Happy Hallothanksgivingmas


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Woman with a Christmas Turkey thanksgiving

From: DepositPhotos.com

Did anybody notice I missed October?  Who could tell? When I went into Walmart a few weeks ago to get some Halloween treats, the seasonal aisles had Christmas decorations. I found broken bags of candy in a bin near the exit.  What’s that all about?

Hey, I’ve been chin-deep in a sci-fi story. Went upstairs the other day to refresh my caffeine drip and discovered October had come and gone. I didn’t even put out a pumpkin.  All those damn doorbell chimes a couple weeks back?  I thought they were church solicitors with an urgent need to save my soul. The Halloween candy I bought is still on the counter. I’m surprised my front door didn’t get egged.


I blame my dear wife for this.  She was out of town most of the month.  Left to my own devices is never a good thing.  I ate artery-spackling spicy food, watched movies she doesn’t like (which is pretty much everything), didn’t bother to shave, and woke up every night with the dog French-kissing me after thoroughly cat-cleaning himself with the flourish of a toddler eating an ice cream cone. Laundry got done only when the underwear drawer was empty, and I challenged load limits by seeing if I could stuff the washer like a turkey (it made this horrible screeching sound during spin cycle).  The neighbors asked if I’d showered lately. What a silly question. Of course I hadn’t.


Last time I wrote about the insanity known as Thanksgiving was two-years-ago, with Are You Going to Eat That?  However, here we are, in the middle of November, and I’m off to do turkey with daughters and grandson for a couple weeks out west.

Woman eating meal at table with live turkey

Are You Going to Eat That?

Yes, I’m hosting the big feed on Thanksgiving and will be a visiting chef in my daughter’s kitchen.  Sure, it’d be easier to follow the modern American tradition of buying everything pre-made, but I’m a food snob.  I like brining a minimally-processed gobbler that hasn’t had breast enhancement surgery. I always add a couple of turkey leg quarters, because there’s never enough dark meat. Have to have homemade cranberry sauce that doesn’t retain the shape of the tin can, and isn’t made from corn syrup. Gravy is an art form, and shouldn’t be something that tastes like salted backwash from the dog’s water bowl. I still have culinary nightmares of my mother “extending” the half-cup of broth that leaked from a Butterball with a quart of flour-water. I make mine with oven-browned wings, and simmer them in low-sodium broth with savories. Combine it with strained juices from the roasted bird, maybe add a bit of Madeira, then thicken it with a nicely  browned turkey-fat roux.  Vegetables?  Butternut squash with maple and sage brown butter. BYOL (Bring your own Lipitor). No Paleo types allowed.


Of course, I’ve never been a big fan of store-bought stuffing mix with bread cubes compressed from sawdust. I make a mean stuffing (or “filling” as my father is prone to call it), by marinating ground pork in cognac and warm spices, sauté it with apples, savories, fresh thyme, then mix it with oven-dried sourdough bread.  Fresh sage is a key ingredient, but I’ll have to be careful in a state that legalized recreational “herbal” therapy.


You can see the challenge, though, can’t you?  How do I put this together in my daughter’s idea of a perfect kitchen … one that never gets used?  My closet is bigger. Last time I visited, she had a crock-pot, a couple of black encrusted saucepans, a nice collection of blunt kitchen knives, and a well stocked spice drawer with salt, pepper, and … that’s about it. I get to use a wonderful vintage apartment oven with stains that go back to when Eisenhower was president. Roasting pans aren’t supposed to come with cement-like barnacles amalgamated to the metal. And how am I supposed to deal with a counter-surfing border collie on crack?  Oh, I use the oven as a food locker. Why does that not surprise me?


My two-year-old grandson will join us this year. Quite opinionated for a young tyke, he’s whittled his dietary preferences to three basic food groups … cheese, goldfish, and apples. Anything else gets the ole heave-ho. His rubenesque golden retriever, who circles the highchair like a reef shark, will no doubt have the feast of a lifetime.


Holiday imbibing is a family tradition.  Since I’m on chef duty, I’ll try not emulate my sister’s favorite quote, “I like cooking with wine – sometimes I put it in the food.”  I get a little absent-minded when cocktailing in the kitchen.  One time, I left paper towels in the turkey cavity while it roasted (I’m not making this up). Or the time when I browned the turkey at 450° and forgot to lower oven temp during the first half of a football game.  Halftime ended when the smoke alarm went off. So I tend to wait until everyone is seated, then make up for lost time.


It’s off again in mid-December to God’s waiting room to spend quality time with elderly parents, where we all go to bed when it’s still light outside.   Last Christmas, we had the whole clan here at the house. It had been a few years since we’d last had to child proof the place.  There was something special about having an eighteen-month-old toddler terrorizing ninety-year-old parents with a rousing game of lap-diving.  Stroller walks around our holiday-lighted neighborhood were a favorite, despite the girls vetoing my desire to wear a shirt vest stenciled with “Service Human.” The lawn rake came in handy for raking the carpet from toddler World Series toss-a-lot.  Maybe next year, if I can get my grandson to sit still long enough, it’d be nice to have him sit in my lap and tell me what he wants for Christmas.


Which brings me back to the original problem. How the hell am I going to get any writing done? The way things are going, I might miss the annual holiday post in December.

Guess I know what my New Year’s resolution is going to be.

I hope to post my usual holiday greeting next month, but if for some reason, it doesn’t happen?



Happy Hallothanksgivingmas

PS. Thanks to Pinterest Holiday Humor for all the fun graphics.

Writing Life


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Lots of old black-and-white photos

From: V. Niktenko – Depositphotos.com

A social group I belong asked a while back if I’d offer a few tips about writing an autobiography. Who me?  I’m more into making things up in fiction. Couldn’t think of a worse candidate for the job.

I have an elderly relative who loves to tell stories of his youthful escapades, over and over and over, infinitum. He’s not a bad story teller, and it isn’t the repetition that gets me. It’s an overwhelming fear that I will end up doing the same thing when I reach the golden years (or is it platinum, now that we’re all supposed to live thirty years on average after retirement?). Oh, and his epilogue after each tale, where he insists his life would make a great story. “I should write it”, he’d say. “My autobiography would make a great book.”


From: Pinterest

Cue in scene: Honey, it’s getting late.

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Still Trekking


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From: nerdist.com

Hard to believe the little sci-fi series that almost didn’t make it, turns 50 on September 8.  After a pilot with Jeffery Hunter was rejected in 1965, Gene Roddenberry’s space adventure, Star Trek, got the green light from Desilu Studios. Yes, that’s the “I Love Lucy” studio.  A network executive claimed Lucille Ball never actually read the script, she thought it was about movie stars on a trek to entertain U.S. Troops, a mistake that still resonates a half-century later.  Thank you, Lucy.

A recent WSJ Arena article by John Jurgenson, Still Boldly Going, recapped a short history of the first Star Trek, or “lowercase fantasia” as rated by Variety at the time.  Jurgenson cites William Shatner’s memory of the era, “We were always about to be cancelled, always a sword of Damocles hanging over us.” One actor quoted “No one had any idea that 50 years later, the story would have a heartbeat.”

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Song of Fire and Smoke


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From: Ampack - Depositphotos.com

From: Ampack – Depositphotos.com

It’s August, and that time of year when I walk away from the word processor, kick back, and spend quality time with my two grills and smoker.

Yo DT, shouldn’t you be adding pages to that sci-fi story you’re stuck on.

Damned muse. Always giving me shit when I’m not focused on important stuff – like finishing the book. Annoying little bastard, but easily silenced with a couple cocktails and fibbing that it’s world building research for a dystopian tale I’ve been trying to finish since last year. Or was it the year before?

Exactly when humans began to burn meat over fire remains controversial. Scientists originally believed the early meat eaters ate sushi style, fresh off the bone, and didn’t start barbequing until 800,000 years ago. Then in 2012, a South African Primatologist examined evidence from the Wonderwerk Cave, where sediments revealed presence of burned bone in a campfire over a million years old. Sure hope it wasn’t a fellow hominid.

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We All Have the Same Dream


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July Fourth is one of two holidays that are dear to my heart (can you guess what the other one is?). Our country’s independence is more than just fond childhood memories of BBQs and small town parades. It is the time when I take a moment to reflect how lucky I am to live in a place where I’m free to live as an individual. Not to say I don’t shake my head in befuddlement on occasion, but hey, who said life was perfect.

People ask what my fondest Fourth of July memory is. Was it a particular family event, fireworks on a small New Hampshire lakeshore, or my girls running around in the dark with sparklers when they were young?

Fresh out of college, when adulthood broadsided me, a biology degree didn’t offer much in the way of gainful employment at the time, so I chose a path less traveled and joined the Peace Corps. It promised adventure and a chance to do something special in a third world country. Being the impressionable young man with noble dreams and zero sense of reality, off I went to the Philippines as a Fisheries Biologist for a two-year, non-stop assignment without home leave. I left just after July 4, and returned two years later in mid July.

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two tulips and bust

Moritorus – DepositPhotos.com

Next week, our nation takes time off to remember the brave souls who paid the ultimate price for keeping us safe. Many of us have never experienced the horror of armed conflict. Because of our veteran’s sacrifice, most of us will never have too. Our national day of remembrance ensures we never forget them.

My throat locks up when I visit veteran memorial parks. Headstones seemingly stretch to the horizon. Who were these brave souls? What dreams went unrealized? How many hearts were broken when they didn’t come home? How many sons and daughters went without a parent? For those whose remains are interred in this hallowed ground, the living will plant a flag on their grave in reverence, perhaps kiss a faded photograph, or touch a brittle love letter written long ago. But not all will be remembered this way. Countless tens-of-thousands throughout our country’s history are buried beneath forgotten soil, their legacy lost to the ages, their memory but a solitary memorial to the Unknown Soldier.

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Astrobiology – A Universe Wired for Life


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Curricular options for me in college didn’t include subjects pertaining to astrobiology. In my day, most budding biologists were encouraged to focus on earth-bound developmental sciences, provided you could get through university weeding courses in organic biology and biochemistry. Life sciences were about life on earth. Even hinting of life in the cosmos got you the evil eye, a lower grade for being stupid, or a semester of janitorial service cleaning up after freshman lab orientation. Times have changed.

First, a definition. Astrobiology is a branch of biology concerned with the study of life on earth and in space. The earth part of it focuses on finding answers to how life began on earth. As for space, the research has to go beyond the study of fossils and other earthly evidence. Astrobiologists must look for the presence of organic materials outside our solar system, and hypothesize how these materials become the molecules of life.

Jeffery Kluger of Time Magazine wrote an article last February, The Perfectly Sane Case For Life in Space. Kluger tagged along with astrobiologist, Scott Sanford at the NASA Ames Research Center, who demonstrated an updated cosmic primordial soup device that would make Dr. Frankenstein very proud. Sanford filled a chamber with elements you’d find in space (stellar dust, gas), duplicated the chill of space, and instead of lightning, used the same kind of radiation expected in the cosmos. The result yielded thousands upon thousands of chemical products, many of which included molecules needed to spark life. What Sanford stated in Kluger’s article caught my attention.

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Simplicity Survives


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Amish World

When out-of-town friends come to visit, sightseeing Amish country outside Lancaster, PA, is on our top list of excursions not to be missed.  Each visit, I learn a little bit more of the simple life that survived inside our 21st century, helter-skelter world, and it re-stokes the scenic muse in my writing. We recently revisited our favorite back roads to observe the Amish farmers prepare for another growing season. The following article is something I wrote three years ago, and worth a revisit.


 It’s a great time of year to observe a friendly, humble people who resist the temptations of a modern life. They bear it well, but living in a fishbowl where the English “observe them” as anomalies of society, has to be somewhat nerve wracking. Shunning electricity and other modern conveniences, the Amish have carved a unique niche in a country gone amok with technological advances. Where most of us gather food from sterilized packages in gleaming stores, ride around in motor vehicles, wear clothes made in a third-world sweatshop, and entertain ourselves with endless media options, our modern selves are anything but simple. Turn off the switch, and most of us are likely to fumble in the darkness.

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Genders Behaving Badly


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Serious young Woman

From: Forgiss – DepositPhotos.com

The phrase, Men Behaving Badly, is rather gender specific.  Fair to say, it is a well-earned aphorism. History is rife with examples of male instigated-warfare, greed, corruption, and scandal.  Let’s give ourselves a big ole testosterone-infused high-five.

In the current sci-fi world I’m crafting, I want to explore a ravaged earth saved by benevolent aliens, with one nonnegotiable premise in exchange for helping to clean up our planetary playpen. Cede earth to the females, serve, nurture, and respect them without fail. Not the first time writers have played with dominate female societies, but while researching popular titles of the genre in fiction, my spam folder got a serious workout.  Movies were fifties-era bombs like Cat Women of Mars and too many book-covers with copycat characters right out of Legend of the Cryptids (see The Good, the Bad, and the Scantily Clad).

The challenge? Can I construct a quasi-utopian, matriarchal society that may over time, deteriorate into suspiciously male-like irrationality, and not have it become a comic book Wonder Woman society of Amazons that reads like a guy wrote it?

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