Go, Vax!

I’ve landed a Covid vaccine appointment. I’ve been eligible for a couple of weeks now, age-wise, but so have a million other Massachusetts denizens, all angling for the 50k or so doses available each week. Our high-tech state did a remarkably feeble job of creating an online registration service, so there was no way to just queue up in an orderly fashion. The game was to find out when and where appointments were opening up, and to jump online that very instant to see if you could score one before your, um, neighbor.

Making the game a little easier were a couple of unofficial sites, created by thoughtful coders in their spare time, that scour the various official sites, looking for openings and then posting them in one place. You still had to play, Ready, jump!, but at least it gave you half a chance. I happened to check one at 4 a.m., as I was heading to bed—and discovered that CVS in my area had acquired some vaccine! I got on their site and refreshed the scheduling page off and on through the night. Finally, at 8:08 a.m. after a largely sleepless night, I staggered to my computer and —to my wonder—scored an appointment at a nearby CVS, for this coming weekend. And a second in three weeks. End zone dance!

Postscript: I have to acknowledge some mixed feelings about this, as I am reminded daily by the news that we don’t exactly have equitable distribution of the vaccines. Not enough doses are reaching the lowest-income folk who are being most hurt by the virus. My taking or not taking a slot in a well-off neighborhood would be unlikely to have any effect on that. But still, I am aware that I’m getting something of a privileged advantage. Here’s a tip of the hat to the many volunteers who are stepping up to help folks get appointments who are not able to play the online game themselves!

Going Out? Cover Your Snout!

Capt Jack - masked up

After all these months of wearing masks and taking proper precautions, I still have trouble remembering to put on a mask when I go out—especially if it’s something quick and routine, like taking the dogs for a walk. It’s not like I’m hiding the masks; they’re hanging right by the door. Am I the only one with this problem? I can’t be.

I decided I needed a mnemonic reminder. So now when I go out, I (try to remember to) chant to myself, “Going out? Cover your snout!”

It helps. Just like “Going out? Don’t go without!” helps me remember to take my wallet when I’m going to the store.

Neither is foolproof. I’m grateful for Google Pay on my phone, which saves me about once every few months, when I find myself at the grocery checkout, patting my pocket, and cursing softly because there’s no wallet there.

Some of us need all the help we can get, these days.

Not everybody likes it, though.

Summon the Heroes!

Summon the Heroes - Boston Pops at Home

Uplifting music for strange times—that’s what we need! Here’s the Boston Pops Orchestra performing a special edition of “Summon the Heroes,” by the incredible John Williams, in honor of first responders everywhere. Scroll back to see the intro by Keith Lockhart and John Williams himself. Otherwise, put up your feet and watch 78 members of the orchestra, all performing from their own homes. Read the whole story here.



Sign up for my occasional newsletter!

Sign of the Times in Middle Earth

posted in: Coronavirus, humor 1
from TheHardTimes.net

Middle Earth Temporarily Bans Fellowships of More Than Five…

MINAS TIRITH — The White Council of the Wise issued a decree today that all fellowships in Middle Earth shall be no larger than five companions for at least the next quarter-age to help slow the spread of the Samund-01 curse that has already killed over 30,000 elves, dwarves, and men.

“The following measures are to be implemented with great haste across Middle Earth,” said Council leader Saruman the White via palantir. “Taverns and mines are to cease operations immediately, and all festivals and Entmoots are to be postponed. When you do venture, maintain a social distance of two longswords. Only essential quests are to be embarked upon.” . . .

Read the whole story here, on The Hard Times. The Lord Denethor sounds like someone we know…

Terrible Foods We’ve Tried During the Coronavirus Lockdown

posted in: Coronavirus, food 3

Cast your mind back to a long, long time ago, when the threat of being stuck in the house for weeks on end was merely a threat. In order to be prepared, I stocked up on less-perishable food items, including snack foods for comfort. Here’s one I found at Costco: Crispy Cauliflower. Hey, I figured, we all like cauliflower! Maybe these will be good!

They’re not. They’re awful. They’re terrible. They’re spit it out and wash your mouth out and dig the bits out of your teeth terrible! Imagine leftover cooked cauliflower five days in the fridge, but crisp. Why would anyone market something like that? Augh. I hope this company makes other, tastier stuff, because relying on this as a marketing plan would be a recipe for disaster.* I wish them well, but not this product.

Oatly Ice Cream

Here’s another one, and I say this sadly as a dedicated lover of Oatly Oat Milk. Truly, we drink Oatly all the time, and I miss it if I can’t mix it with dairy milk in my coffee. Unfortunately, Oatly ice cream (second ingredient: coconut oil) tastes nothing like oat milk. In fact, it tastes like nothing quite so much as hardened lubricating oil, with an aftertaste of generic chemical.* We each ate a few bites—and then, wishing that we hadn’t, threw the rest of it away. Allysen flashed back to many years ago, when we tried Tofutti ice cream, a vegan smart-bomb targeted at unsuspecting tofu lovers.*

I don’t want to end on a downer, so let me just praise to the skies this other Oatly product, Barista Edition Oatmilk! Love the stuff!

Oatly Barista Edition Oatmilk

*Just my personal opinion, of course!

Books in the Year of Covid-19

You probably didn’t think of books as a sector that would be hammered by Covid-19. Writers can write anywhere, right? Maybe, but that’s not the whole story, by far. Traditional publishing and bookselling are in deep trouble due to the shutdown of the economy. Even audiobooks are apparently being hit hard. If you’re at all interested in books, publishing, and reading, please read this summary by Beth Meacham, Executive Editor at Tor Books. She knows what she’s talking about, and it’s sobering.


Read the whole piece…

Go ahead, I’ll wait….

Looks like I picked the wrong year to put my money on audiobooks, right? Possibly. But seriously, this is hitting a lot of people in the creative arts hard. I will just add as a ray of hope: Ebooks do not seem to be suffering in the same way as print. Ebooks are all handled online, and you can download them (and publish them) while shut up in your home. So they remain a (generally) inexpensive and readily available way to keep information, stories, and entertainment flowing.

Still, what hurts books in any sector hurts everyone. So please keep supporting audiobooks and print books if you can. (Mail-order from your local bookstore, perhaps?) And keep reading!



What’chu Lookin’ At?

What are you watching while you’re cooped up inside, practicing social distancing? Here at the Star Rigger Ranch, we decided to binge on movies about infectious disease outbreaks. What fun!

We started with Outbreak, which was entertaining if totally unconvincing. With Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, and Morgan Freeman, it at least had actors you like to watch. Plus, it had the Star Trek medical-miracle feature: the ability to synthesize a vaccine/cure within about an hour of discovering the secret. You go, Bones! (And I see The Atlantic just published an article about it. Great minds…)

Segue to The Andromeda Strain, which really had that 1960s SF movie vibe going, talky and lecturing. It was mildly entertaining, but reminded me why I’d never bothered to keep a recording of it. In the end, the people do nothing useful; the bug mutates and becomes benign. (Oops—sorry—spoiler alert!)

Next up was The Cassandra Crossing, which had this going for it: It’s a train movie, and I like train movies. Otherwise it’s ludicrous, being based on the idea that if you’ve got a train filled with people infected by a plague, the obvious thing to do is to send it over a failing trestle so that it will plunge with a spectacular crash into an uninhabited ravine. That’ll show those germs! (Dusts off hands.) Next problem?

Finally we come to Contagion, by far the most realistic of the lot. Also educational, terrifying, and depressing. Good if you want to learn how this coronavirus thing could go. Bad if you’re looking for diversion.

For diversionary purposes, Outbreak is the not-very-satisfying winner. But what movies have we forgotten?

What have you been watching?

Authors Give Back – Special at Smashwords!

posted in: Coronavirus, specials 0

In recognition of the hardships imposed upon many by the Covid-19 pandemic, Smashwords put together a big sale to help folks get through this time of social distancing (in some cases, isolation). Ebooks are a great source of entertainment, and one you can enjoy without leaving home—or even getting out of bed! This sale is a chance for authors to make their books available at a discount, from March 20-April 20. And to, well, give back to their readers.

I’ve put several of my books into the sale. Help yourself! And pass the word.

The Chaos Chronicles: Books 1-3 (box set) — 60% off
Dragon Space: A Star Rigger Omnibus (box set) — 60% off
Going Alien (short story collection) — free
Reality and other Fictions (short story collection) — free

Chaos Chronicles Books 1-3 cover  Dragon Space cover Going Alien cover Reality and Other Fictions cover


1 2