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Smoothies solve everything

I just got back from a trip to the grocery store (on foot) and discovered that the bananas I bought had been packed right against the bottle of apple juice, so that both bananas on one side of the bunch (i.e. 2 out of 4) were crushed along one side. At first, I was afraid at least one of the bananas would be nearly a total loss, since I know how quickly a crushed part of a banana becomes rotten. But then I realized — it would still take time. So if I had at least the more badly crushed one right away, it would still be edible, if underripe for my tastes.

So I put it in a smoothie, along with other stuff I happened to have on hand — some canned tropical fruit chunks, honey, and some all-natural coffee creamer (since I’m out of yogurt — this was a necessities-only grocery trip). I guess the sweetness of all those ingredients helped cancel out the tartness of the underripe banana, since it’s not bad. Not one of the better smoothies I’ve had, but more edible than I expected. Maybe I’ll deal with the other damaged banana the same way later on, although it has less extensive damage.

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My good deed for the day (with help)

I was just out for a walk at the local park, processing some good news I received yesterday and the extent to which it will improve my current financial situation (markedly but not completely, and I can’t say anything more yet). On my way out of the park, I noticed something anomalous about a young, recently planted tree, maybe close to twice my height. It and several others had those cylindrical wire-mesh cages around the trunks, the sort of thing that I guess are there to keep the flimsy saplings from blowing over or being knocked over or whatever. But someone had apparently lifted the wire cage up around its branches, and it was stuck there. It was probably someone’s drunken prank, judging from the beer bottle lying by the base of the tree. After a moment’s thought, I decided I couldn’t leave the poor tree in that condition, so I tried to see if I could work the cage free of the branches and lower it back down without hurting any of the branches too much. It proved tricky, though, with too many places where it was hooked in. I noticed that there was a seam in the cage where one end was hooked to the other, and I realized that if I could undo the hooks, I could unwrap the cage and then re-wrap it around the base.

But the cage was just a bit too high on the tree for me to reach the top hook, and I’d need to start at the top for best results. So I was on the verge of giving up when I noticed a jogger, apparently a college student from the bookstore logo on his sweatshirt, and asked him to give me a hand. I explained the situation and suggested that we could work together to unhook the seam, but he was convinced it would be simpler just to lift the whole thing up and over. So we gave that a try (after he threw away the beer bottle), and it turned out we were underestimating the height of the tree, or overestimating our own. We’d just made matters worse, making the whole thing more top-heavy and more likely to topple the tree.

At this point, I remembered that I’d seen some loose chairs in another part of the park, evidently left there by some recent visitors. So I hurried over to get one while the jogger held the cage up. Once I got back, he stood on the chair (my balance isn’t great these days — I got dizzy just looking up while trying to free the cage) and eventually managed to lift and rotate the cage free of the branches, with a little gentle bending of the upper portion of the tree on my part. Then it was just a matter of unhooking the freed cage and wrapping it back around the trunk where it belonged. I thanked the jogger, we talked a bit about our respective past experiences with other people’s tree vandalism, and we went our separate ways.

So this was our good deed for the day: straightening up someone else’s mesh.

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Reblogging the cover reveal from eSpec Books:

eSpec Books

We have had a lot of these lately. That justs means we have a lot of great titles coming up for your reading enjoyment. This book is by an author new to eSpec, but by no means a rookie. We hope you look forward to Among the Wild Cybers as much as we do.

Proof-WildCybers (Robot and Cover Design by Mike McPhail, McP Digital Graphics)

Tales Beyond the Superhuman

When the line between life and technology blurs, humanity must adjust their understanding of the universe. From bestselling author Christopher L. Bennett comes Among the Wild Cybers, eight tales portraying a future of challenge and conflict, but also of hope born from the courage and idealism of those heroes willing to stand up for what is right.

  • An intrepid naturalist risks her future to save a new form of life that few consider worth saving.
  • An apprentice superhero must stand alone against…

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Categories: Uncategorized

Laptop followup: No joy

I just got back from a trip to Best Buy (through whom I ordered my refurbished laptop) to see if they could help me get my headphone/speaker jack working. I would’ve done it days ago, but I’ve been a bit under the weather. According to the tech guy there, the fact that the laptop doesn’t shut down its own speakers when a device is plugged into the jack means it’s not even reading the jack, which is a hardware problem rather than a software problem. Which is very bizarre, because it’s a huge coincidence that a hardware malfunction would happen at the same time I swapped out the hard drive for a new one. Unless I jarred something loose during all the flipping over of the laptop to get to the underside, or something.

Anyway, they said they’d have to send it out for a week or more to get it repaired, and I can’t afford to be without it that long. There is another place about a half-hour’s drive north of me that might have the parts in stock, but the guy suggested (I think, if I understood him right) that I could also get an RCA-to-USB adapter and plug my speakers into the USB port, which seems simpler. Unfortunately the guy said they didn’t sell them there, which seems odd. I looked around when I got home to see if, by lucky chance, I already had one, but I don’t appear to. So I guess I need to get hold of one. That probably shouldn’t be too hard.

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Laptop II: So far, so good…

After I hit a snag with the expired activation key on my replacement hard drive the last time, the refurbishers sent me another key, so I once again wielded my screwdriver to uninstall the old hard drive and put in the new one… only to find that the key I’d been sent used a letter that was disabled during installation, don’t ask me why. So I swapped back to the old drive yet again and informed them of the problem. I got a third key promptly, this one with no disabled letters, but after two failed starts (and an inadequate night’s sleep), I just didn’t feel up to trying again right away. But today, I finally went ahead and reinstalled the new one yet again.

This time, the activation key worked fine… and I found I didn’t need the MS Office activation code, because apparently Office was pre-installed on this drive and I just had to re-enter my e-mail and password. So that saved me some trouble. Then it was a matter of installing all the other basics — antivirus, e-mail client, browsers, Acrobat, and a couple of my other most-used programs, along with Windows security updates. I’m now basically functional again, and it took only about 3 1/2 hours. I still have a few nonessentials to install, but they can wait.

I have noticed a couple of odd things, though. Like, when I installed new programs and tried to put their icons on the taskbar or desktop, they didn’t show up right away, though they did after I rebooted. And there have been a couple of times when I’ve minimized and re-expanded Firefox and the buttons in the top right corner have either vanished or been replaced with fatter buttons. I really hope these aren’t warning signs of something wrong with the new drive or its software. This is my third hard drive from this refurbisher in the year and seven months (almost to the day) since I bought this laptop. I really want this one to work!!

EDIT: Annnd…  there’s already a problem. The headphone/speaker jack won’t work anymore. Hoo boy.

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Laptop: Good news and bad news

Well, since I had a lull between other projects, I decided that today was the day I would finally go ahead and replace the iffy hard drive I’ve been using with the second replacement drive the refurbisher sent me after the first replacement crashed.

First off, though, I decided to try reinstalling the crashed drive, just on the off chance that I could get it working long enough to back up the files I hadn’t backed up at the time of its crash. I wasn’t really expecting this to work, so imagine my surprise when it started up perfectly normally! I wasn’t willing to trust in that, though, so I hastened to back things up onto my thumb drive. The recovered files aren’t anything really urgent, just a handful of pictures and personal documents, but it’s a relief to have them back.

So then I put in the new drive and tried to start it up — and I hit a pretty big snag. The drive came “imaged” with the same Windows 7 copy as the previous drives, so it had the same activation key — but what I didn’t realize was that I apparently had to use that key within 30 days of getting it, and it’s been something like twice that now. I guess I’ll have to contact the refurbisher and ask if they can reset it or something.

In the meantime, I’m making do with the original drive, which has been working mostly fine for the past couple of months, though I don’t know how much I can rely on that. Wish me luck.

What do we do now?

I’m in shock right now. I didn’t sleep a wink last night, yet still I got up hoping that the election results would turn out to have been a bad dream. I thought I was clear-eyed about the risk of this happening — I’ve seen enough works of speculative fiction on the theme of “It Can Happen Here,” and I know from my studies of history that societies don’t remain stable forever. But still, I let myself get reassured every time the probabilities swung away from this outcome and just crossed my fingers. I feel embarrassed about my last-moment, half-hearted post about the election yesterday. I feel that I should’ve said more before now, done more. But I’m sure a lot of other people do as well — and many more will come to feel buyers’ remorse over the months and years ahead.

It’s happened. The United States has let an incompetent, abusive, bigoted con man trick it into believing he cares about anything but himself. A stooge of a hostile foreign power will now occupy the Oval Office. Civil rights in this country are likely to be set back by a generation. The economy will likely tank, the world will likely become more unstable and violent. The odds that we can stabilize the planet’s climate will plummet. This is probably the worst thing that has happened in the United States in my lifetime.

Still, I’m looking for reasons to hold onto optimism, because that’s what keeps me going. I was bullied and marginalized throughout grade school, my life was one of constant stress and fear and low self-esteem, but because of Star Trek and superheroes, I had hope that there was a way things could get better. I needed to have hope. It was all that kept me sane.

There is the hope that, now that he has won the prize which is the only thing he cared about, Trump will be completely uninterested in actually going to the trouble of governing. He essentially said in the campaign that he’d entrust both foreign and domestic policy to his vice president. I expect this to be like the Reagan administration squared — the celebrity figurehead will barely pay attention to the work and it’ll be taken care of by the staff and handlers who surround him, who will be working hard to walk back the figurehead’s rhetoric and keep the sharp objects out of his hands, like they did throughout the campaign. Which would mean we’ve effectively elected Mike Pence president, or maybe whoever becomes chief of staff. That’s awful enough in its own right, but at least it might just be an ordinary level of presidential awfulness rather than the authoritarian coup many have feared. There’s also the hope that, since he’s a con artist whose whole campaign was built on lies, he won’t actually try to enact the nonsensical or hateful policies he spent the past year advocating. His supporters will probably get screwed over as badly as the investors in his businesses.

Still, we can’t assume the worst won’t happen; that mistake led to yesterday’s outcome. The fact that there’s a movement that responded to a campaign based on racism and religious bigotry and authoritarianism, and that it was large enough to win the election, is terrifying. That movement isn’t going anywhere, and they’ve been emboldened now. And Trump thrives on their adulation, so he’ll continue giving rallies to stir them up, and that will be even worse now that he has the bully pulpit. So the rest of us will have to stand firm, to keep speaking out for what we believe in, to be a loyal opposition and a check on the government’s excesses and a conscience for the nation. We saw in the 1960s how powerful such protest movements can be even when the government is against them. Things may be bad for a while to come, but I believe it will inspire a counterreaction that will eventually make things better again.

I’ve been thinking, during this sleepless night, about the 1991 book Generations by William Strauss and Neil Howe. The book, and the subsequent ones by the same authors, put forth a generational theory of American history stating that the country has gone through several iterations (“turnings”) of a four-generation cycle lasting about 80 years, give or take. There’s a High period, when society is optimistic and well-off but conformist, afraid of anything that would upset their stable existence; an Awakening, when a new generation challenges the previous conformist norms and restrictions and experiments with personal and spiritual awakening; an Unraveling, where the previous generation’s focus on the self leads to an era when social institutions are weak and the population is divisive and mistrustful, unable to unify to solve its problems; and a Crisis, where those festering problems erupt into a major upheaval, but the generation forged in that crisis unites and rises to the occasion, solving it and building a new order that ushers in the next High. In the most recent “turning” of this cycle, the Depression and WWII were the Crisis, the postwar era through the early ’60s was the High, the ’60s and ’70s were the Awakening, and the mid-’80s onward were the Unraveling. And that would put us in the Crisis phase right about now.

In the 25 years since the book came out, I’ve been startled by how closely reality has conformed to the predictions of this theory, although from a scholarly perspective I know that it would take at least another complete “turning” to confirm it scientifically. But I’ve expected for a long time now that we would enter another Crisis phase around this time, and so far, events are bearing that out. And that means things are going to get worse before they get better. I hadn’t expected it to take this form. But I do believe it won’t last forever. It may be a decade or more before we come through it, but I believe the counterreaction against what’s to come will lead to a better world for the Millennial generation and the one after that. And maybe that generation — so much more inclusive and multicultural than the American generations before it — will begin to find a way to break the cycle of highs and lows. That’s probably a long shot, but I need to believe it’s possible. We all need hope more than ever right now. And not just those of us who lost yesterday. Trump won over his supporters because they already lacked hope and were vulnerable to someone offering them easy answers. Real solutions are never easy, but they can only work if they offer hope to everyone, not just those we agree with.

So what will I do? I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep using my work to portray a better future we can strive toward, and to be as inclusive of diverse characters and worldviews as I can. I’ll keep writing allegories about the problems we face, and hopefully influencing some people to work toward solving them. I know, for example, that my upcoming Star Trek: The Original Series novel The Face of the Unknown, due out at the end of this year, is suddenly much more relevant than I ever wanted it to be. It may be hard to believe in a better future at the moment, but my work, both in Star Trek and in my main original universe, has always incorporated the assumption that the first half of the 21st century would be a time of crisis, but that it would be a catalyst for humanity to find new solutions and make the world better — not completely, not easily, and always with the risk of backsliding, but still better, wiser, more inclusive and enlightened. We need to keep believing in that future, and fighting for it. In the words of Robert Hewitt Wolfe (Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, “Under the Night,” October 2, 2000), “Pessimism is not a survival trait.” No matter who won or lost the election, we still need the audacity of hope, and we are still stronger together.


(I’m disabling comments again, because this is hard for me to think about or talk about. I needed to say this, to get it out of my system, but I don’t have the strength for an extended discussion, and I still have writing obligations that urgently need my attention right now. This will be reposted on my Facebook page, of course.)

Categories: Uncategorized