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Albion Fire Auxiliary Holds Fundraiser

The Albion Fire Auxiliary is having a Sportsman Raffle Fundraiser, to support the Albion Volunteer Fire Department's efforts to purchase fire equipment not available through their limited budget. Only 500 tickets are being sold by firefighters at $10 per ticket, or 3 tickets for $20. A Remington Model 770 .270 caliber Hunting Rifle with Scope is first prize, a Parker Bushwhacker Crossbow Hunting Package is second prize, and a Case Hunting Knife is third prize, with the drawing date of November 11th.

The Albion Fire Auxiliary has recently become incorporated as a Nonprofit 501 c 3 organization, so any donations are fully tax deductible. It's the mission of the Albion Fire Auxiliary to support the Albion Volunteer Firefighters' efforts to better serve their community and its emergency needs.

For more information, contact Project Chairperson, Bryan Peterson at 260-564-1995.

For those of you who aren't into raffles or perhaps don't live close by, don't forget that all the proceeds from our book, Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights: A Century or So With the Albion Fire Department also go to the AFD's operational fund. Like the raffle tickets, a copy is only $10, or less as an e-book.

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A few years ago my Blogger posts averaged maybe fifty views. This year they've been averaging around 150, give or take. My most recent post, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfiction, is within two of hitting 700 views.
Unless I've missed one, it's a record for my blog views. What am I to make of this? That BtVS fandom isn't dying? That a lot of people haven't forgotten when I was active in the fanfiction community? That it was a slow news day?
It's been two years since I wrote a fanfic, having gotten busy with original fiction and the more un-fun aspects of life in general. This makes me wonder if I should go back to what I originally planned to do, when I first got published: Write a fanfiction to celebrate every milestone of my original fiction journey, like selling a story, completing a manuscript, or seeing something published. It might bring more attention to my original fiction, but--and we all need this--it would also be fun.
Or maybe it was just a slow news day.
Or ... jeez, I just now thought of this. The title of the blog was "Buffy The Vampire Slayer Fanfiction: A Very Bad Idea". Suppose people turned in to see why I thought fanfiction was a very bad idea? I've always been bad with titles, but was "A Very Bad Idea" a very bad idea?

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfiction: “A Really Bad Idea”

A few months ago I offered to write a new fanfiction for my friend Tabz, and she requested Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Then stuff happened and, well ... better late than never. It went up originally on my fanfiction.net account at https://www.fanfiction.net/~ozma914

This takes place in my post-series universe (which someone dubbed the OzmaVerse), but all you need to know is that Tara and the Buffybot were both brought back to life by highly questionable magical means, and the slayers are now headquartered in Chicago.

A Really Bad Idea

They took shelter wherever they could, but suddenly there seemed far too little shelter to go around. It was just a lounge area, after all. One could joke about Chicago all one wanted, but no, the furniture was not made bulletproof.

Xander chose a couch, because it allowed him head to toe protection; if not from bullets, at least from blasts of magic and all but the most robust edged weapons. The padding might even, with a little luck, stop a crossbow bolt. “This is a terrible idea.”

From under a gaming table, four of the youngest slayers turned to stare at him. Only now did they understand that the table would shield them only from falling objects, such as axes, or pool balls. A curtain had been laid across it and draped down to the floor on the side facing the door, but it wouldn’t shield them from a stiff breeze, let alone anything supernatural. Eyes wide, they cast around for a different spot. All spots were taken.

“It is not a terrible idea. Stop saying that.” Despite her assurances, Willow had crouched down between Xander and Kennedy. The latter seemed more bemused than threatened by the whole thing, which Xander chalked up to the slayer’s famous overconfidence.

“No, this is my first time saying that. Before I only thought it.”

“Well, somebody’s been saying that, and it’s making me mad.” Willow looked around. “Who was saying that?”

From their left, where she was barely visible with her back against a recliner, Dawn raised her hand. From the right, where he’d taken refuge behind a snack table, Giles did the same. Several other hands also went up around the room.

“Well … it’s making me mad.” Kennedy patted the witch’s shoulder.

Apparently not concerned with who he made mad, Giles pointed toward the door. It was one of two leading to the lounge in the former Watchers Council’s Chicago refuge, but it was the one nearest the skyscraper’s main elevator. “This is madness, Willow. We’re inviting this threat directly into our own headquarters, and you continually deny that it is a threat.”

“It’s totally a threat,” Dawn added.

“Well, if it is we’ll face it together.” Willow had that determined face that Xander liked so much, when he wasn’t hating it—like now. “There’s strength in numbers. After all, Buffybot is here.”

“No, she’s not,” Dawn said. “At midnight she told Tara she’s been programmed to go into hiding for the entire day. Then she went into hiding.”

Oh, that was interesting. “A robot bailed on us,” Xander told Willow. “I mean, even she knew better. Think about it.”

“Well, what made her think …” Willow shook her head. “Tara, did Botty say why she had that programming?”

Dawn poked her head up. “Tara left with Kara and Dana to check out that report of seismic activity in Boston.”

“I told them to hold off on that,” Giles protested. “We were all to gather here.”

Dawn threw her hands out. “Tara said—and she said this, not me—that she wouldn’t be caught dead in Chicago right now.”

Willow looked stricken. At first Xander thought it was the reminder of Tara’s death, until she gave a plaintive sigh. “I wanted everyone together.”

“I came,” Faith called, from somewhere across the room. “Xander made me.”

Willow looked to Xander, who shrugged. “I told her there’d be chocolate and booze, if we survived.”


Xander’s phone buzzed, and he only jumped a little. “It’s the signal.”

“Places, everyone!” At Giles’ words, everyone scrunched down a little lower, trying to be completely invisible. “Xander, is Jason ready in the armory? Andrew’s manning the communications center?”

Willow jerked around. “The armory?”

Heh. “That’s where the big weapons are, Wil. You wouldn’t let us bring them in here.”

“Oh, for—!”

The phone buzzed again. “Elevator’s reached the fourteenth,” Xander whispered.

Air seemed to be sucked from the room, as everyone held their collective breaths. Someone started praying. “Here we go again,” Dawn whispered.

The door opened.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer walked in.

Everyone knew what to do. They leaped up, as one, to scream, “Happy birthday!

And then they held their breath. Even Faith.

Buffy stood there, frozen, only her eyes moving as they surveyed the mass of friends and co-slayers. She, also, held her breath. Then she looked toward Willow. “Wil, I really appreciate this, but …”

“No, Buffy, look.” Willow hurried forward, then turned to take in all the naysayers. “I know you’ve had some bad birthdays.”

“You’re so good at understatement.”

“But I warded the entire building, and even sealed off the magic room. There’s no unusual reports of anything except that Boston deal, and that’s just some shaking ground halfway across the continent. No weather systems are moving in, and the eclipse was weeks ago. Seriously, nothing’s happening.”

Buffy looked around. “Well …”

“We’ve got cake, and snacks, and this punch stuff that Faith spiked, and another bowl of punch for the underage people.”

A chorus of dismayed “Ahhh’s” rolled past.

“No disasters, no attacks, no apocalypses. We’ve got it handled, I promise.”

“Well.” Finally, Buffy relaxed—a little. “Thanks, Wil. Thanks, everyone, I really appreciate it. Now, show me to that punch!”

There was a general surge toward the snack table, just as Xander’s phone buzzed. He glanced down at it, and felt the blood drain from his face. No way. No frakking way.

He was still trying to figure out how to break it to them when Andrew entered on a dead run, so fast he had to grab the door jamb to keep from rocketing into the nearest furniture. No one noticed at first, except for a few nearest him and another few, including Dawn and Giles, who simply braced themselves.

Andrew gathered a lungful of air.

Godzilla’s attacking Boston!

Silence followed. Then Willow said, “That’s not funny, Andrew.”

Apparently having anticipated this reaction, Andrew aimed a remote at the big TV on one end of the room, then tuned to the news.

Godzilla was attacking Boston.

Xander held up his phone. “Um, Tara just texted … she says they’ll need some backup. He headed toward the door. “I’ll help Jason get the weapons around.”

Dawn was right behind him. “I’ll wake up Botty.”

“But …” Shaking her head, Willow turned away. “I’ll unseal the magic room.”


At Buffy’s voice, Xander looked back. The Slayer had rested her hand on Willow’s shoulder. “It really was a nice thought.”

Willow gave a weak smile.

“But next time … let’s just make it a regular work day, okay? That way there’ll be less work.”

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Great Fires Aren't Good

The actual theme of Fire Prevention Week for 2017 is Every Second Counts, Plan Two Ways Out. This is excellent advice, and you can find out more about it here:  http://www.nfpa.org/public-education/campaigns/fire-prevention-week-2

However, I didn't plan two ways out, or even one way in, so I had nothing for Fire Prevention Week this year. Instead this is from the "Best of Slightly Off the Mark", which is a little silly because no newspaper is running Slightly Off the Mark at the moment. What isn't silly is fire prevention, which, you might be surprised to learn, is what Fire Prevention Week is about.

           The National Fire Prevention Association would like to point out that, if your smoke detector is not working, it won’t work.
           Sure, it seems obvious. But it’s also obvious that if sprinkler systems aren’t installed they don’t put out fires, safety belts that don’t get used aren’t safe, and people who stay in Washington, D.C. turn into blithering idiots. And yet we defeat sprinkler laws, don’t belt up, and reelect blithering idiots, so sometimes the obvious needs saying.
           This is why we have Fire Prevention Week, which is a week during which we try to stress preventing fires. Fire Prevention Week is always nearest October 9th. That’s the historical date of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which took place in 1871, was indeed in Chicago, but really wasn’t all that great.
           “Great” is a term used for fires that get so out of control that they get weeks named after them. The NFPA has devoted itself to keeping fires from turning great, and the best way to do that is to keep them from getting out of control. It’s counterintuitive, but they would not then be called “good”.
           More important is to keep people from getting killed in a fire, which is the job of smoke alarms, which are just like smoke detectors except with fewer syllables. A working smoke alarm cuts the risk of dying in a fire in half. You don’t have to be Captain Obvious to see the value of that.
           Here’s the fun part, though, and by “fun” I mean “tragic”: When talking smoke alarms, you always have to stick in the word “working”. In 23% of home fire deaths, there were smoke alarms—but they didn’t work. Why? Sometimes they were old or damaged, but usually the batteries were dead or missing.
           “Honey, the batteries in the camera are dead.”
           “I’ll just take some out of the smoke detector. Don’t worry, I’ll remember to put them back.”
           Sure you will. Stop at the dollar store and get more for the camera, you schmuck.
           But even if the batteries stay in, there’s no guarantee they’re working. Batteries go dead from time to time, and dead batteries lead to dead people.
           Thus the idea of changing them twice a year, when Daylight Savings Time comes and goes. Whine all you want about springing forward and falling back (and you will … you will), but it’s a great reminder to put in a good set of working batteries. If the old ones are still good and you’re particularly cheap, put those in your digital camera. Sure, there’s a chance they’ll go dead and you’ll miss catching that UFO hovering over your house ... but the little green men are going to steal your camera and make all the photos blurry anyway, so why bother?
           In between changes, you should test your smoke alarm batteries every month. This is about the same rate at which a major celebrity gets arrested. If you’re really paranoid you can check them every few days, at the rate a minor celebrity gets arrested.
           If the smoke alarm is more than ten years old, replace it. If you can’t remember how old it is, replace it. If you can’t remember how old you are, have someone else replace it. And yes, if it doesn’t work when you test it, replace it. Thank you, Captain Obvious.
           There was a time when experts recommended installing a smoke alarm on each level of the home and outside each sleeping area. They now say to install one inside each bedroom, in addition to the others. By my estimation that would mean five smoke alarms in my house. If you count every room my dog sleeps in, that would mean nine smoke alarms, or more if you count each spot as a separate bedroom.
           That may seem like a lot, but I’ve long had a suspicion that my dog smokes when we’re asleep. Have you ever seen hairballs burn? Not pretty.
           Can’t afford a smoke alarm? Yes you can. You, put down that beer. You, put down that cigarette. You, put down that game controller. And you, put down that—oh, man. Dude, close your curtains! I can’t unsee that.
           Yes, you can scrape up the money to save your life. I did a quick internet search, and found smoke alarms for sale ranging from twenty to less than five dollars. I wouldn’t necessarily go for the cheapest ones, but you can cover your entire home for less than the cost of that 32 inch flat screen TV you want to mount in your bathroom.
           On a related note, you do not need a flat screen TV in your bathroom. We’ll talk electrical safety in a future column.
(Oh, and remember that sales of our book, Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights: A Century or So With the Albion Fire Department, go to the fire department's operational fund.)

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