The Wolf

Cobb on The Wolf:
The Wolf is always with us and it doesn't matter which guise he takes, what manner of attack he plans or fulfills. What matters is what we are prepared to do when he visits his hungers upon us.
Go.  RTWT.

In Which Curmudgeonhood Is Expressed

Yesterday evening was interesting. Came home to dinner (pot pie) prepared by Eldest Daughter, which was quite good. Afterwards, I told her to get her shoes on, and that we were going to stop by the church, then head up to the Tractor Supply Store with a stop off at Walmart.

The mention of the TSS was a ruse, of course. While the place is absolutely fascinating for me (So. Much. Neat. STUFF!), it's anathema for her teenaged mind. Who in the world could possibly get excited over trailer hitches, galvanized tin tubs and fence hardware? Aside from her Old Man, I mean. The TSS is located near Walmart, though, so heading in that direction wasn't a total falsehood... and, if we ended up with some extra time at the end of the trip, I was absolutely going to stop there, anyways.

Because Neat Stuff!

The TSS wasn't our intended destination, though. First was a pit stop at the church, which has a nice, big, and (most importantly) empty parking lot.

Yep. Driving lessons!

She was thrilled. Spent about half an hour letting her toodle around the lot, just helping her get a feel for driving the car. We practiced turning, backing up, pulling into parking spots, making use of turn signals, using high/low beams on the headlights, the critical difference between the brake and the gad, and stopping without causing Dad to bang his head off the windshield. Essential skills, in other words.

I'm pretty sure I only got loud once or twice. In my defense, while the parking lot is nice and big, and was very empty, it also has a rather large drop off on one side. I made sure to keep her well clear of that part of the lot, but one of the "No, that's not the brake, kiddo" moments came as we were oriented to go straight off the edge of the lot and down the hill on the other side.

I think, in those circumstances, a loud "BREAKS! STOP!" (or two, or three... maybe four) was not only allowed, but called for.

Afterwards, we did head to Walmart to look for a set of cheap speakers for my workbench. What I has in mind was something I could plug into the wall, dock my iPhone into, and enjoy some tunes while I'm puttering about.

I mean, that's got to be a pretty common thing that people want, yeah?

Apparently not.

Walmart had an array of (a) unbelievably cheap, battery powered speakers that used Bluetooth, and (b) unbelievably expensive, battery powered speakers that used Bluetooth. Some of which would let you dock an iPhone, but - and no, I am not kidding - would only play music via Bluetooth.

As far as I'm concerned, Bluetooth is a ravenous, phone battery devouring monster of a wireless network. YMMV, but turning off Bluetooth on my phone seems to have helped my battery life considerably. I might want to spend a couple of hours puttering, after all - that's what a workshop is for. Having my phone cut out after 45 minutes because it had to stream music over a wireless connection was a no-go.

Not to mention the whole battery powered speaker thing. I mean, really? Yeah, I understand - that makes them portable. In my situation, though, I know exactly what battery-powered Bluetooth speakers would would mean:

  • Head down to the workshop Saturday afternoon, puttering in mind.
  • Turn on Bluetooth on my phone.
  • Watch the battery percentage on my phone start dropping like a stone.
  • Try to turn on the oh-so-portable battery powered Bluetooth speaker.
  • Realize the speaker batteries were dead as a doornail.
  • Hunt for good batteries.
  • Find dead batteries that somehow, inexplicably, migrated into the good battery box.
  • Finally locate good batteries.
  • Replace the batteries in the speaker, get it powered up.
  • Realize that my phone was now dead, because Bluetooth.
  • Curse modern life, swear off technology, move out west and raise yaks.

Now, as the lovely Mrs. Robb isn't all that into yaks, the end game here is not someplace that I really want to end up. So I flagged down a pleasant clerk in the electronics section, and explained that I was looking for something simple - an inexpensive AC-powered speaker that I could hook my iPhone up to, avoiding Bluetooth. Ideally, one with a dock, so the phone could charge while it was playing.

I may have ranted a little bit. Just a smidgen. A little touch of curmudgeonhood. "I mean... I mean... all I want is a speaker. That plugs into the wall. That I can plug my phone into. No. NO BLUETOOTH."

In the end, what I ended up with was... this. Yes, Dancing Water Speakers. Think of is as an analog equalizer display using LED lights and little water streams. Kitschy as all get out, but dead cheap, and if they came with a little show, well, who cares? Cheap. USB powered, but with a wall adapter. I could plug 'em in, hook up the phone with the stereo cable, and listen to music. Wouldn't charge the phone while I was playing, but since I wouldn't be using Bluetooth, eh - I could live with that.

Got home, plugged 'em in, hooked 'em up... and the lovely Mrs. Robb was enchanted by them. Absolutely cheesy, but she thought it was cool. Me?


They were kind of neat, but the whole "dancing water" thing was run by a little impeller in the speaker enclosure that was... loud. Not horribly loud, but noticeable. Whenever it kicked up the water, you'd hear a little "ksssh!"

I played Jethro Tull's "Fire at Midnight", and... well, here's what it sounded like:
I believe in fi[ksssh!]res at mid[ksssh!]night [ksssh!]
when the do[ksssh!]gs have all been fe[ksssh!]d.
A gol[ksssh!]den toddy on the man[ksssh!]tle ---
a bro[ksssh!]ken gun ben[ksssh!]eath the bed.[ksssh!]
Bleah. Probably not an issue if you were someone who was going to play everything at full volume. For me, though, it was annoying, and not something that I thought I could get used to.

So, down to the workbench, for some puttering! A screwdriver, a pair of wire cutters, and some electrical tape... and I now have a couple of Non-Dancing Water Speakers. At some point, I'll get some rigid plastic and make a new top for them, so I can ditch the heavy and now completely useless water-filled LED light show attached to the top of the speakers. For the time being, though - eh. They were cheap, I made them do what I wanted, and I can haz music when I'm working.

I'll call it a win.

Operation : Workbench (Part II)

With the workbench done, I was left wondering what to do with that pile of lumber.  I woke up far to early (i.e., before noon) on Saturday, and decided that since we didn't really have anything going on that day, I might as well continue with building my workshop.  After doing a bit of research on line, and making a cup of coffee, I got to it.

I really wanted to reclaim that space (for the couch, for a desk, for shelves... really, for anything except a pile of lumber scraps!)  I already had an idea that I wanted to do an overhead lumber rack, and a friend in Texas suggested just the thing.  First step was moving the lumber out of the way, and moving the sawhorses up to the garage, where the lovely Mrs. Robb needed them in order to work on one of her projects.

No pictures of the assembly, unfortunately.  I blame myself for starting out before finishing my cup of coffee.  Longer wood sections are intended to go across the top of the 1x6's, shorter sections across the strips underneath.  Overall, it's pretty stable - I was able to do a quick chin-up on each of the U-sections after they were installed - but I'll probably get up there and put some 3" screws through just to make sure.

That would be more for peace of mind than anything, really.  As you can see, the finished overhead lumber rack is quite capable of doing the job!

Here's a picture from the side, showing the storage of the shorter sections of scrap lumber.

Now it's starting to look like a real work area.  Getting the desk in was a nice surprise.  When I measured, it was 46" long, but the space where I wanted to put it turned out to be 45" wide.  However!  The way I built the longer support box left a gap in the side of the box!  You can see that clearly here:

So I really had 46 1/2" to work with!  I had to pull the desk drawers and tilt the desk in sideways, but once I did that, it fit into the gap nicely.  There was even enough space to allow the drawer closest to the work bench to open fully. I honestly wish I could say that I planned it this way, but really, it was just dumb luck on my part.  I was originally planning to put the desk under the lumber rack, and just happened to notice that it would fit in the back corner.

Once the lumber rack was done, and the desk and couch placed, I realized that the workbench was looking kind of... plain.  It lacked a certain je ne sais quoi.  It needed something...

Pegboard.  I mean, what's a basement workbench without pegboard?

So, I made another trip to the hardware store to pick up some pegboard and supplies.  Only two trips?  Not bad at all for a weekend project, really.  I had them cut two sheets of pegboard down to 4'x4' sections, which (a) made it easy to load into the car, and (b) made it easy to mount.  I didn't want to mess around with having to drill into the cinderblock walls, so I dropped down a couple of furring strips where I wanted to mount each piece, and...

There we go!  Pegboard achieved and mounted.  The lower sections are screwed into the backboard of the counter, and help keep them nice and stable.

I put up a third section of pegboard on the back wall, because you can never have too much storage.   That leaves me with one extra section that I can mount elsewhere if it turns out that I can use some additional wall storage.  As a bonus, my workshop now smells right... the smell of sawdust, concrete, and pegboard is just right, exactly what I remember from being in my Dad's basement workshop when I was a kid.

The finished (for now) product!  The rug gives my pup a place to hang out when he doesn't want to climb up on the couch.  I am sure that I'll fiddle with the placement of tools and such on the pegboard until it feels right.  I've got a couple of boxes of tools that my father-in-law picked up from yard sales to help be rebuild my collection after the fire.  I need to sort through those, and figure out what's generally useful (and worth putting close at hand on the pegboard) vs. what can be chucked into a box and squirreled away out of sight.

Later this week, I'm going to take the time and put some shelves in the support boxes, turning them into something more like real cabinets.  That will let me have enough under-counter storage that I can get most of the power tools and larger items tucked away where they won't be cluttering up the work surface.  Maybe even get some hinges and latches, and put doors on them.

I also want to put a support in under the main length of the counter.  If you look closely, you can see that it's slightly bowed.  I'm thinking that I might build a long, narrow box to fit underneath - something that will support the counter, but set back a foot or so from the edge so that getting right up against the counter isn't uncomfortable.

All that's for the next phase, though.  For now, I'm a happy camper with my new workbench!

Operation : Workbench (Part I)

Building a basement workbench has been on my to do list long before we moved into the new house. There's a little extension off the basement under the sun room that's about 14" by 16" - perfect for a workshop-slash-man cave. I've had it kind of set up for a while (i.e., I had an old desk I could chuck tools on), but long term, that really wasn't going to cut it.  What I wanted was a real workbench, some extra storage, and a change to organize everything a make the space my own, instead of a random jumble of "where did I put that whingding?"

This weekend, I finally got the time to make that happen!

The focus of the workshop, of course, is the work bench.  Because of a contractor mistake, we ended up with two kitchen countertops - one without and eating ledge (which is what was initially shipped to us), and one with an eating ledge (which is what our contract called for, and which was installed). The first countertop was propped up against a wall in the garage, and... our builders did not want it back, and didn't really care what we did with it.

Seriously.  As far as I could tell, the cost of shipping it back to their home offices in Ohio, storing it in a warehouse, and keeping it there until someone wanted the exact same configuration and finish as we selected was just not worth the trouble.  So when we pointed out the error to them,  they ate the cost, shipped us a new counter top, and wrote off the old one.

Which left us with an extra counter top.  As soon as I realized that, I realized that I wanted to - nay, needed to - use it to build my basement work bench.

It was, as they say, a moral imperative.

With that in mind, on Friday night, I ventured into the realm of workshop construction.

Step one was to build a couple of support boxes for the countertop.  I had originally thought about getting some used kitchen cabinets to use for this, but (a) even used kitchen cabinets can be more expensive then a couple of 2x4's, and (b) I wanted to do it now, when I had the time, instead of three months from now when I finally found the right cabinets cheap enough.

Since we already had a bunch of random length of 2x4's left over from construction (yeah, we dumpster-dived to save a bunch of wood they were simply going to trash!), I really only needed a few extra to let me make the longer sections.

So, here in pictures, I give you Operation : Workbench!

Doing the main framing for the first support box. This was the trickiest bit - if I screwed up the smaller support box, I could slap together another one without too much trouble.  Mucking up this one would mean another trip to the hardware store.

Ready for assembly.  Internal supports added because I want to turn add supports for shelves,  and then turn these into cabinets with real doors.

Putting it all together!  That's a pretty box, and it's even a good approximation of plumb, level and square.  Constructed from 2x4's and 10d nails. Cuts made using a pencil, carpenter's triangle, and a mitre saw.  Surprisingly low tech.

We had some salvaged 2x2's last year that turned out to be exactly the right height to use for the smaller support box, because they came from a former neighbor's workbench.  Serendipity!

Smaller support box assembled.  No, it's not pretty, but hey - it's a work bench.  It'll do.  I'm thinking that once I get an internal shelf in, I'll use this for storing paint, stain, and the like.  We have a lot of excess paint that the builders left us sitting under the basement stairs right now. It will be nice to get them out of the way.

Support boxes placed, and countertop installed, thanks to the timely assistance of the lovely Mrs. Robb and Eldest Daughter! Which makes a nice end to a evening's work.  Except... I need to find a better place for the couch.  Yes, I have an old couch in my workshop - it's my dog's bed.  Keeps him happy, because I GET TO SLEEPS ON TEH COUCH?  YOU ARE TEH BEST HOOMIN EVAR!

Now, here's where I wanted to put the couch: on the opposite wall from the work bench.  Problem is, there's a mess of lumber scraps there, though, as any fool can plainly see.

Remember when I said we went dumpster-diving to save wood the builders were just going to throw out?  The majority of that pile is made up of 4' to 6' long pieces of of stained oak trim.  You can't really see it in the picture, but there's also four SIXTEEN FOOT lengths of stained oak trim there as well, along with a couple of nice, heavy lengths of 2x6 and 2x8.

On top of that, I have two 30-gallon tubs filled with smaller (2" to 6") oak scraps, and a 4' by 8' by 4' high pile of 2x4 scraps, 2x6 scraps, and plywood sections sitting out in the barn.  And all of that, honestly, was only the better half of what was left over from construction.  I really could have built my entire workbench from oak scraps, if I wanted to... but I have projects for that stuff in mind, and really, why waste good oak?

What I needed to do was find some way to get that lumber out of the way...

Donald Obama vs. Barack Trump

Just this morning I realized how similar these two really are.

"Here's a problem!  I'm going to solve it!  Because I'm AMAZING!  The solution is perfect!  You want details?  How dare you question my brilliance!  You have concerns?  That makes you a bunch of slack-jawed, un-American {racists, idiots}!"

Well, OK.  The final insult is different.

The Trolling of the Cups

OK, folks.  Most of you know that I'm a Christian.  I mean, I've got "theologian" right there in the title of the blog, right?  In particular, as far as the sphere of Christianity goes, I am a fundamentalist (gasp!) Baptist (double gasp!) evangelical (swoon!).  I'm a Sunday school teacher.  I do a Bible study weekly up at a local veteran's center.

I bring that up to point out that (a) my faith is important to me, and (b) as a teacher, I do quite a bit of reading about it.  Online, I follow a bunch of blogs and news sources that focus on religion in general and Christianity in particular.  Lots of theology and apologetics.  Folks talking about putting faith in practice.  Discussions about current events and how they relate to living as a Christian, and so on.

Now, a few days ago, some pastor in Arizona got all bent out of shape over Starbucks using red cups for Christmas.  This is, apparently, an extension of the War on Christmas!!1!11eleventy1!!, and as a Good Christian, I am of course supposed to be Stupidly Outraged, or something.

Yeah... about that.

Mind you, this video seems to have gone viral, albeit in a strange way.  You see, while I've been hearing about it a lot on the Book of Faces recently, it has all been from a certain segment of people - those friends of mine who are generally antagonistic to the Christian faith. [1] 

From what I can see online, that seems to be the only reason this whole red cup thing gained any sort of notice whatsoever.  All the top results from a search on "red cup starbucks" returns...  mainstream media articles talking about the video and how Christians are outraged.

Actual instances of outraged Christians?  Zip.

Remember all those online sources I read?  I have yet to see a single person discuss the horror of red cups at Starbucks.

My Christian friends on Facebook?  Not a peep, really, except for "Wait, what's this red cup thing now?"

Please understand - we generally have far more important things to talk about.  Abortion?  Oh, yeah.  Racism?  Sure.  Culture issues?  You betcha.  Apologetics?  Absolutely.  Reaching the lost?  Top o' the list.  ISIS, Israel, and the future of Christians in the Middle East?  Yup.  Challenges in marriage, in raising kids, in working and living in the modern world?  Tons.

Red cups?  Please.

Oh, I'm sure there are some Christians out there sweating over red cups, because Reasons, and because there are enough people in the world you can always find someone who's outraged about something.  On the other hand, I'm also confident that 99.999% of Christians don't really care in the least what color cups Starbucks is using, just as long as they come filled with something resembling a hot, caffeinated version of a liquid candy bar.

Seriously, guys.  All those articles about this?  About how "Christians are OUTRAGED!"?

Dude.  It's clickbait, man.  You've been trolled.  Hard.

[1] Yes, I have a wide variety of friends.  That we have differing opinions, some significant, does not mean that I love them any less.

Prospero and Cara Have a Chat

Goal: 11,670 words.

Achieved: 4,235 words.

A conversation that takes place later on in the story, where we learn a little more about magic, the Empire, and the Legion.

Prospero pursed his lips and thought for a moment.  “Say you show some inclination, some talent, when you’re young.  There are tests for that, you know.  Anyplace that isn’t a complete backwater has its administrators, its priests, its guards.  They’re trained to look for certain things.”

Cara nodded.  “That’s how I ended up in the Empire school.  Padre Sanda said he thought I would do well there, and that if I passed the entrance exam, they would teach me and give me a job.”  She paused for a moment, looking off into the distance, then shook her head.  “My parents were excited for me.  It wasn’t until later that I realized what kind of job it would be.”

“A lifetime under examination.  Yes.”  Prospero looked down, and idly scratched lines in the dirt with the stick.  “The Empire tolerates magic, and even encourage it.  It will use it - but will not trust it.  Or those who practice it.  Not entirely, at any rate.”  He stopped for a second, and tapped his stick.  “They don’t worry quite so much if you’re a ayloshea - a world magi.  That type of magic is tied to a particular part of the Real.  So long as those folks get Empire training, and take work that’s approved, they’re fine.”

He bent over and wiped away his scratchings.  “If you’ve got a certain kind of talent, though… that’s scary.  That’s a problem.  If you can change the Real.  If you can enter the Far Lands and change it instead of letting it change you.  If you can make things that are not be, and things that are be not…”

“If you’re a lamoshea,” she whispered. 

“If you’re a magi.”  He nodded.  “Then, it’s a different school.  It’s education, sure.  But it’s also magical training, and it’s military training, and it’s hard training, because you will be going into the Legion.”  He hesitated for a moment.  “Your class at the Empire school.  How many graduated?”

She snorted.  “We all did.  Eventually.  Some of us did it on time, some of us took longer.  The worse ones got the lousy postings out of school.  I heard Maga Krstol got sent to some Heaven-forsaken hinterland where they needed help learning how to raise goats.”

Prospero gave her a slight smile.  “There were a dozen of us who made it.  Out of four times as many that started.”

She frowned.  “What happened to the rest?”

He looked at her.  “Hard training.”  When she still looked puzzled, he sighed.  “We lost some as part of Legion exercises, but most didn’t make it through the advanced magi training.  When you push against Creation, and try to change it… if you don’t know what you’re doing, it can push back.  Hard.”  He looked her in the eyes.  “And the only way to learn how, is to learn by doing.  You push, and you’re careful, and you pray to God that you do it right, so that you don’t end up… gone.  Vanished.”  He looked up, stared into the night.  “That happened once.  Two set themselves on fire.  One drowned himself on dry land.  One…”  He shuddered slightly, looked at Cara.  Her mouth was open, as if to speak, but she said nothing.

“He pushed too hard.  Creation pushed back.”  He shrugged.  “Hard training.”

He shook his head, looked at her, and continued.  “Sometimes, though, someone doesn’t get identified early on.  Maybe there’s nobody around them that knows what to look for.  Maybe there’s somebody, but they’re just bad at that part their job.  If they’re a witch or a warlock, they might end up not ever knowing.  They just… have a particular things that work better for them.  Tending horses.  A green thumb.  They never get lost.”

She nodded.  “Right.  Folks with a knack.  The Empire doesn’t really even care about them, do they?  They’re too old.  They didn’t stretch their skills when they were younger, so when they get older, they can do one thing. Sometimes.”

He pursed his lips, nodded.  “It happens that way with magi, too.  Or with those who would have been magi, if they were trained when they were young.  Only… their knacks tend to be stranger.  More worrisome.  More dangerous to themselves, and the ones around them.”

“Scary”, she said, eyes wide.

“Yes.  When the Empire finds those types, they get conscripted, if they can be of service.  Or killed, if they can’t.”  He chuckled briefly.  “It’s a life sentence, either way.”

She put her hand to her mouth. “That’s…”

One corner of Prospero’s mouth twisted into the shadow of a smile.  “A bit morbid?  Perhaps.  You’ll hear more of it.  There’s not a Legionaire alive who doesn’t like to laugh at death, loudly and often.”

He gestured at where the men were setting up camp.  “I went through the Legion magi school.  These men… well, they got conscripted.”  He nodded as he saw the realization wash over her.

“They all have certain talents”, said Prospero.  “The Twins… they’re good at finding ways through things.  A forest, a city.  Put a door or a lock in their way, and if there’s a way around it, they’ll find it.  It doesn’t even really matter if it’s something they want to open.  It’s enough that it’s just there.”

She opened her mouth, hesitated, then spoke. “Those don’t sound too scary.”

Prospero raised his eyebrows.  “Doesn’t it?  If you think about it a bit, there are a lot of places that we try to keep the wrong people out of.  Banks.  Vaults.  Buildings.  The Far Lands.  Government offices.  Legion posts.”  His brows furrowed.  “More places than you’d think, at first.  All of them secured for good reasons.”  He shrugged.  “All of which might as well be sitting out in the open if those those two living incarnations of chaos wander by and decide they’d like to take a peek.”

Cara sat back, looking thoughtful.  “Huh.  Yes.  I think I see what you mean.”

He nodded.  “Exactly.  Bear and Valish are talented in their own ways as well.  Ways that make them useful to the Empire.  Thankfully, they’re both good men, and loyal.  They were more than willing to join, especially knowing that they would be able to serve the Empress.”  He smiled.  “They’re all good men, in that regard.”

Cara hesitated for a moment, then said, “And… First?  Kellan?  He has a talent, as well?”

Prospero was silent for a moment.

One Chapter Down...

Goal: 10,000 words.

Achieved: 3,160 words.

Though I might try to bang out another small scene or two later tonight.

“We’ll get him seen to, First.  We might as well bunk you all in the infirmary for now, unless you will need more permanent quarters…?” Adem said, cocking his head.

Kellan knew the officer was fishing for information.  “I expect the infirmary will be fine,” he replied.  “Valish can get seen to, we’ll roll the Twins into bed, and as soon as everyone is back in shape, well.  We’ll be moving on.”

As he spoke, Bear and the Twins moved across the shimmer of the gate, and emerged into the courtyard.  Daleb and Kosheb stopped mid-song and gasped at the change in temperature, and shook themselves like a pair of wet dogs coming in from the rain.  Bear grunted, and gently nudged them off to the left.

“Here, now, ala-ala. Off it is, to sit,” he said, nudging them with his shield.  Now that they were closer, Adem could see that their broad faces were flushed, their shocks of brown hair matted with sweat.  Brothers, he thought.  Relatives, at least.  Each had the same broad lips and flattened nose, set under wide, bloodshot brown eyes.  As he watched, their mouths opened and closed, and the one to his right gulped.

“Don’ feel good, Ber,” he said.  “Spinin!”

Bear placed an oversized hand on his shoulder, and gently turned him to the left.  “Which is why it is off with you, to sit,” he rumbled.  “The both of you, now, it is.  To sit, and to be waiting.  The Captain comes.”

“Ah, ah!” said the one on the left as leaned on his companion and they shuffled off.  “The Cap’n comin’!  Ber, you tell the Cap’n we did good, right?”  He patted at the arm Bear was using to steer him.  “You know we did good, right, Ber?”

Now clear of the gate, Bear lowered the two gently to the ground.  “The Captain is knowing you did good,” he said in a slow, even voice.  “I will be reminding him, for the sake of you.”  As he spoke, the two leaned on each other, nodding once, twice before their heads sunk to their chests and they began to snore softly.

Bear turned to Adem and Kellan, came to attention, and saluted.  Kellan returned the salute, and motioned to the Twins.  “At ease, Bear.  Have a seat and keep those two from falling over.”  He gestured at Adem. “Centurion Adem has said we’ll be bunking down in the infirmary, so you’ll be able to keep an eye on these two while they sleep it off.”

Bear nodded and slowly lowered himself next to the Twins.  As Kellan finished speaking, an older man in a plain set of brown cotton pants and a matching shirt strode over to meet them. He carried a large leather valise in his left hand. His hair was more grey than black, and cut short, as was his beard.  Bright eyes adorned with crow’s feet moved between the men and the gate, taking in the scene.

Adem nodded at him.  “Magi Dell.  Thank you for being prompt.”  He gestured at the standing stones, just as the last two men were approaching.  “Here come the last two.  Once they’re through and their Captain confirms all present and accounted for, close it.”

Dell nodded.  “Yes, sir.  The Commander has asked me to let you know that he will see their CO in two hours.  Said that should be enough time for them to get settled, get something to eat, and get cleaned up.”  He turned to the gate and stepped off to the side, the put down his valise.  As he opened it and began withdrawing various items, the last two men stepped through the gate.

Both Adem and Kellan came to attention and saluted.  “Captain,” said Adem.  “Welcome to Fregyr.”

The redhead in denim nodded, and returned the salute.  “At ease,” he said, “and thank you.”  His voice was a pleasant baritone, though touched with weariness. “Valish, go give Bear a hand with the twins.  First, report.”  Valish nodded, and limped over towards his fellows.

“Sir.  All present and accounted for.  The Twins have already fallen asleep, and Bear is looking out for them.  Centurion Adem has offered us room to bunk down in the infirmary.  Commanding officer will meet with you in two hours.”

“Good,” said the Captain.  “Centurion... Adem?”

“Yes, sir?”

“All present and accounted for.  Though you have ears, you already knew that.”  He gestured behind him.  “The gate can be closed at your convenience.  I wouldn’t recommend keeping it open any longer than you have to.”

“Magi Dell,” said Adem.  “Whenever you’re ready.”

Dell nodded.  “If you would move out of the way, then…” he said.  As they stepped off to join the other men, he began muttering in a sing-song voice, gesturing at the gate.

Prospero motioned to Bear, who rose.  “First, lend a hand with the the principes.  Centurion, if you can show us to the infirmary, a bed and a meal sounds good.”  He paused, and suddenly yawned.  “No, I lie.  A bed and a meal sounds wonderful.”

Cautionary Tale

How much does your social media presence really reveal about you?  Sure, you're cautious.  You would never intentionally disclose some information.  It's a connected world, though.  Can you begin to guess how much information you might inadvertently be revealing?

From a comment posted over at Bayou Renaissance Man:
I served in the RAAF from 1970-1991, the latter half of my time was coalface hands-on Sigint, Opint and Comint, Watkins-Johnson, RACAL, and PRC-(insert your own digits) were my closest workmates, both here in Australia and at Little Sai Wan, on the island part of Hong Kong...
Were I in the job today, modern Social Media is my first 'stop', its Cornucopia of intel is a wish beyond my wildest dreams!...
An example.
I typed my 14 year old Granddaughters first and last names onto the net.
I do not know any of her passwords, none at all.
In one four hour session, I got the following info.
Her school, favourite Boy Bands, favourite books - past and present, her and her friends after school activities, times and locations and who she hangs out with, home street name, description of house, though no number, when Dad's car is in driveway, therefore indicating when he is at home, two car family, one car garage.
Her bedroom décor, single window placement on ground floor,(no screen or bars of any kind), colour of bedroom light, what design of pyjamas she wears, and how she has decorated her bedroom.
Everything of the last nine lines I got from observing her Skype background images, as she leaves the screen to do stuff in her bedroom, so giving comprehensive access to her surroundings.

Because I Didn't Have Enough To Worry About

The word of the day is “autoamputation.” It means a limb—usually a toe—has decided to slowly amputate itself... 
The process can take years. There’s no treatment other than hacking off the toe at the start in order to save pain and time. No one has any idea why it happens.