Monthly Archives: November 2008

Spengler Directory: 4B2

Here are the street and location directories for Spengler, a Canton (neighborhood) in the fictional city of Albeit.



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Notes for the Needy

The following is an idea I have for a charity. If you would like to assist in its development or comment on how it could be improved, please e-mail me at sleet at


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Denver Character Collage

I tried to make something useful out of 61 cell phone photos of Denver. Click on the picture below to take a look. (The file is 27 megabytes, so it might take some time to load.)


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Kenneth Burchfiel

“Thanks for trucking over the gas.” Dan took one of the canisters and set it on the wing. “A few gallons should be all we need.”

“You’re not flying on this stuff, are you?”

“No. Just want to make sure the engine’s in working order.”
The polish on the Cessna belied its two decades of service. The racing stripes on the side looked like they had been painted yesterday; the tires on the undercarriage showed no sign of wear.

“Well, it’ is a beautiful plane. Did you fly much in it?”

“Oh, absolutely.” Dan stared at the cockpit. “My dad would take me up every other weekend. He was instrument rated, so we had no trouble flying through the clouds to regional strips. I worked the VOR from time to time.”

The orange “remove before flight” tags on the wings whipped around in the wind. The breeze was strong enough to move the propeller.

“We even flew into Canada.” He took the second canister and placed it under the tail. The only fuel inlets were on the wings.

“But you were never certified.”

“Never had the time. Farming’s a full-time occupation. Not a second to waste on ground school.”

“Your dad managed to find the time, no?”

Dan turned, leaned his shoulder against the plane and smiled.

“Oh, sure. He had plenty of time in his schedule. When I needed help with my math homework, he’d be out tuning the avionics. When his wife broke her arm and went to the emergency room, he was having too much fun up there to get her to the hospital. He didn’t let my graduation get in the way of his flight slot.” He patted the plane. “And where was she during our wedding reception? Polishing those racing stripes in his hangar, stroke after stroke after stroke.”

He reached over, took the last canister and set it on top of the plane.

“So I got the plane in his will. Fancy that. They sent it over a few weeks ago.”

“Did you have a chance to go to the funeral?”

“Funeral?” Dan stroked the aileron and smiled. “I don’t have time for a funeral. I’m busy testing the engine with you. You see, I’m like my father: I have priorities in life.”

A gust of wind sent the propeller whistling around. The orange flight tags held onto the wings with all their strength. Dan flexed the aileron up and down with his hand.

“I’m getting a craving. Do you have a lighter?”

His friend hesitated, then handed him a thin metal case. He turned it over in his hand, smiling, then knocked over the avgas tank on the wing. Straw-colored liquid spilled onto the tarmac.

His friend took two steps back. Dan picked up the tank on the ground, uncapped it and threw it at the tail. He then poured the last canister onto the fuselage.

For a second, Dan watched the gasoline pool onto the ground.

He then flicked the lighter and threw it at the Cessna. A jet of flame erupted out of the top and spread to the back of the plane. The racing stripes turned from red to brown to ash-black.

“I never knew my father,” Dan said with an empty canister at his side. “I only knew this plane.”

The fire melted a hole in the fuselage. Smoke hissed out of the cowl flaps.

Dan stood and watched the plume. His knees then began to bend, and he sunk to the ground.

For a while, there was silence. Dan held his head in his arms.

“It wasn’t my fault,” he said. “I’m telling you, it wasn’t my fault.”

His friend took a few steps forward and sat alongside him.

“He said once— he said that I’d make a good pilot. He was going to pay for my certification once I got out of college”

The sky cast shadows of smoke on their bodies. He watched the charred aileron drift up and down in the wind. Most of the smoke had receded.

Dan stood up and opened his mouth. He whispered something in the direction of the plane, then turned back to his friend.

“Thanks for coming by.”

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In-Design CS3’s Effects Tab: A 2-part guide

The following PDF links comprise an introduction to the new “Effects” menu on In-Design CS3, a popular design and layout program. The first link is an overview of the feature; the second is a visual guide to using each of its nine design and style tools.



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The Boredom Game

(Created in In-Design, meaning I had to save it as a PDF. Please click the link below to view the file.)


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Spengler Map

This map (see PDF link below) shows a bird’s eye view of Spengler, the Canton known best for the allegedly cultist group that lives within it. Note the grid-like road pattern and standardized building plan for each of the four outer provinces, just one indicator that Spengler is all about standardization and efficiency.

(This map is part of my series on “Albeit,” a fictional city around which I am basing some fictional work.)


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Understanding the Regiment’s government

[This article about the “Regiment” is part of a series on the fictional city of Albeit, a location in which much of my writing is based. The Regiment is a group within a Canton (neighborhood) called “Spengler.” It is one of 11 such Cantons in Albeit.]

Understanding the Regiment’s government


Kenneth Burchfiel fdHG

The Regiment, based in the Canton of Spengler, is unique from the rest of the city in plenty of ways. One of their most noticeable contrasts with Albeit proper, however, is the unique government they employ. Although every Canton has some form of regional politics, the Regiment has a system all to itself.

Within the Canton of Spengler lie five Provinces, each of which is then divided into nine Regions. The Regiment’s government, then, assumes three distinct Tiers: the regional, the provincial and the “Regimental.” It parallels the Local, Statewide and National system of American government,

The Regimental government and each province and region all have two main government buildings: a Political Quarters, which houses the politicians, and the Political Forum, in which the politicians converse with those below them. Each Political Quarters houses five leaders, meaning there is never one lone executive—even in the Regimental branch. Taking into account the number of provinces and regions, there are 45 regional leaders, 25 provincial leaders and 5 regimental leaders, or “Chiefs.” These 75 people comprise the entire legislative and executive branch of the regiment.

Each group of five leaders has three specific roles. First, they are obligated to listen to the advice of the lower Tier before voting on an issue. For example, if the Southwest province’s group of five is voting on whether or not to change the design of its traffic lights, they are to hold a hearing in the political forum in which Southwest’s 45 regional leaders try to sway their position one way or another. The general public performs the role of advisers for regional issues, allowing them some say in local legislation.

After listening to the advice and opinions of lower-rank politicians, the leaders then vote on the issues at hand. These votes are performed in the Political Quarters, meaning each group of five can decide major issues while eating breakfast or watching television. All votes are decided by majority rule, meaning nearly all issues are settled with just one round of ballots.

Finally, each Tier has the duty of electing the government positions above them. The citizens of a region vote for that region’s five leaders; each province’s 45 leaders come together to vote for the five provincial leaders; the 25 provincial leaders in Spengler vote on the five Chiefs of the Regiment. While this system of elections does not allow much in the way of public participation, it gives each group of five reason to listen to the advice of the lower Tiers; after all, they depend on the Tier below them for votes in the election.

There are more than 75 members of government, of course. The judicial system—independent of the executive and legislative groups—has a final authority in politics. Each group of five has dozens of office workers, secretaries, spokespeople and managers at their service. Nevertheless, it is these 75 executives, legislators and electors that comprise the core of the Regiment’s government. What they say and do makes a direct impact on the condition—and the future—of the Regiment.

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A Riddle Collection

A Riddle Collection


Kenneth Burchfiel fdHG

From time to time, a riddle pops up in my head. The following is a growing collection of said riddles, with some more challenging (and debatable) than the others. The answers are at the bottom of the page.

  1. Luxembourg has a minimum drinking age of 16, whereas the Netherlands has no drinking age at all. A fourteen-year-old boy stands on the border of the two countries, with one foot in the Netherlands and the other in Luxembourg. Is he allowed to drink?
  1. A policeman, having heard of a minor bank robbery in downtown Chicago, caught up with a teenager carrying 15 20-dollar bills. When questioned, the girl explained that she had been in possession of the bills for quite some time: some were from an ATM machine, others from her parents and still others from her grandmother’s birthday card. The policeman, not convinced, asked to see all of the bills. Within seconds of thumbing through them, he handcuffed the teenager for committing the crime. What about the bills made him certain that she had committed the crime?

    (Assume the cleanliness of the bills does not play a factor.)


  1. The situation is impossible, seeing as Luxembourg and the Netherlands do not border one another.

The fifteen bills had consecutive serial numbers; in other words, the codes near the bottom right of the bill were in order for all fifteen bills. The only way this could have been remotely possible is if they came from a banker, who would have received the bills from the mint in that special order.

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Kenneth Burchfiel


    She traced her hands across the page, feeling for the metallic seal at the bottom. It was no use reading beyond the “Congratulations!” at the top; that was the only word she needed.

    Miranda folded the letter in half, walked over to a wooden bin and dropped it in. There was a checklist on the side of the box; she dug a pencil out of her pocket and made a check. Seven out of seven. Every single one a stretch—to the rest of the country, at least.

    The sun drew a square of light on the faux granite counter. It looked like one of her letters, only brighter. She placed her hand on it, feeling the same warmth that crawled up her skin when those seven envelopes arrived in the mail.

    So this was her celebration. She had the house to herself, at the least.

    Miranda looked out the window. A few kids were out by the basketball hoop; she knew them only by their SAT scores. The one on the left: 1570. A pushover. The other two came closer, but she still outpaced them.

    She reached for the telephone and punched in ten digits. Always awkward, making these sorts of calls to those outside her quartile, but they were her friends.

    Three rings, then four, then a beep.

    “Jennifer, hello. It’s Miranda. Just calling to let you know I got into—”

    She heard a loud noise, then a dial tone. Miranda looked at the receiver before putting it back into place.

Miranda was the only animated thing in the house, Friday night or not. She and her friends used to spend these afternoons making smoothies or gossiping about the hunk of the week. She had gone off to better pursuits. Applications, for instance.

    She leaned against the counter. Seven for seven. She had won in the Northeast, the Northwest, the Midwest—well, not in the Midwest. Those schools weren’t quite her league. But the Northeast had gone her way. What state had crisper weather in the fall? Massachusetts? Maine?

    Her hands found their way back to the receiver. She played it safer, this time, dialing a number she had known since the age of three.

    “What is it, Miranda?”

    “I got into the last two. You know, the—”

    “That’s great, honey. Look. I’m busy with this proposition. We can talk about this during dinner.”

    “But I—”

    “How does chicken sound? We haven’t gotten chicken in a long time. I’ll swing by on the way home. Don’t forget to feed the fish.”
    Don’t forget to feed the fish. Most parents just said “bye” before they hung up. Or “love you.”

    The house did get quiet without the mailman. She swiped at the floor with her shoe, releasing a few stray grains of dirt that had escaped the vacuum.

    But she still had to spread the news. The phone book lay open on the table, with envelope 4 lodged in as a bookmark. Miranda flipped through, looking for names underlined in green ink, but most had been crossed out. She had been too upfront in her earlier calls.

    The names and numbers did not matter. After all, she still had sweatshirts to buy—dorm accessories to personalize. The entries in this phone book would be stale within a year; she would be at one of seven dream institutions, living it up with a crowd meant for her.

    As she returned the directory to its resting place, Miranda noticed a few photographs above the bin. That one—yes, they had gone skiing together. She had almost forgotten. They rarely saw each other in high school; only one of them had the initiative to take honors classes.

    And what was this picture of? A church retreat? Yes, back when she did not have scholarship forms to fill out and essays to edit. Serious applicants had their priorities.

    So this was her party; her celebration. Not a single rejection.

    From the colleges, at least.

    Miranda stared across the room to the wall, trying to envision what her dorm would look like. There would be a roommate in it, for once: someone whom she could converse with on a higher level. They would put up a periodic table, and a list of calculator shortcuts, and even a few articles on Bohr. Their room would never be quiet; there would always be some sort of joke, some conversation going on. Never silence. They would ban that. They would ban indifference.

    She looked out the window once more. The basketball bounced aimlessly from player to player, never going anywhere, never doing anything worthwhile. Yet it received all the attention…

    Miranda threw the bin of letters to the ground, breaking the wood in half. She took the letter with the seal and crumpled it into a ball. Her legs smashed the box against the cabinets until the wood splintered. A letter balanced on the counter; she ripped it in half and flung the pieces at the floor.

    In time, she caught herself. Her right foot had a cut running up the ankle.

    The house regained its silence. Breathless, Miranda held herself against the counter and stared at the pieces of the bin. The phone vibrated on the table.




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