Fiction Invitation: The Inquisition

I would like to extend an invitation to others to read some fiction I’ve been working on at Wattpad. Comments and constructive criticism would be much appreciated. Thank you.

Synopsis

2028: The Age of Terrorism has not been kind to the United States. The proliferation of radical groups and police brutality have paved the way for the legal surveillance of the American people. The confirmed existance of superhumans only compounds the fact that authorities are now overworked, understaffed and hopelessly outmatched.

One woman, a combat veteran with the courage to take a stand gathers a group of like minded individuals to do what law enforcement cannot, risking her life and freedom to stop the superpowered who prey on the weak.

After riding high on a year of stellar success,  her world comes crashing down to when two of their comrades are killed in action. With the deaths of two of their own, Diane Kilmara and her team of vigilantes must find a way to escape the pursuit to bring them to justice, a pursuit that will push their friendships and loyalties to the edge. Will they survive the coming inquisition?

http://w.tt/1OJzgQg

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Fiction Invitation: The Inquisition

Traveling Review: Boston Freedom Trail

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While there are several different versions of freedom walks and trails, I’m referring to the walk I took with the Freedom Trail Foundation‘s self guided audio tour. MP3 downloads and players are available for $15 USD, and takes you on a tour of 41 significant sites in Boston. Each location has its own track on the MP3 player, and includes commentary and input from subject matter expects and several notable Americans such as longtime Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy, among others. The player comes with headphones and runs off of the larger watch style batteries.

The tour begins at the visitor center on Tremont in the Boston Commons. From there you follow the typically red brick path from point to point. Each site has information placards which nicely complement the information on the audio tour and often nearby are other points of interest not on the tour. What’s nice about the self guided tours is you can take it as slow or as fast as you like, where with a tour guide, it’s hit or miss on the extra knowledge the guide may or my not have while you are definitely limited to his or her schedule. As such, we broke our tour down over two days.

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Personal Highlights: The cemetery containing the resting places of Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Samuel Adams among others.

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The site of the Boston Massacre:

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The Monument to the one of the first African-American Civil War units and the subject of the movie “Glory,” the Massachusetts 54th Infantry Regiment:

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Bunker Hill:

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The USS Constitution (which went into dry dock the day after we visited, hence the lack of armament and rigging.

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The Constitution definitely made the Boston walk for me.

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In closing, if you have the time, go, with or without the guide or player. You’ll find something to enjoy both on and off the path. Thanks for reading.

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Traveling Review: Battleship Cove

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So if you happen to love history, are in New England touring Revolutionary War/Pre-World-War sites and have the thought about taking a break from it, turn and burn to Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts and get ready to commit to several hours of naval goodness at the home of US Battleship Massachusetts. Entry and exit to the museum is through the gift shop, and just beyond sit two helicopters like a pair of old guards on the path to the first major stop, the Patrol Torpedo (PT) boat exhibit. Here also sits the hull of the a landing craft.

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The PT Boat exhibit rests in several buildings combined into one, and house two actual PT boats, several scale models and dioramas, an engine, a theater devoted to the subject, and a wealth of PT boat knowledge throughout, covering everything from specs, to armament and ammunition.

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Each boat has a staircase on the starboard (right) side and sections of the starboard hull replaced with plexi to allow visitors a glimpse inside each vessel. History buffs will recall a young John F. Kennedy commanded a PT during World War II, and subsequently lost the ship after a collision with Japanese Destroyer Amagiri. The urge to climb on and explore these boats was there for me, yet was not allowed. My climbing fix was addressed at the next stop in the tour, the US Destroyer Joseph P. Kennedy.

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Affectionately called the “Joey P.” by some who crewed her, the USS Joseph P. Kennedy was named after JFK’s older brother, a naval aviator. Upon boarding the ship, you realize the how massive these ships are, only to turn to the port (left) side and behold the massive Battleship Massachutsetts, also known as “Big Mamie.” We were given free reign of the ship, which is to say any unlocked door, or unblocked stair ladder was ours for exploring.

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Other parts of the ship for viewing pleasure consisted of original doors replaced by plexi: many of these were crew offices, barber shops, the ship store, etc., meant to approximate what those rooms would have looked like while the ship was manned with 200 and  away at sea. Highlights of her duties: bombardment runs during the Korean War, recovery operations for Gemini 6 and 7, and part of the naval blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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The next stop is the BB-59, the US Battleship Massachusetts. Like Joey P., visitors are given mostly free reign of this gargantuan ship, able to travel at least two levels of the superstructure and into the bridge, and down four decks of the ship. Open doors are free for exploration, and larger rooms serve as museums dedicated to everything from Pearl Harbor, to D-Day, and rooms with extensive collections of intricate models.

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Anti-aircraft guns are open for exploration, as are at least one of the 5″ gun turrets, and the aft (rear of the ship) turret holding three of it’s massive 16″ guns.

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The Massachusetts has the distinction of firing the first American 16″ shells of World War II at Casablanca during Operation Torch, where she also received damage from shore batteries. She also fired the last 16″ shell of the war in the Pacific Theater.

Because we arrived before tourist season actually starts, we were not able to gain access to the USS Lionfish, a WWII era submarine, and the Hiddensee, a Soviet made East Germany missile corvette acquired by the US Navy after Germany reunified. However, I will say by the time we were done on the Massachusetts, I don’t know we would have had it in us to explore two more ships. I lamented anyway.

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In addition to the rest of the awesomeness of the three major exhibits were two points of nerdgasm for me: the first, in the PT Boat buildings sits a submersible designated GIMIK built by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, or for the less historically, more movie saavy, the guys who made Captain America (stop watching movies and read some history please)).

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Eventually moved to the CIA when the OSS deactivated, and the vehicle itself declassified in 2010(!!!!), the “Gizmo” was barely big enough for a pilot and two Korean infiltrators and was designed to deposit said infiltrators onto the Japanese islands for espionage and sabotage actions. Very cool.

The second egg of nerdy goodness sits in the aft section of the Joseph P. Kennedy, where inside the helicopter bay are two Gyrodine drone gyrocopters used on the ship for anti-sub duties.

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While I knew drones have been around since the 1900’s, I did not know I’d find a pair of 1950’s drones sitting on Joey P. Again, very cool.

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From an logistical perspective, again travelling with two seniors, and a wife with baby in a carrier harness, movement is slow and steady up and down decks. Moving too fast has potential to miss exhibits, and if you have troubles moving around, I’m truly uncertain what accommodations the museum has as I saw no elevators and few ramps. Groups on the Massachusetts would do well to plan out places to regroup as my group ended up separated several times, and often could not resort to text or phone contact due to the lack of signal. At least twice we ended up moving to ports leading up to the outside deck to regain phone coverage and doubling back the way we came to gather our wayward party member. Other visitors, specifically unruly children darting out of doorways are also something to watch out for.

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Still, if you have the time, I highly recommend this museum. Even with two ships closed off season I highly recommend this wealth of naval history and knowledge. It was a great show, and a fantastic change of pace away from Revolutionary sites. Thanks for reading.

Traveling Review: Battleship Cove

Public Observation: Forgetting the Holocaust

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Today, I took a detour from the Freedom Trail in Boston (which I’ll blog about later) to the New England Holocaust Monument. The Monument is a path in Carmen Park beset first by stone blocks leading to towers of glass and steel. Each tower is plated by glass panels adorned with hundreds of numbers representing the 6 million Jewish killed at the hands of Nazi Germany. Each tower represents six of the major concentration camps liberated, each tower bearing a quote from a survivor of each camp, each tower set on a base emitting steam from its base into the inside of the tower to serve as an representation of a gas chamber.

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As I passed through on my way out of the memorial, stopping to wait for my wife and party, I stopped short of three girls standing in the first tower. I waited and watched as they asked each other questions:
“What are these numbers for?”
“What’s up with the steam/why is (the tower) doing that?”
My first instinct was to explain, but a parent came along and I continued to wait and observe. The girls repeat their questions to her to which she replies:
“This is the Holocaust.”
“What is the Holocaust?” A girl replies. I’m floored. I’m floored because the Holocaust was the attempted genocide of a culture, the rape and murder of millions of Jewish people. I’m floored because the Holocaust began with one man’s ability to convince a nation this was the right course to take. I’m floored because the Holocaust was an overwhelming triumph of evil, and these kids knew nothing about it.

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It’s not possible the girls were too young to have been taught about World War II and the Holocaust because one of them reminded the others they’d learned some of World War history some time ago. I’m sure my oldest kids have yet to learn about it. But my uneasy mind wanders to a time where all the survivors and liberators of the period will have passed. As demonstrated by the passings of Civil War and World War I survivors,  we are poorer in knowledge for our losses.

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For someone with any knowledge of what happened in the Holocaust, the memorial is quite powerful in the ability to summon feelings of sadness, loss, disgust and injustice. To someone without a clue, unwilling to stop and read the words on the glass or the etching on the stone blocks, it’s something fun to walkthrough, like a playground or a fun house mirror: the novelty wears off and you never return. When those who remember are gone, and those who remain don’t care enough, we’re looking at a recipe for history disaster in “doomed to repeat it” proportions.

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This can’t happen again: we, as a generation raised by one and raising another have to do better or risk what you see above: the triumph of evil.

Public Observation: Forgetting the Holocaust

Traveling Review: The New Bedford Whaling Museum and Fort Rodman/Fort Tabor

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New England debatably being the the heart of the American whaling industry, there was no way I could pass up stopping at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, though if I were any of you with an interest in American history and the artifacts that come from it, I would devote a few hours to this museum as it contains a vast amount of information.

20150422_101207[1]From the get go, visitors are greeted by quotes out of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” as Ishmael sets off on the Pequod from New Bedford. Just beyond are the massive skeletons of four whales hovering above. As you traverse the railings leading upstairs you are entreated to the story of these animals and factoids about the whale species represented up there. Progressing through the building, visitors encounter exhibits which take the viewer through a trip to whaling’s beginnings from the sustenance hunts of Alaska Natives, to the whaling industry in full swing, along with the weapons of war. The exhibits do a fine job of explaining why whaling was so profitable by displaying many examples of products produced from whales, from corsets propped up with baleen to meat and grease. 20150422_103127_4_bestshot[1]

Other exhibits show the tools of the trade, photographs of whalers conducting their business, ships, paintings, videos, and artifacts right down to a Gilbert Island Sharktooth sword (!!!). The museum also touches whaling from a multicultural perspective, featuring a great deal of information on whaling as it applied to the Azore, Japanese, Alaska Natives and more. The museum also touches on the relationship between scrimshaw and whaling, and comes full circle with a discussion on preservation and research of whale species, which like most of oceanic life, we know only a fraction about.

The museum also boasts two other exhibits dedicated to New Bedford artists and their work during their travels. Again, my party of 4.5 walked the halls of the museum for at least an hour an a half and found it impossible to take in everything with the time we alloted ourselves.

The same could be said of our next stop, the Fort Rodman/Fort Tabor Military Museum. Housed in what used to be the Post Exchange (think a military base’s mall or shopping place), the free to enter-donations accepted establishment is manned by willing and able veterans of our Armed Services ready to set the stage for the flow of the museum. Beginning with a diorama of the fort and it’s humble origins (the protection of American whaling vessels and designed by Robert E. Lee,) the museum takes visitors through a tightly packed, exceptionally thorough tour of the fort’s past beginning with the Revolutionary War and progressing into the military roots of New Bedford, Massachusetts and those who served from the area in the World Wars to present.

Just a taste of the military history in this place...
Just a taste of the military history in this place…

Again, tons and tons of artifacts, pictures, insignia, maps, military orders, newspaper clippings and more, so much so that one could miss whole sections of historical memorabilia if one forgot to turn around. Outside the museum building lie several small monuments to the casualties of the wars of the 20th century, along with a tank commemorating the casualties of Operation Tiger (a mission designed to train our soldiers for the D-Day invasion) and the actual fort itself, which sadly is not open due to safety concerns as the site runs off donations and volunteers.

Two excellent museums in one day: the time we allotted for each did not do them justice, yet I stand impressed. Our time spent at each was rushed, and in hindsight, a day could have been made of each location separately. The Whaling Museum is definitely kid friendly, while the Military Museum is kid (and adult) protected via plexiglass cases. If your travels ever take you to New Bedford, I highly recommend both institutions. 20150422_094224[1]

PS: The Whaling Museum is located on the same street as the chapel described in Moby Dick. So cool.

Traveling Review: The New Bedford Whaling Museum and Fort Rodman/Fort Tabor

Traveling Review: Woods Hole Oceanic Institute

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Everyone has seen young Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet as star crossed lovers who meet and defy cultural norms to pursue a romance with one another on the ill fated “Titanic” in the movie of the same name about the same topic.

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What is not so common knowledge is man who led the expedition to find her, Mr. Robert Ballard, was based at Woods Hole, Rhode Island. Under the WHOI banner, Ballard also found the remains of US Navy submarines Thresher and Scorpion, the German Battleship Bismarck, the USS Yorktown and the PT boat JFK served on during World War II.

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The Woods Hole Oceanic Institute Museum occupies a quaint little building in the town of the same name, yet bears quite a bit of information about ocean exploration, the submersibles and underwater drones under their purview,  as well as exhibits about the Arctic and Antarctic, a hands on display of the original Alvin cockpit, and immensely detailed models of the Titanic as it lies on the sea floor today. 

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The museum also sports at least two touchscreen monitors bearing information  and videos about the Alvin Submersible and the other ships and drones comprising the research fleet. Coupled with many of the technology exhibits are displays of sea life such as a diorama of a hydrothermal vent habitat. The museum does a good job of maintaining exhibits interesting to both adults and children. We easily could have spent hours within had we more time.

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Other kudos: Photography was allowed inside, entrance was free, and donations encouraged.

Traveling Review: Woods Hole Oceanic Institute

Traveling Review: Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox vs Baltimore Orioles)

Today, day 2 of my travels took us to Fenway Park in Boston for the Red Sox vs the Baltimore Orioles. My perspective is of one who is not into major league sports, and who has been to a single other MLB game as a young boy. As with yesterday, I traveled with my wife, my 6 week old son, and two seniors.

Finding the parking lot was slightly problematic as we’re not familiar with the area and the parking location we selected was underground, underneath the huge and beautiful reflection pool of the Christian Science Center, where people were hand feeding a pair of ducks, several persons walked dogs and a gentleman sailed a remote control boat.

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Traveling from there to Fenway took a matter of minutes as pedestrian egress appears to be well established in Boston, complete with bicycle lanes. Entrance into the park was relatively simple: get in line, place metal objects in the tray, place your bag, purse, etc onto the scanner and be on your way. Our seats were adjacent to the first base line under a covered mezzanine.

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As you can probably guess from the picture above, we were in the shade for the duration of the game, approximately 3.5 hours. With temperatures in the sun topping out at 50 degrees, I’d guess it was in the 40’s in the shade, not counting wind. If we hadn’t brought jackets just in case, we definitely would have been sucking.

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The entirety of the game day was as American as Apple pie, and everything I remembered it was with a splash of the modern: surprisingly comfortable old style wooden bleacher chairs to sit in, the smell of hot dogs and popcorn from the aisle traversing vendors, and the person operated scoreboard on the green wall.

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Above and beyond, flat screen monitors and enormous LED sign screens along side the Jumbotron displayed game and player statistics, instant replays, as well as tributes to local Massachusians, the color guard/singing of the national anthem,  and wounded warriors set to run in the Boston Marathon tomorrow. As someone who is easily distracted by TV’s, I expected the displays to take away from the game: instead they complimented the game unfolding before us quite nicely. Home players approached the plate to bat accompanied by theme music, adding a cool vibe to the feel of the overall game.

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The three and a half hours progressed nicely, again surpassing my expectations and pushing on my fun buttons. Innings of course, are three outs long for each team which we all know can vary, while the intermissions between were timed between two to three minutes. Seventh inning stretch called for the singing of “The Old Ball Game.” The end of the game came rather fast as fellow spectators, sure of the Red Sox defeat,   left the stadium to get a jump on traffic.

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Again, as a self proclaimed non-sports-type of guy, I had a blast, and preparedness between my wife and I really saved the day from being a cold miserable experience. From the very beginning, I couldn’t help picking a team, hoping for a win, and just having a good time win or lose.

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Traveling Review: Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox vs Baltimore Orioles)