Christmas. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," jeered my sister. "Even dummies know that!"

My grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her world-famous cinnamon buns.
Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. 

"No Santa Claus!" she snorted. "Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let's go." 

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second cinnamon bun.

"Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. 

"Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for. I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church.
I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobbie Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class. Bobbie Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out for recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough; but all we kids knew that Bobbie Decker didn't have a cough, and he didn't have a coat.

I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobbie Decker a coat. I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that. I didn't see a price tag, but ten dollars ought to buy anything. I put the coat and my ten-dollar bill on the counter and pushed them toward the lady behind it. 

She looked at the coat, the money, and me. "Is this a Christmas present for someone?" she asked kindly. "Yes," I replied shyly. "It's ... for Bobbie. He's in my class, and he doesn't have a coat." The nice lady smiled at me. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons, and write, "To Bobbie, From Santa Claus" on it ... Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy.
Then she drove me over to Bobbie Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially one of Santa's helpers. Grandma parked down the street from Bobbie's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. 

Suddenly, Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."
I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his doorbell twice and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobbie. He looked down, looked around, picked up his present, took it inside and closed the door. 

Forty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my grandma, in Bobbie Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: Ridiculous!

Santa was alive and well ... AND WE WERE ON HIS TEAM!

Thanks to my son for donning a Santa hat and letting me take his picture and thanks to Randy for asking me to help. It would have been fun to read in class, but I guess this is the next best thing.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Dystopian Stories...I'm Sensing A Theme

The Giver (The Giver Quartet, #1)*

Last week I finished reading The Giver. It's one of those books you see on posters in libraries. That Newberry Medal indicates it's a book I should read. My wife read it. The kids have read it and when I saw the audiobook version available from the local library, I downloaded it and read it, too.

It was not what I had expected. Let's just say I did judge this particular book by its cover. I thought it was a story about WWI or WWII and the giver was an old man who helps people...you know, by giving.

No, this book belongs in the same category as Brave New World, 1984, and even the Hunger Games trilogy to some extent. (I hope I didn't spoil it for anyone...). It's a short read and it made me think about dystopian stories. They all have something in common: forced compliance to bring about the greater good.

There's a quote in one of my favorite movies, Serenity. Mal explains why the plan he's proposing is worth risking all their lives. 

          You all got on this boat for
          different reasons, but you all
          come to the same place. So now
          I'm asking more of you than I have
          before. Maybe all. 'Cause as
          sure as I know anything I know
          this: They will try again. Maybe
          on another world, maybe on this
          very ground, swept clean. A year
          from now, ten, they'll swing back
          to the belief that they can make
          people... better.§
 
I liked The Giver. It took situations not so far removed from our own and told a story of what might happen with enough time, resources and lack of free will. Why do these stories keep showing up every few years? Are they warnings? prophecies? A promise of things to come? I believe if we continue to ignore history, they will be.
 
* Photo used without permission from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/photo/3636.The_Giver
§ Quote used without permission from: http://www.imsdb.com/scripts/Serenity.html

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Tree Trim 2013 Edition...


What is it about a tree, boxes of ornaments, and strings of electric lights that can transform a room and a family? It's got to be Christmas. Tonight we ordered pizza, hauled the red and green containers from the basement and went to town.


We have an eclectic assortment of ornaments and knick-knacks. You'd think they wouldn't work well together, but I think they do. Also, when we put things away 11 months ago I could swear more of those darn lights worked. 

 

After breaking into the outside lights (it's been too cold to put up the outside lights...) and putting them on the tree, the craziness of finding places for each sphere and bell and snowflake and stitched pillow began.


Each child had ample opportunity to find areas lacking of Christmas bling and my wife and I did our best to point out those areas to the kids. Every successful operation needs proper supervision.


Even one of our cats decided to experience a good ol' fashioned tree trimming.


When I see the finished product I think I'll remember this particular tree for a long time, how it looks, how big it was, any glaring imperfections. But once the heirlooms and ornaments and lights and everything is taken down and put away and the tree is taken out to the curb, my memory will fade and it will fuze with all the other Christmas trees I've seen and help trim. 

video

But, for tonight, for our family the tree engulfs the room, transforming it to something amazing. Having a Christmas tree is your house is a wonderful thing.