Wil Wheaton: Cool RAMBLE

You first have to read this blog post by TV’s Wil Wheaton – he tells a great story about his relationship with Jonathan Frakes, and how important it is to find the family that laughs with you, not at you. I’ll wait. Tagging @annewheaton and @lenperalta

I can almost imagine what it must be like to have a dad who loves you – WIL WHEATON dot NET
— Read on wilwheaton.net/2021/11/i-can-almost-imagine-what-it-must-be-like-to-have-a-dad-who-loves-you/

First of all, he’s no longer “TV’s Wil Wheaton,” ironic construct. He’s “Wil Wheaton’s Wil Wheaton.” He’s made a good life and career for himself as a writer, voice actor, nerd-culture TV host, blogger, and most importantly, dad to two sons. He’s also an awesome pet dad, though he doesn’t mention it in this particular blog post.

This blog post made me so happy and my face got all leaky – based on the comments, a lot of faces got all leaky out there in the internets. It’s a nice look at past Wil and current Wil, and how he relates (literally, in a chosen-family way) to fellow actor and Star Trek: Next Gen alum Jonathan Frakes.

Longtime readers of Wil’s blog will know a lot of his backstory; in fact, Wil was a very early blogger, almost a pioneer at the beginning of blogging. As it happens, I’ve been reading his blog for more than 20 years – certainly from when we still lived in the condo we had in a different suburb, and from when this blog was still put together with Movable Type.

At the earliest time I became aware of his blog, Wil was years beyond his Star Trek career – struggling, trying to figure out how to grownup with his young family, recording early writing success and wondering if he’d get to act again. I continued to dip in and out of his blog, catching glimpses and privately cheering when he reported something good happening – books published, voice-over roles, seeing old friends at Star Trek conventions.

Some time after that, after we moved to this house, and while I was still doing long blog posts, AND just after taking on the role of webmistress for the Holy Moly church website, this happened. 

Poster by Len Peralta / @jawboneradio (CC Some Rights Reserved)

Just re-reading that reminded me of why I missed writing long blogposts. I used to do that  A LOT, maybe too much. Also, many of the friends mentioned in the first part of the post (where the picture links are busted) have now moved to Arizona, and we’ll be seeing them soon. We’ll see Mitch and Gloria, too.

So I want to thank Wil for the comedic slap shot to the head that led me down that particularly enjoyable RAMBLE (random-access memory blog link excursion). And I hope he’s got a chance to work with Frakes and the rest of his extended chosen Star Trek family soon. Or maybe just take a road trip with Frakes, a van, and two GoPros.

Greetings From The Late Pandemonial Era

Hey, everybody! Happy Infrastructure Week! We finally got ‘er done after booting Tan Dump Lord from office, along with his merry band of corrupt seditionists.


It’s actually Infrastructure Week for real! Hope it’s not a dumpster fire.

It’s been about a year and a half since my last blogposts of any substance (admittedly, they were very light on substance).

Since posting Lather, Rinse, Repeat in March 2020, a LOT happened. Once again, my long lapse in posting makes me feel compelled to play catch-up. InigoMontoyaLetMeSumUp

In March 2020, David was in the middle of a job search – his choice – and I had no idea what was coming as far as my own job. I was furloughed from my Brand Name corporate travel management company in mid-April, 2020, and thanks to the unexpected but welcome act of Congress, I was on a pretty generous unemployment scheme. My health care was continued by my company, too.

David was worried, but eventually got a job with a pretty well-known company that has retail products, in about June of 2020. He’s not doing the kind of software development that he really loves and is known for in his community, but he’s happy and has been working from home.

I ended up buying a sewing machine, teaching myself to sew simple masks, and did pretty well at using them for donation premiums to the American Diabetes Association. Eventually I bought a better sewing machine and made some gifts for new family members. This was all documented in my Twitter feed.

This method of sharing selected tweets as a collection is, of course, deprecated. Because it was somewhat useful and somewhat possible to do in Tweetdeck, which is also deprecated. Thanks, @Jack.

So in April 2020, I was furloughed from work while David was still mid-jobsearch, and Illinois had entered a “Safe At Home” status in late March, asking people to keep trips outside the home limited to essential errands like grocery-shopping and getting car repairs and things. Essential businesses also included bike shops and sewing machine/crafts stores, which was a blessing as it kept a lot of people busy either riding bikes for sanity, or making stuff for themselves and others for sanity.

As my embedded timeline shows, I was intently focused on the 2020 presidential election – I left a LOT of stuff out. These are what I think of as the emotional high- and low-lights.

Politics, Schmolitics

On Election Night, I basically “slept” with my sleep headphones on, listening to the returns. I also did that the night before the election was called for Biden, as the count in Arizona (the first, actual one) went on. At the time the election was called, I was trying to figure out why Rudy Giuliani, America’s Former Noun, Verb, and 9/11 Mayor was standing in front of a garage door at a landscaping company. This happy gift from God went on for days, weeks even.

I had so many funs reacting to that.

Later on (see main embedded timeline) a hardcore Punk musician named Laura Grace actually performed a show at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, which is why I bought the shirt. The pinnacle for me was probably the “VR Chat Furries Re-Create FSTL and run around looking at everything” incident (also in the timeline embed).

It’s really weird – Rudy’s been very quiet lately, after his meltdown. Insert “snicker-snicker” GIF here on your own.

I was live-tweeting on Jan. 6, 2021 for the certification by Congress of then President-Elect Biden’s victory in the election. That whole thread is in the embed, too. Since then, the whole saga of the insurrection-coup-failed revolution has been churning along in the back of my mind. It makes me feel sick at how close we came as we ONLY NOW are getting more information from various journalists’ books and revelations from the Jan. 6 Commission in the House.

We HAVE to keep the house and Senate in 2022, but with gerrymandering and decades-long election fuckery by the Dominionist Right, it’s not looking good. The Council for National Policy will stop at nothing.

I’m just thankful that at long last, more competent and less corrupt people finally got Infrastructure Week done, even though it wasn’t everything that we wanted thanks to (hawk-split) Manchin and Sinema at the behest of the gorram Donor Class.

Work Stuff

Meanwhile, workwise: I spent more than a year on furlough. David’s been working for more than a year now where he’s at, and my job came back originally as a temp gig in May 2021. I’m grateful for the extra unemployment benefits I could sign up for in the state of Illinois. There were people in Red states that likely never did get through to sign up for  their rightful benefits – thinking of Florida and Texas. The cruelty is the point.

For a few months, I worked for my company on a “leisure travel” project where we provided trained agents for a related travel concern, using very weird tools and mostly hating it because the callers were so hard to deal with. Finally, in August, I was “called back to the Big League” and found myself on a corporate team, taking calls and emails from business travelers.

More recently, I’ve also taken on something I call the “UK/EU Project” where I handle email requests from selected accounts based in, yes, the UK or in Europe. That’s been interesting, if frustrating, because of having to learn a lot of new tools (and in one account’s case, not feeling like the training and support has been there). It’ll get better, but I’m on vacation for 2 weeks and will have to re-learn everything (and probably be saddled with more accounts) when I get back at the end of the month.

Family and Friends

First of all, we are so, so fortunate not to have lost anyone close to us in our circle of family and friends to COVID-19. I’ve kind of fallen off my family’s radar the last few years (sisters in Idaho and North Carolina and their kids/grandkids, cousins in Utah and Arkansas) because I pulled back from Facebook and rarely check in there. Still, I’m happy to report that there are 2 new people who came into the world on the Illinois side in the last year, and they are very very cute. I haven’t Tweeted much about them out of concerns for privacy and safety, but take my word for it, they’re cute. There’s even more little kids I’ve never met on my side in ID and NC, but that’s for future trips. For now, we’re happy to get photo updates on everybody, but the most prolific photo-posters are the Illinois contingent.

We don’t see as much of them as we’d like; my nephew and niece Josh and Ashley are the parents of Dean Micah, and my niece and nephew Jen and Tyler are the parents of Brenna. It’s complicated getting everybody together as they are at nearly opposite ends of the broader Chicago/northern Illinois area, and in Jen’s case, she picks and chooses carefully. But when they can manage it, we’ve enjoyed seeing the little ones change and grow when we’ve gotten together.

There’s a bit in the embedded timeline about Jen’s baby shower and wedding – I have more pictures, but what I included is the gist. My friend Sheryl helped Jen with some of the wedding stuff – flowers and things, and my niece Naomi was helping her sister as much as she could, given work constraints. Sheryl is much more than a friend of the family at this point – she’s more of a dear aunt or motherly figure for the girls and Josh (and their spouses), and she’ll have them over to her home for their now traditional Thanksgiving brunch.

A few months before the pandemic, we got the wonderful news that David’s niece Melissa would be able to move into a new shared home in the Chicago area. She had been living Downstate, 5 hours away, and it was really hard on her being so far away from her family. It was hard on her grandpa, and her dad, too – because the burden was on them to go pick Melissa up (meet her staff halfway, usually) to bring her back for any major holiday or family gathering.

Suddenly, it was possible to drive just 25 minutes to pick Melissa up to join us for a family dinner! And just as suddenly, she and her whole house were so securely locked down in mid-March, 2020 that we could not hug her or take her to her grandpa’s house for a visit – we had to settle for waving at her through her windows, and got into using Facetime with her for weekly phone calls again. Thank God, when the vaccine finally became available in the early winter of 2021, she was in one of the earliest groups to get it. Even so, we couldn’t just pick her up for an excursion; we had to arrange for a Covid-19 test before she could go back, and at that time, that meant a 5 day wait for results! Which didn’t make sense, since she had to get the test at the beginning of the stay, and risk exposure during all the waiting time. Fortunately, Melissa’s house was spared any cases of Covid-19; some of the other houses in the organization were not so lucky.

We did lose David’s Aunt Norma early in the pandemic; this was not Covid-related but it was a terrible shock as that side of the extended family is very, very close to each other, and Norma was the linchpin. It was so, so, so very weird watching the burial via YouTube, as that was during the time of “NO MORE THAN 10 PEOPLE” gathered at a time, even outdoors. And that total included funeral staff! So my father-in-law could attend, as a close family member, but just a few others (Uncle Bill, her adult children, and I think one adult grandchild spoke). We went to the dedication of her headstone a year later, and it was nice to see everyone gathered in one place. We hadn’t planned to go back to our cousin’s house for the luncheon (we hadn’t been with that big a group of people in more than a year) but spontaneously decided to go, and we were glad we did.

In former years, Norma used to invite the whole extended family to her big house for Thanksgiving, but more recently, she had drawn back from that and left it to her adult kids to organize after she and Bill downsized. So for several years, we’d made our own plans for Thanksgiving, as it seemed nobody was taking on the task of doing the full-extended-family event anymore. Which was fine, as it gave us a chance to do something closer to home and not have to drive more than an hour in any weather with food. David’s dad and stepmom live just 15 minutes from us now, so we get together all the time for dinner out and so on.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, it’ll be different from last year. VERY different. This time last year, there was no vaccine, and I didn’t want to risk infecting Shel and Linda (aforementioned ‘rents) by entering their home for any reason without masks. At the worst points, I only wanted to stand outside and wave at them through their door! But the improving test-positivity rates in Illinois last spring, and the blessed vaccines, made life much more normal here.

However, in November 2020, post-election, pre-holiday season, we “weren’t there yet.”

So we hosted an all-day Zoom Thanksgiving. We had an open Zoom video chat for hours, and anyone we knew could drop in while we served ourselves a nice little dinner. I talked to my friend Ellen in Germany (it was timed so it was evening for her) and many other far-flung friends and family). It was actually pretty fun, and cleanup afterwards was a snap.

This year? We’re traveling to be with Mitch and Gloria in Phoenix. We will be stepping aboard an aircraft and hoping nobody decides to cut up rough and make a Freedumb Seen about masks or whatever. We will visit our sibs, and then go to the Grand Canyon for a couple of nights, where for my belated birthday I’ll be getting my lifetime National Parks pass – of course, I didn’t turn 62 early enough to get the cheaper lifetime pass, but I am happy to pay the higher rate in order to support our national parks. After the time at Grand Canyon, we go back to Mitch and Gloria’s for a group Thanksgiving with them and their neighbors; they seem to have found a wonderful community.

For much of last year I didn’t do much but log some couch time – even with all the free time! I didn’t feel like riding my bike! Finally, with my friend Sheryl, I made a pact to ride my indoor bike trainer while she walked on an indoor low-impact trampoline.

This got us through the first 5 months of 2021 and I really felt great – and then my job came back and my schedule changed. Suddenly my daily chats with Sheryl, while we planned for Big Family Events, dropped from a daily hour on the bike (or an hour walk while my knee was recovering from a sprain) to NOTHING. No walks, no biking, nada, except on the weekends. I still have to figure out some afternoon-evening time to schedule something consistently with Sheryl. But I did enjoy our walkie-talks or bikey-talks so much, so I have to get going with that again.

We’ve seen some of our other friends in the cycling and ADA (American Diabetes Association) communities, most notably a wonderful 4th of July barbecue at Carlos and Marlene’s in the far south suburbs. I’ve seen my friend BL for a couple of walks and I dropped off masks with other friends and visited.

Church Stuff – Holy Moly

The last time I was in church at St Nicholas, prior to last Sunday, was mid March 2020. This was just before the news broke about the choral group in Skagit Valley, WA that turned into a super-spreader event. After that, the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago put out the word – no in-person worship, no indoor gatherings of any kind. Like a lot of faith communities, there was some scrambling to provide some kind of service. In the case of Holy Moly, where we’re not super technical, the solution was to just put out a Facebook Live service from Father Manny’s home. Other churches came up with more elaborate streaming solutions, but when I finally went to church Sunday, I walked in to find that a tripod was set up in the aisle, ready for Manny to put his iPhone in it and start streaming to the church Facebook page. No extra mike, no ability to move the camera.

Well, okay, I had stepped back from providing more technical solutions more than a year ago – we host the church website but I’d been feeling less comfortable with my ability to do anything more complicated than uploading pictures and updating the events page, so I had given access to 2 lay members for coverage. And they did their best. It’s fine. But now that I’m coming back, I may need to check under the hood and see what they’ve done in the interim while I’m off this week. I haven’t had a chance to talk to the other lay folks that have something to do with that.

Well, here’s Sunday’s service – the officiant is Fr. Manny Borg, the musical offering is a solo by my choir friend Jess and accompanied by She Whose Downbeat Must Be Obeyed, Mary.

And the sound is awful. I’m pretty embarassed.

I should have checked in earlier. Manny used to do this from home and it was okay, but I stopped watching each week and didn’t realize how the transition to in-person worship sometime in the late summer had kept the same setup, but at a far greater distance.

Now, I happen to know that we (St Nick) own a very nice video camera setup, and there’s a microphone with it. We also own a very nice digital recorder, and there was an even better microphone with that. But both rigs are about 10 years old, and in the case of the digital recorder, it may have ended up with someone who became estranged and later died. I don’t know where it is. And the video camera? I don’t know if the woman who used it most is still around, and no one else currently knows how to run it.

I really need to talk to Manny and his more technical better half to see if they realize there are better options than putting an iPhone in a tripod.

Anyway, it was a nice service, and because the choir is not supposed to all sing together yet, we just had practice for our upcoming Lessons and Carols service, in which we will sing while wearing masks… and on Sundays, we scatter ourselves out in the congregation. There’s no hymns; just piano, organ, and a weekly soloist.

Upcoming events, including the first choral performances we’ll do for the visit of the assisting bishop and the Lessons and Carols service are HERE.

Yes, I know it’s in all caps, bold. I didn’t have the heart or inclination to edit it on my iPhone when I pulled it from the most recent email bulletin. Speaking of which, I need to talk to Douglas, who does the weekly bulletins using Constant Contact. I think he’s manually editing the front page template to add the bulletins each week. There’s a better way.

That brings us pretty much up to date, and I’ve spent all day on this, on my old laptop, in bed, because I can. I do enjoy Infrastructure Week, which happens to coincide with Vacation Week 1 for me.

What Next?

Life has been on hold around here for three months, and just got confirmation that it’s likely to stay that way into the fall.

What next? My chosen career in corporate travel isn’t coming back anytime soon, and my current hobbies (sewing and knocking around virtual worlds) don’t really fill the bill.

School? Learn a new skill? Take up where I left off? Use my chameleonic superpower for good, not napping on the couch undetected?

I shall make inquiries.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat Ad Infinitum

So about six weeks ago, we were waiting for something good to happen.

My husband David is in between bullet points on his resume – it’s set up like a very long leave of absence and we are fine, but it’s a frustrating and confusing process in the Trumpizoic-COVID19 Era. You may find out more about him at Geeky Ramblings.

If you look at my Twitter timeline, you’ll see a really long pinned thread that documents my day-to-day (or minute-to-minute) experience of the Coronavirus Crisis.

The most helpful link I could offer is the Illinois Department of Public Health page that updates daily with Gov. Pritzker’s updates on the state response. As of 5pm yesterday the state is on “shelter at home” status.

As of yesterday, Saturday March 21:

As of today, Sunday March 22:

Yikes. This week is going to be rough.

You should check your state’s health department page, or the CDC page. Pay no attention to the orange shitgibbon flinging dung from the White House press podium. He has nothing useful, let alone accurate, to say.

As the numbers increase, it’s important to keep track of how quickly the DEATH numbers DOUBLE. Research on your own, but the rule of thumb seems to be that doubling every 3 days or less is BAD and will steepen the curve of mortality. The goal of staying home, and sheltering in place, is to slow the rate of infection and increase the number of days it takes before the mortality rate doubles. This will help to #FlattenTheCurve and keep our health care system from being flooded out and overwhelmed.

We as a country are trying not to lose our shit, and there are signs that people are responding in creative and positive ways – online singalongs, sharing recipes for bread and making simple masks to donate to hospitals to save the medical-grade respirator masks for the front lines in this war. I read where shuttered Broadway show casts have offered spontaneous performances before the state of New York locked down, and some of the costume and fashion community is gearing up to make masks (hospitals have requested donations but they’re aimed more at the worried well for now, though they are washable and compliant with CDC guidelines).

I went out yesterday just to get out of the house, before the state-mandate to shelter in place took effect, and visited the local ALDI, which was interesting, along with da Jewel. No paper products, no bread, very little in the way of cleaning supplies. No flour, either (about that, see below). Who ARE these profiteering assholes? We were already set for at least a week, but I did get some “nice to have” nonessentials: honey, popcorn, CLIF nutrition bars, deli meats and cheese. We’re ordering takeout tonight (and will tip generously, a welcome trend).

I’m thinking about doing a vegetable garden for the first time in about 5 years, but would have to plan carefully to choose stuff that I could possibly can – like tomatoes. Or cucumbers? David LOVES “new” pickles. Maybe onions again. Carrots? Haven’t touched the compost bin, it’s probably a horror show.

Apparently, we’re on a war footing, as Trump can’t function without an adversary to deflect on. He delayed invoking the Defense Protection Act for requiring manufacturers to switch to making medical supplies? Why? And then when Trump finally invoked it, he declined to actually exercise the powers. WHY? Meanwhile, it appears that the feds are outbidding state procurement agencies as they make new bulk orders, while distributing expired equipment to states in lower amounts than requested. Except for red state Florida, which got everything it requested. WHY? The Washington Post and other papers are covering this, and more.

This Twitter thread has the timeline of the Trump administration’s inaction dating from when the Chinese government notified our CDC leadership on JANUARY 3.

The US Government, via the CDC and the National Security Council and the HHS, had the heads up on the “novel coronavirus” in early January, and could have passed the alert to the greater medical community, the various federal AND STATE emergency response entities, manufacturers of PPE (personal protective equipment) and manufacturers of equipment like ventilators and other breathing apparatus. Did it raise the alarm? #ItDidNot

Meanwhile, the entire country is trying to figure out new ways to work, struggling to find activities for children at home after school closures, struggling with sudden unemployment, and coping with illness of themselves or loved ones. It’s going to get unbelievably harder to handle this, with such an erratic and unstable “commander” in control of the ship of state. People feel isolated and are looking to find some kind of community.

At the time of writing, 10am Sunday 22MAR, it’s supposed to be Sunday Eucharist at Holy Moly. We would be singing the first hymn (though to be honest we usually start late). But we’re all home on our own, coping with the oddity of a Sunday “off” in the normally busy season of Lent. According to the official announcement from the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, all in-person worship is suspended through Easter,

Later, Bishop Lee added a short personal video:

And last night, just before the official statewide order took effect, Father Manny offered a short prayer service via Facebook Live on the church Facebook page.

I managed to attend this along with about 16 others. It seemed to go well but I was admonished by my choir buddy Mike for not doing social distancing properly.

Earlier this morning I texted choir leader Mary to check in, as I knew she’d be listening to “With Heart and Voice” on WFMT:

Suddenly my entire social set has lit up every communication channel – my cycling friends are fretting at the thought of no group rides just as better weather is coming, but also brainstorming how to help a friend move next week, and noting that riding a bike solo is specifically allowed along with walking, hiking, and running outside. And we also reassured each other that bike shops are essential services and are remaining open (though maybe with reduced hours).

My friend who’s moving next Saturday is in a panic, because she thinks that she’ll get us all in trouble if we’re driving to her apartment next week. She’s Brazilian-American, so when she called me yesterday I greeted her with a cheery “Bom dia, my friend, what can I do for you?” The relief and delight in her voice was evident; everyone that can be there will be, with dollies and handtrucks – no more than 10 people. We even had someone check with a lawyer to ensure that helping a friend who’s moving is probably covered. Realistically, I don’t think any of us will be stopped by the STFH brigade. And it’s not going to take long: it’s from one part of the complex to another, though we may move big batches of stuff via car as it’s evidently a sprawling place.

After a long, long hiatus, I returned to Facebook just to share important and vetted news items, and then yesterday started reconnecting with friends and family all over. Suddenly, everyone is baking bread because of certain idiotic panic stockpilers, so I reviewed a couple of new recipes that were being passed around in the Highlander fan pages because Elizabeth Gracen, a former star of the series (and of a spinoff series, The Raven) passed this along:

This “Jenny Can Cook” is so fun to watch – and she adds some hilarious asides. I have ALL the equipment she uses and more – this looks incredibly easy and uses dry yeast (have a jar full in the fridge). Meanwhile, I brought my months-neglected sourdough starter back from the dead.

And since we have bread on hand (it freezes well) I will wait to use this until next week, or keep it fed weekly if I make Jenny’s recipe instead. And yes, that’s former talk show host Jenny Jones – who notes “This dough is very forgiving…unlike some people.” It’s worth subscribing just for that excellent content alone.

If anyone of my local friends wants some sourdough starter, hit me up. I have more inactive starter in reserve and can pass it along.

What else? In family news – everyone as far as I know is doing okay and dealing with the lockdown here in IL. I had some frustration with several someones, who shall remain nameless, who didn’t see the value in voluntarily limiting interaction and practicing social distancing. But now that the Guv has made the terms clear, it’s good. I’m a little concerned about family in other states who’s governors have been slower to adopt the notion of containment by staying put, but they seem to be alright. At least one family member is on the front lines, though, so I need to check in.

I found out that the public library was closed when I went to drop off the books I had borrowed. Sometime on the 12MAR, a patron or employee was there who was later tested positive for COVID-19. They closed the next day (probably unaware of the exposure the previous day, but the last time I visited was well before that.

I’ve been listening to A METRIC SHIT-TON of podcasts, streaming radio like WFMT and WBEZ and KUNC and WBUR, and watching live things on Twitter. Here are a couple of things that really got me through the day yesterday.

  • NPR’s Scott Simon hosted an effective, and very affecting, live video reading a children’s book, and his friend Rick Bayless called in on another phone via FaceTime or something, and became part of the show. Honestly, it was so life affirming.

  • Pod Save America is always good, but another of their podcasts, Lovett or Leave It hosted by Jon Lovett, was AMAZING as he was joined by his spouse, author and investigative journalist Ronan Farrow. It was so, so funny as he now calls people who leave messages about problems in a feature called “Love in the Time of Corona.” The video version should be archived as a classic.


In other entertaining entertainment news – we’re hooked on Picard, and got Dad hooked, but now we feel like we shouldn’t go over and bring the Apple TV and takeout along because we don’t want to risk bringing them the equivalent of the Romulan flu. It’s starting to emerge that many, many people are asymptomatic for a long time, or the whole time, when infected with COVID-19 so we don’t want to risk it. Until we can test, and they can test, clear of the virus, we’re hunkering down. My father-in-law Shel will just have to settle for the 1 free week with CBS Discovery and binge it after the last new episode airs Thursday. Thank God it’s been renewed.

I may haul out a really horrific Puzz-3D puzzle later if things get d//esperate. I used to enjoy doing 2D puzzles, but honestly I don’t think we have the patience or skill right now to put the Millennium Falcon together.

In the meantime, please follow the rules of social distancing, washing hands with full lather for 20 seconds, and trying not to touch face/mouth/eyes. Stay safe and be as healthy as you can manage. Think good thoughts for the sick, and be kind and generous. We will get through this as long as we stay strong and #FlattenTheCurve.

Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth

Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth

Published: 10/1/2019
Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth Big Oil and Gas Versus Democracy—Winner Take All Rachel Maddow’s Blowout offers a dark, serpentine, riveting tour of the unimaginably lucrative and corrupt oil-and-gas industry. With her trademark black humor, Maddow takes us on a switchback journey around the globe—from Oklahoma City to Siberia to Equatorial Guinea—exposing the greed and incompetence of Big Oil and Gas. She shows how Russia’s rich…

Ampersand! Ampersand! Ampersand! My Life Is One Big “And…”

We’re in a holding pattern here at Chez Gique, waiting for something to happen – a good thing, just hasn’t happened yet. And it’s hard to be patient, and it’s hard not to hyperfocus on “when will we know happens next,” and it’s hard to keep spirits up and positive.

So in the meantime, other than the fact that a narcissistic madman is running the country, what else is going on?

Well, it’s currently hard to type words like “currently,” “hard,” or “words,” because the “R” key on my iPad Mini Rugged Zagg book is missing a keycap, and as it’s a really old Mini, it’s not worth buying a whole new one. I’m making do for now, rather than using either my (elderly) laptop or my (not as elderly) desktop. The Mini is way more comfortable for lounging on the couch, on the bed, or keeping nearby during the day.

I sent away for a repair kit from www.replacementlaptopkeys.com that finally arrived today, and I has a sad: I did NOT order an exact match for the little doodads that go under the keycap. There are a lot of ZAGG keyboards on their page and I thought I had narrowed down the best match, but no. Thanks for playing. So I sent off an email to the seller, not expecting a refund, just to see if they have a suggestion. I already tried a low tech repair that did not work, so will make do for now.

In other news of interest to nobody but me, the family seems to be okay here; my extended family back in the Intermountain West is doing well and growing, friends are okay. It’s hard to be more specific than that, because in the winter we don’t get together as often – especially my cycling friends, though we have an active chitchat always going in Facebook Messenger. There may be something going on Sunday for an outdoor activity in the cold, but (fortunately) I’m committed for Sunday mornings until after Easter over at Holy Moly.

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts and news via TuneIn and Stitcher lately. I’m currently listening to “Catch and Kill” by Ronan Farrow, which is a companion to his book of the same name – which I haven’t read yet. It’s still interesting because it uses Farrow’s audio files of some of his interview subjects, and in some cases, people that he went back and spoke with after the fact to get their reaction to the story. It’s fascinating, and parts of it are harrowing. Voice after voice after voice, women talking about being victimized and then silenced by Harvey Weinstein – thank God he was convicted of at least a couple of the charges against him, and is in prison awaiting sentencing.

I often listen to Pod Save America – in this era I find its snarky yet informative tone helpful. As it turns out, Ronan Farrow is the spouse of one of the PSA hosts, Jon Lovett. Apparently it’s a small world.

Another podcast is really just the audio recording of The Rachel Maddow Show (TRMS) – most nights I watch the show, some nights I watch it via DVR, other times I just listen to audio. Why? Again, I find it comforting in this era. Sometimes TRMS delves deeply into a story, every now and then it goes a little too deeply into the weeds (as in the notorious night when “Trump’s NY State Tax Returns” were sort of released). I appreciate the way Maddow treats guests – it’s one on one, whether they are physically in the studio or via “remote.” Other news show hosts opt for the “panel” approach and they call on people one by one, and sometimes there’s a lot of backchat and jockeying. It can be annoying.

Maybe I watch cable news too much lately – again, due to our current predicament with an actual bully occupying the Bully Pulpit. But I feel this compulsion to be informed, or maybe it’s an obligation to be a witness to history.

For instance, yesterday was History – an impeached president* was acquitted by the spineless bootlickers of the Republican Senate (yes, I’m jaded, and this blogpost was started a few weeks ago and I’m behind). In a pleasant surprise, the junior Senator from Utah, Mitt “Mittens” Romney, voted to convict. For me, as a former Utahn (and scarred by the experience of growing up non-Mormon in Utah) I was actually shocked, and grudgingly had to give Romney props for adhering to his sacred oath of impartialism for the impeachment trial.

Moving on into March, which is already full of madness…

So we’re still waiting for Something Good to Happen, and it’s been a long and bumpy month with ups and downs. Today was a good day, with some good signs and at least an update that one option was not going to work out. More options are still out there and there is positive forward movement.

Meanwhile, Happy Coronavirus Crisis, everybody! I’m in corporate travel and it’s been wild lately with major corporations (some of them our customers) cancelling huge domestic and international meetings, and airlines canceling flights. And we’re still being “led” by a certifiable idiot who’s doing his level best to muddy the water, obscure lines of communication, and push blame on anyone (Obama!) and anything (cruise ships not yet in America!) that he can.

I am reading 3 different books and it’s slow going because I keep getting distracted by current events, workplace stresses, family doings, and anything on TV that has a sexy bald ex-admiral or treasure hunters with more money than sense. I’ll add them in later as I had to update my books plugin the hard way. But I’m reading Rachel Maddow’s book Blowout, Ronan Farrow’s book Catch and Kill, and I may or may not get to a third book that I haven’t even cracked yet.

It’s finally getting closer to spring and I need to get out on my bike. But it’s been cold off and on. Yes? No? Maybe? More & more & more & excuses needed!

Murder at the Ashmolean

Murder at the Ashmolean

Published: 7/18/2019
1895. A senior executive at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford is found in his office with a bullet hole between his eyes, a pistol discarded close by. The death has officially been ruled as suicide by local police, but with an apparent lack of motive for such action, the museum's administrator, Gladstone Marriott, suspects foul play. With his cast-iron reputation for shrewdness, formed during his time investigating the case of Jack the Ripper alongside Inspector…

I’m currently reading this book and honest to God, it’s a slog.

I recently decided to blog more, and read more, trying to be less hyper focused on the national impeachment trial crisis. So I started using my elderly iPad, with a ZAGG keyboard featuring a busted “R” key, instead of the bigger desktop and medium laptop I have, because reasons. And herrrrrrrrrrrre we arrrrrre blogging.

So far, I’ve checked out 3 books and read two, and this last one is just not that good.

The author has a lot of writing credits for TV and media – but the characters are flat, the premise is a bit precious, and it reads like a spec script for a Victorian murder series that didn’t sell.

I’m a fast reader – I read that little dragon fantasy novel in a day. I read the true crime book in a few hours. I’ve been at this Ashmolean thing for a week. And I usually am a sucker for a British cozy set someplace like Oxford or the Cotswolds.

I have even contemplated skipping to the end and not finishing it. That’s heresy.

Meanwhile, I ordered a replacement R key, so that’s hopefully going to have a happy ending!

UPDATE: I finally gave up at about 175 pages in and skipped to the end. See Goodreads for a final review.

Finally, I ended up skipping to the end, something I almost never do with mysteries. The characters are engaging enough but a bit anachronistic, the dialogue labors to be arch, and the setting mentions just enough local color to be “Oxonian” without really giving the reader an immersive experience.

Full disclosure: I’ve visited Oxford (and the Ashmolean Museum) a few times but am no expert, and I’ve read authors who set mysteries there like Crispin, Sayers, and so on. This book just didn’t give me the right sense of time and place.

And the ending? Unsatisfying.


American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century

American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century
Published: 7/2/2019
Go deep into the investigation behind one of the most frightening and enigmatic serial killers in modern American history, and into the ranks of a singular American police force: the Alaska PD. Most of us have never heard of Israel Keyes. But he is one of the most ambitious, meticulous serial killers of modern time. The FBI considered his behavior unprecedented. Described by a prosecutor as "a force of pure evil", he was a predator…

Lock the doors before reading.

Book Review: Tooth and Claw, by Jo Walton – Pride and Prejudice and Dragons

Tooth and Claw
Published: 11/12/2019
Now in a new pocket-sized hardcover edition, the World Fantasy Award-winning tale of contention over love and money--among dragons. Tooth and Claw Jo Walton burst onto the fantasy scene with The King's Peace, acclaimed by writers as diverse as Poul Anderson, Robin Hobb, and Ken MacLeod. In 2002, she was voted the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Now Walton returns with a very different kind of fantasy story: the tale of a…

What a perfect little book, introducing us to a lush Regency-era romance of manners and family intrigue – but with dragons. 

How would such a society operate? What happens when the Industrial Revolution hits and manual dexterity becomes even more critical? And how the devil do they fit on the steam trains?

I read this book – no, I devoured it whole, as is proper – within a few hours. The local library happened to have the pocket hardcover edition, and it’s a beautiful little volume.

it doesn’t seem to be part of a series, and leaves some intriguing questions about the ancient history of dragons. I’ll definitely read more by Jo Walton, an award-winning author, and hope that she’ll answer some of those questions some day.

Why Was Suleimani Killed? Deep Dive By BBC World Services Adds Surprising Details In Only 23 Minutes

I highly recommend this short 23-minute radio documentary – it covers a lot of surprising details to round out the portrait of Lt. Gen Qasim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s QUDS force. His assassination via US drone-fired missiles at Teheran’s airport set off a cascade failure of tragedy: Iran fired missiles at US bases, and then  a passenger airliner was shot down in error by Iranian defense forces.

The BBC World Services pulls a lot of narrative threads together, including the surprising fact that just after the 9/11 attacks, the US and Iran were actually cooperating against a mutual enemy in Afghanistan…and Suleimani provided crucial tactical information. But this short respite in the two countries’ contentious relationship ended abruptly in 2003 when Pres. George W. Bush named Iran as a part of his “Axis of Evil” in a speech. No more cooperation. 

Imagine what might have been if we had left that door open instead of slamming it shut. Even all this time later, GWB’s disastrous presidency is still causing human misery.

There’s plenty more covered in the doc – it’s a very thorough look, up to and including the current US presidential campaign, and Trump’s likely motivation for strengthening his position ahead of next week’s impeachment trial in the Senate.

It’s so tragic. Now that Iran has admitted human error, families and governments in Canada, Ukraine, and many other countries will have to mourn, demand compensation, and try to move on. I’ve been trying to avoid news stories showing the aftermath of the crash; a short clip showing a burned stuffed animal absolutely devastated me.

It’s easier to listen than to see, in this case.

I’m better informed on the back story of Lt Gen Suleimani now – he was a very, very, very bad guy. But at one time, for a short year or two, his political aims aligned with ours; the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and that sort of thing. But we Americans made the typical mistake of lacking nuance in how we viewed Iran, maybe filtered by the old dispute over the hostage crisis during the Carter presidency (which we now know was used to Reagan’s advantage). 

What a damn shame. We almost went to war over a stupid mixture of Trump’s ego, his impeachment woes, and posturing on both sides. And 176 innocent people died (plus more that were not so innocent).

Lt Gen Qasem Soleimani of Iran QUDS force

Lt Gen Qasim Suleimani


President Trump’s decision to assassinate Qasem Soleimani came as a shock to America’s foes and allies alike. He was Iran’s top general and has been described as one of the country’s most powerful figures, second only to the Supreme Leader Ayotollah Ali Khamenei. He was, effectively, head of Iran’s foreign policy. He’s been credited as being instrumental in the fight against ISIS but has also been accused of arming and supporting terror groups. But why did Donald Trump order his death?

— Read on www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csyth6