AUGUST ANGST – NCIS: UXBRIDGE

DATELINE UXBRIDGE: Chapter 2: EVIL UNDERBELLY OF A SMALL TOWNGarry Armstrong, Reporting

On the surface, it seemed like a normal day in Uxbridge. But intelligence reports warned us not to be lulled into a false sense of security.

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Yes, it seemed idyllic. Traffic was moving smoothly through the town’s main intersection. There was non of the usual slow driver traffic clog that’s typical of an August Friday afternoon.

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Perhaps we should have noticed how quiet things were on the town green. This is the height of tourist season. People come from across the country to capture our bit of small town America.

Yes, suspiciously quiet.

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A short distance away, the new NCIS Uxbridge team leader sensed something was wrong. His gut told him the serenity was  cover for a local sleeper cell.

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This NCIS bureau chief was handpicked by the legendary Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Word had it the Uxbridge guy had worked deep cover with Gibbs, taking out mercs who threatened our nation’s security. Gibbs apparently trusted his Uxbridge peer, who some referred to as “a functional mute.”

Word filtered through Uxbridge.

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The town library closed early. No teenagers gathered on the town common usually a popular hang out spot. BOLOs had been posted by the local LEOs for unspecified persons and vehicles but they offered few details, referring all inquiries to the new NCIS team.

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But a badge was the only information supplied by any who questioned the new NCIS guy. Maybe it was the look on his face. Perhaps it was his rigid body stance that spoke volumes to those with loose lips.

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Uxbridge is now on the grid for everyone — FBI, CIA, DAR, NRA, NSA, Homeland Security. They’ve probably planted moles and undercover agents everywhere. But make no mistake. In this town, NCIS is the top dog. In charge.

Grab your gear!

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NOTE: All photos taken using a Pentax Q7.

RUNNING MICROSOFT’S OBSTACLE COURSE

Four computers in this house run Windows 7. There were more, but the kids moved out, so it’s just Garry and me. We each have a desktop with a big, high-definition screen. We don’t use either of them.

Instead, we each have a laptop, which we use all the time. There’s nothing wrong with the desktops except they live in our “offices” and we have chosen to live in the living room. That’s why they call it a living room, right?

alienware side view computer

Together. All the time. If we are awake and home, we are on the love seat, or maybe in the kitchen, but this is comedy central, where it all happens. The dogs, the laptops, the big TV … and us.

At the end of July, Microsoft shoved Windows 10 out the door and into the waiting, eager arms of the public. Of which we are two, or maybe four, if you count computers rather than people.

Everyone in the world got a little symbol telling them they could upgrade as soon as it came their turn “on the great queue.”

We didn’t get the little symbol. Not on any one of our computers and while this didn’t worry me initially — I’m in no great hurry to install a new operating system on four computers — eventually I realized that I was not going to be able to avoid this giant communal computer upgrade event.

What to do?

I went to Microsoft’s “What do I do if I didn’t get the little upgrade doohickie in my system tray?” page. They carefully explained what was eligible (any legal copy that isn’t a bulk licence) of Windows 7.

Check.

So why didn’t any of my computers get the signal that “we’re good to go?”

“Try this little application to check if you are eligible.”

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I did. On all four computers, it said “NOT ELIGIBLE” and then, a few more clicks to get the message: “Because this computer isn’t up to date.” I’ve got all my computers set on auto-update. It isn’t MY fault that they reject one out of three downloads Microsoft sends.

I sighed. I whined. Then, I started updating. Everything. My husband’s was easy. He was just missing the most recent updates. Installed, rebooted, and voilà. There was the flag. Quickly, I put him on the queue. Microsoft will let him know when his wife can install his new copy of Windows 10. Oh boy. Something to look forward to.

Garry in his office

Next, I updated my laptop. That took a little longer and I had to install all the updates I’d rejected because I don’t use Internet Explorer and didn’t see the point in updating it. I bit the bullet and installed everything, even the crap I thought was a total waste of time and hard drive space.

The symbol appeared and I signed up.

The recalcitrant desktops were another story. Garry’s hadn’t even been turned on for the past few months, so it was missing updates for probably a year. I got it started, rebooted, it started downloading more. I rebooted. When the third round began I went to the next room and confronted my desk top, the one with that great, big super high-definition screen that I don’t use anymore because it’s got everything I want in a computer except a decent graphics board.

Office by window light - Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

I set it to updating. It updated. Then, after a reboot, it updated more. Another reboot. More updates. I needed coffee and this morning, its caramel macchiado, so I ambled to the kitchen. And totally forgot about the struggling computers in the other rooms.

Many, many hours later, as the sun was sinking in the west, I realized I’d forgotten to go back and check the two desktops.

Both were awaiting a reboot. I remember when Microsoft used to just reboot them for you, like it or not. Even if you were in the final edits of your great American novel, your computer would turn itself off and reboot. Apparently enough people threatened to burn down Microsoft headquarters after losing significant work. Today, the “Reboot now?” prompt sits in the middle of your screen. Waiting. Like refugees from the Nazis at Rick’s place in Casablanca. They wait, and wait, and wait.

I rebooted. Wouldn’t you know it? One more — I hoped final — round of updates. I got them started. Went back, watched a rerun of NCIS, then returned, rebooted, rebooted

Triumph! Both computers displayed the white flag of surrender. Eligible at last! Talk about overcoming obstacles. Wowie zowie, this household is ready to rock and roll.

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I signed up both computers for Windows 10, noticing as I did it that it was the same email addresses I had used for the laptops because (tada) we each have two computers, but only one email address per person. I hope that doesn’t confuse Microsoft.

Surely (and don’t call me Shirley) we can’t be the only people to own more than one computer, right? I mean … this isn’t 1980 where people still think a family can share one computer (ha! how long did that last!).

And so it went. Overcoming obstacles 101. Four computers updated in one day. Am I ready for an “attagirl” or what?

SEEING THINGS DIFFERENTLY

A Marriage Equality Story, by Rich Paschall

All through senior year of high school, Eddie was telling everyone that he would be going on to college.  He had applied to a four-year university and to a “junior college” just in case he was not accepted or could not afford the university.  He received acceptance from both, a bit to his surprise, actually.

While his parents, Edgar and Marge, were naturally quite pleased at Eddie’s acceptance, they advised him almost immediately that there was little they could do to help with the costs of college.  The best they could do was to allow him to continue to live at home for free and could not do much more.

Eddie got a part-time job in the last semester of high school and a full-time job after graduation.  His parents would not co-sign on a loan for the university and showed great reluctance to do so for the junior college.  Even though Eddie thought he could talk his father into signing for his student loan, he had heard all the nightmare stories about student debt and decided to pass on his dreams.

When the decision to skip school was made final, his parents advised that an 18-year-old with a full-time job was expected to pay rent.  They did not ask a lot of Eddie, but since he was making little over minimum wage, it was impossible for him to save money for school.

Over the next two years, he kept in touch with some friends from high school, made new friends at work and enjoyed the life of a young man without commitments.

One day Eddie expressed his frustration to his good friend Carlos.  They were best buddies since senior of high school started.  Even though they were very close, he had never introduced Carlos to his parents.  He was not sure how they would treat him and he did not want any problems at home or with his buddy.  His friendship with Carlos was too important to risk any disrespect.

“This sucks,” Eddie said choking back tears, “this absolutely sucks.”

“I know,” Carlos replied, “but it won’t suck forever, you’ll see.  We’ll both have better jobs someday and it will all be good.”  Eddie did not appear to be buying it.  “Come on, man, smile a little.”

Carlos made a funny face at Eddie who immediately broke into a big smile.  Eddie was not convinced but at least Carlos knew how to make him smile.

As the first year after high school turned into the second, Eddie’s fortunes were no better off.  Older adults kept telling him he should join the army.  It was the place for young men trying to make their way.  He would be “whipped into shape.”  His father even chimed in that it would “make a man out of you.”  None of them seemed to realize that Eddie did not need to “find his way.” He needed money for school.

As the second post high school year wore on, Eddie figured out how to get money for school.  One day he told Carlos, “I am going to join the army.”  Carlos was stunned.  He could not believe Eddie would go away.  They discussed it for hours until Eddie convinced Carlos it was the only solution.

“Then I will save money the entire time you are gone,” Carlos announced, “and we will go to school together.  I swear I won’t spend a penny I don’t need to spend until you get back.”

Eddie joined the army.  His parents were proud.  Carlos worked hard.  All thought things were finally moving forward for all, although they did not all know one another.

After boot camp, Eddie returned home before being deployed to the middle east.  He lied about his return so he could spend the first day with Carlos.  When he left he promised to write and post pictures on-line and keep everyone up to date.  He worried how he was going to do that and keep his different circles separate.

After his parents moved to Arizona, Eddie’s mom became active on facebook and encouraged Eddie to post pictures of his service.  Although there was much he could not show, he did post some barbecue pictures on facebook that his mother immediately reported all around and commented on each picture.  Eddie was embarrassed and decided never to do that again.  When anyone took pictures with Eddie in the group, he asked that no one tag him in the picture so no one at home could see them.

When he was on leave he would always fly to Chicago first to visit friends, especially Carlos.  Then he would go on to Phoenix and visit his parents who had finally move there for a change of weather.  Eddie spoke little about the service and less about Chicago.  He had come to realize through his mother’s facebook postings and occasional comments to him, that his best course of action to keep peace in the family was to say nothing.

After the service Eddie returned to Chicago, got a job, enrolled in school and became roommates with Carlos.  After saving his money carefully and working as hard as possible, Carlos also enrolled at the junior college, but not in all the same classes as Eddie.  They were chasing different dreams.

On spring break Eddie and Carlos, along with a few other friends, went to New Orleans by train.  One of the boys rented a car upon arrival and they all hung out for a few days.  It was there that Carlos made his move.

“Let’s get married when we go back home,” he said to Eddie.

“What?” his surprised mate responded.

“You are living in sin, you know, if you will not marry me.  I demanded a proper marriage.”  Carlos looked at Eddie with the most serious look he could give him.  Then they both laughed.

“Do you love me?”  Carlos inquired.

“Of course.”

“Then why not?”

City Hall, credit: Chicago architecture.info

City Hall, credit: Chicagoarchitecture.info

When they returned home, they got the license and made their plans.  On a Thursday afternoon, with Carlos’ two sisters joining them, the boys went to city hall.  They were married and the girls took pictures.

Neither Eddie or Carlos had ever been happier.  The sisters had some great pictures and one could not wait to share with friends and family.  She even posted some on facebook and tagged the boys.  Eddie, however, could not think of anyone else he should tell about his happy day who did not already know it.

Related story:  Did You See The Picture?

GEORGE’S CONEY ISLAND HOT DOGS

A Photo a Week: Neon Signs

From Nancy Merrill comes this interesting photo challenge:

IN A NEW POST CREATED FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE YOUR FAVORITE SHOTS OF NEON SIGNS.

And I have done it. This is the biggest neon sign in Worcester County. One of the biggest on the east coast. Erected in 1929, this hot dog lunch joint has been serving generations ever since.

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It’s George’s Coney Island, on Southbridge Street, in Worcester, Massachusetts. If you’re in the area, hungry for hot dogs with the perfect ambiance, check it out!

George’s Coney Island
158 Southbridge St. Worcester, MA 01608
gconeyisland@aol.com | Tel: (508) 753-4362