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    Descendant Machine by Gareth L. Powell ****


    I don’t know about you, but I keep a running list of books I want to read after I finish whatever it is I’m currently reading. The list isn’t hard and fast and can change on a whim.

    I wasn’t planning on reading Descendant Machine anytime soon but then I craved a story with some spaceships in it. And I knew Gareth L. Powell would provide spaceships aplenty, based on his previous novels.

    Reader, there are many, many spaceships in this book. And lots of “big dumb objects.” And aliens. And swearing. And sassy AIs. And sudden, extreme violence.

    This is a book set in Powell’s “Continuance” universe though it is a stand-alone book (the previous Continuance book, Stars and Bones, is also quite good). In this universe, humanity has been kicked off of Earth and sentenced to wander between the stars in some very high-tech ark ships for our crimes. And then hijinks ensue.

    If you’re looking for some good space opera, this is the book for you! Then you can go and read the previous one… or you can read the previous one first since Descendant Machine doesn’t come out until April 11th.

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  • 7 years

    Hard to believe it has been 7 years since my mom died!

    I think about her often, but she was really in my thoughts during my whole colonoscopy adventure.

    I think she would have been a good grandmother (though she also would have totally driven Marisa and me crazy!).

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  • Your task: be incredibly sweet

    Off-camera, too, Horne and his colleagues have cultivated a thoughtful, supportive culture. Josh Widdicombe became a father while shooting. One day he arrived at his dressing room to find a task on the table. The envelope was addressed to his newborn daughter. Widdicombe opened the task and broke down in tears. It read: “Have the best life. Your time starts now.”

    Alex Horne on the secret to his cult show Taskmaster: ‘It must be offbeat but not wacky, off-kilter but not bonkers’ | Taskmaster | The Guardian
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  • A good reason to keep masking: Long COVID

    COVID-19 is not the common cold. Here’s an effort to keep you up-to-date on long COVID developments.

    Not “in the clear” after first infection

    • What we knew: Long COVID after first infection was clearly a risk. The risk of long COVID-19 after re-infection was not known.
    • New info: In the U.K., risk of long COVID dropped after second infections compared to first infection (4% → 2.4%). This is good and bad news: Risk drops, but risk is clearly not zero.
    • Why it matters: There is still reason to avoid COVID-19, even if you’ve had it already.
    Catch up quick: Long COVID – by Katelyn Jetelina

    I know we all want COVID to be over, so much so that some of us (most of us?) have seemingly agreed that it is over. Hey, I can’t tell people how to live their lives but I can tell you that I want nothing to do with having Long COVID.

    Masking seems to be a fairly simple way for me to protect myself, and still be out and about (I went to Texas and we didn’t get COVID! Hurrah! You can still do stuff sensibly.. and not so sensibly too).

    Not everyone will get COVID, and not everyone who catches COVID will develop Long COVID (though the risk increases with every reinfection) so it seems like a remote possibility for most people. And I suppose it is. However, check out this Youtube video about a vibrant YouTuber who got Long COVID and how they are doing:

    Every now and again I’ll re-evaluate my mask wearing, because I’m not doing it just to hide my fat face (that’s a bonus). For example, before we went to Texas I thought, “Do we really need to wear masks on the plane?” I then read several recent articles from epidemiologists who all said, “WEAR A MASK ON THE PLANE.” And we did.

    Watching the above video really makes it clear that I don’t want anything to do with Long COVID, thank you very much! I’m tired enough as it is!

    If you want to help out Dianna here’s her patreon (I will note that if we lived in a society where people didn’t have to worry about healthcare Dianna’s situation would be slightly less stressful for her loved ones, but that’s neither here nor there).

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    Nice colon

    I’m of a certain age, and my mother died from colon cancer, so it was time to get the old colon looked at.

    I figured since it is such a routine thing, it wouldn’t be hard to schedule a procedure, and I was right. I just had to wait eight months. Which makes sense, given lots of people need to get them!

    As my scheduled date approached, I did the things they tell you to: stop eating nuts, seeds, and high-fiber things. Then I tested positive for COVID the Friday behind the Monday I was to be colon checked.

    I rescheduled, even though it turns out it was a COVID false positive, and today was the new day!

    I did do some googling about the experience, and I have to admit there isn’t too much out there that answers the actual questions I had:

    • How much pooping are we talking about?
    • Can I use public transportation to get to my appointment without causing an incident?

    Most of the colonoscopy content on the net seems to focus on how gross the prep liquid is. I gotta tell ya, I didn’t think it was terrible at all. I wouldn’t drink it for fun, but it wasn’t difficult to drink 64 ounces. They had me mix an entire bottle of Miralax into some lemon/lime Gatorade. I drank it down without a fuss.

    In fact, after drinking the first half, I thought to myself, “Is this stuff even working?” After about an hour… heck yeah, it was working.

    About the pooping

    You’re going to poop a lot, but it won’t be uncontrollable, and you’ll be able to leave the bathroom. I envisioned spending hours in the bathroom to shield my family from a fecal hurricane.

    As I told a nurse at the hospital (I had my colonoscopy at a big hospital), the pooping was frequent and urgent but not uncontrollable.

    Oh, and they have the timing down, so you’re able to make it for a while without pooping a bit before your procedure. Which means you can actually make it to the hospital without making a mess (at least I was able to!).

    That’s about all I really wanted to know when trying to research a colonoscopy. You’ll poop a lot, but not all over the place.

    I have no memory of what happened

    Other than that, the actual procedure was pretty straightforward. I had to put a hospital gown on, get naked (under the gown), and tell about four thousand people my name and date of birth. I also had to assure numerous people that while I’ve been prescribed blood thinners (for an upcoming procedure), I am not actually taking said blood thinners.

    They popped an IV into my hand and wheeled me into the procedure room. The nurses had some trouble getting stickers to contact my skin (I’m exceptionally hairy), but they figured it out without having to shave my chest (hurrah!).

    Then the anesthesia started flowing, and I woke up in the recovery room. It was one of the most unsettling experiences of my life (I’ve never been under before!).

    About 5 minutes later, I got a report with pictures of my “normal” colon and a clean bill of health (they didn’t even find any polyps).

    If you’ve been avoiding getting yourself a colonoscopy because you’re afraid of the prep or don’t want someone shoving a camera up your butt… get over it. Dying from colon cancer is far worse. Plus, they give you graham crackers afterward.

    If you crave more colonoscopy content check out this episode of my pals John and Merlin. I will say I had to sign all my legal docs before the procedure.

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  • Tomorrow, we eat!

    I have a colonoscopy scheduled for tomorrow because I am of a certain age.

    I’m on a clear diet at the moment, since that’s what you need to do, and it hasn’t been too bad.

    However, I was hoping my appointment would be scheduled for 9am since I can’t eat anything until after the procedure. Turns out, mine is scheduled for noon.

    I think I might be cranky by then.

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    I’m looking forward to building this.

    When Lego announced The Great Wave set I knew I wanted it. Since I tend to just buy whatever I want for myself (within reason), I told Marisa this would be a great birthday present.

    Of course, it was sold out as soon as it went on sale. So it goes.

    I would idly pop over to Lego.com and see if it was back in stock to only have my hopes dashed time and again.

    Then a thought occurred: maybe Amazon would have one. And lo, they did. Now I have one!

    I am thinking of doing a Timelapse video of me putting it together. I’m also thinking , “who would want to watch that?!”

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  • Former Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis lied about election claims? I’m shocked.

    In an opinion accepting a censure agreement between Yates and Ellis, Large noted that Ellis has agreed that her statements about the election being stolen were misrepresentations, which he said were made “with at least a reckless state of mind.” Ellis also agreed that she, “through her conduct, undermined the American public’s confidence in the presidential election, violating her duty of candor to the public,” Large wrote, adding that “a selfish motive” and “a pattern of misconduct” were aggravating factors in the case.

    Former Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis censured in Colorado for false election claims – Colorado Newsline

    I’m not really shocked that all these Trump people were lying since it was obvious at the time. I continue to be shocked that they would do it in service of Donald Trump.

    Sure, you want your party to be in power. But hitching your wagon to Trump is never a good long-term idea. He’s only concerned about himself and will happily use up all those around him to further his own goals (which seem to be: more people talking about him and giving him money).

    Anyway, his whole pack of stooges deserves what they end up getting. He’ll be just fine.

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    Dead Country by Max Gladstone ****


    Dead Country” is the first volume in Max Gladstone’s Craft War Trilogy which, in turn, is part of the Craft Sequence of books (to be honest I don’t know if that’s the name of the world or just the first few books, but who cares? Not me!). The real question after you finish the first book of any trilogy is: do you want to immediately read the next book?

    Yes, yes I do. Of course, it isn’t available just yet but I am patient (waiting is hard, as Daniel Tiger tells us).

    If you had asked me the question after reading the first half of the book I wouldn’t have been so sure. Part of the joy of the Craft Sequence to me is seeing all the clever ways Gladstone replaces things with magic and this novel is about many things but certainly not contract magic between companies (see other entries in the series).

    This book covers the central character revisiting her roots and burying her father. Of course, as you might be able to guess, things get complicated and secrets are uncovered, the world is threatened, and the next book is setup with a variety of intriguing developments dangled in front of the reader.

    Would I recommend this as the starting point of this overall series? Not really, but I would recommend you check out the series if you haven’t already… and if you have you should totally read this book!

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  • Back home, mostly

    As you know, we had our first big trip of the boys’ lives: we went to Austin to visit Marisa’s family.

    Now we’re back (we got in this afternoon), and how did it go? The trip was lovely. Sammy and Declan had a great time playing with their cousins, seeing their grandparents, and gently avoiding interacting with their Aunt and Uncle’s dog (Luna is a very sweet dog who was only interested in Sammy and Declan when they were holding food. The twins didn’t like that).

    I was worried about how the boys would fair on the plane, and they were both excellent on both trips (to and fro). Declan was a little wiggly the last hour of our trip home, but so was I.

    The boys did a great job, but I can’t say the same for American Airlines. The actual flights were fine and the crews were both dandy. However, on the way there was spent 2 hours on the tarmac as they sorted out a sensor issue.

    And on the way home we all made it to Philadelphia but 2 pieces of our luggage did not.

    If you’ve never traveled with little kids you probably don’t know that you need to travel with a carseat (assuming car travel is going to be involved on the other end of your trip). If you have two kids who happen to be the same exact age that means you need to bring two carseats with you. We packed up our carseats and checked them with the rest of our luggage (paying for curbside checkin, by the way, is totally worth the $3 per bag).

    On the way to Austin it was great, all of luggage and both carseats were waiting at baggage claim.

    When we landed in Philadephia we get an alert from American Airlines that two of our checked bags had decided to stay in Austin.

    As we headed to the baggage claim we hoped that those 2 bags were either both carseats or two other bags since that would make our lives easier. If we had both carseats we could Uber home as planned, if we didn’t have either we’d just take the train home.

    You know where this is going.

    One carseat stayed in Austin and the other was waiting in Philadelphia for us. That meant we ended up taking the train home from the airport lugging one carseat and 4 bags with us (and 2 3.5 year olds too).

    I will say that we are very grateful for Septa. For $13 all of us got home quickly and safely. And no one minded that we took up a ton of seats since the train was mostly empty. We wondered what we would have done had we been going home to Austin and the same thing happened since the train wouldn’t have been an option!

    Overall, this trip has proven that our boys are darn good travelers. Now we wait out the COVID clock. Tick. Tick. Tick.

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    The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler *****


    If I hadn’t read “Hopeland” this year, “The Mountain in the Sea” would be the best book I’ve read all year (I know it is only March, but I have read 16 books so far this year). Second isn’t too bad, and this is really a very good book (that’s the sort of intellegent insight you have come to expect from my book reviews).

    This book feels near future-ish, though it could be a little further in the future than I think.

    The central tenet of the book is: what if we find intelligent life in the universe? Pretty run of the mill, but Nayler wonders what would happen if we found it here on Earth.

    But that’s not all; this book grapples with what it means to be conscious, what it takes to keep the modern world running, and the things people do to make connections.

    I’m having a very good book year so far, and you will, too, with this book on your list!

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    This feels dead on to me

    “We are embedded in habit. We dread the truly new, the truly emergent. We don’t fear the end of the world- -we fear the end of the world as we know it.”

    The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler
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    The Incredible Honk

    At home we have an Incredible Hulk toy that has a little switch on the back. Push it down and, well, Hulk smashes.

    Declan was excited to find this little dude at his cousins’ house this morning. He said, “It is squishy!”

    He also thinks the character’s name is “Honk.” Which, of course made me think about “The Incredible Honk” and what his catchphrase would be. I think it has to be “Honk smoosh!”

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  • Firsts for everyone!

    Today marks a number of firsts for the McNulty clan:

    • My first plane trip since COVID started
    • Declan and Sammy’s first airplane trip ever!
    • Our first time traveling with tod dlers in a major way (we’ve driven places with them, but we haven’t gone several states away!)

    I’ll be honest with you, dear reader; I wasn’t looking forward to it. In fact, Marisa and I had one of our rare arguments about the whole trip. I was of the mind that we shouldn’t go, but Marisa convinced me that she needed to see her family (and I get it!). I agreed that we should go, but I did require we get a direct flight to Austin (which was crazy expensive but totally worth it, if you ask me).

    After many days of planning (mainly by Marisa), we set off to the airport this morning. And you know what? The whole trip was… super easy.

    Sammy and Declan were great! Our Uber driver showed up early! We could check our luggage at the curb for $16 (a steal!)! Our flight was delayed by 2 hours, 2 hours of us sitting on the tarmac!

    Ok, that last part wasn’t fun, but once again, Sammy and Declan were great. They were a little wiggly but overall very well-behaved.

    One of the things you might not think about, if you don’t have kids, is that when you travel, you need to bring a car seat with you (If you’ll be using a car anywhere). If you happen to have twins, you’ll need to bring two car seats. And a twin stroller (which has to weigh less than 20 pounds if you want to gate check it on American Airlines.. and you’ll want to gate check it. Though be aware: there’s one twin stroller that’s under 20 pounds!).

    I worried about this the most, but thanks to the whole curbside luggage checking, it wasn’t horrible. Marisa did pull a muscle putting them into her sister’s car which was sub-optimal.

    I declare air travel with my children to be totally doable.

    I won’t declare this trip a success until I’m back home, and after several days I am COVID-free. We’ll see! I will say it was very nice to see Sammy and Declan play with their cousins and see their family. They are having so much fun!

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    Siren Queen by Nghi Vo *****


    “Siren Queen” is one of those books with subtle magic. When it is introduced you think (or at least I thought), “Oh, this is a metaphor and what’s being described isn’t actually happening.” Then it becomes clear as the book progresses that no, this is a world with real, tangible magic. Movie magic, if you will.

    Now, I should say that I’m not someone who is into tales from the Golden Age of Hollywood. I have nothing against them, of course but I never seek them out. If they are offered to me, I accept.

    Nghi Vo is a very talented writer, and the writing is what made me like her last novel even though the plot was less than thrilling. “Siren Queen,” on the other hand, combines her skilled writing with an interesting story. Add in a dash of magic and I’m sold!

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    Here at Leonard Nimoy cookies all our cookies are fancy

    I almost bought these when I thought these were “Leonard Nimoy” cookies.

    $6 is a good price, though!

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  • Arizona’s top prosecutor kept private records that debunked election fraud

    Nearly a year after the 2020 election, Arizona’s then-attorney general, Mark Brnovich, launched an investigation into voting in the state’s largest county that quickly consumed more than 10,000 hours of his staff’s time.

    Investigators prepared a report in March 2022 stating that virtually all claims of error and malfeasance were unfounded, according to internal documents reviewed by The Washington Post. Brnovich, a Republican, kept it private.

    In April, the attorney general — who was running in the GOP primary for a U.S. Senate seat — released an “Interim Report” claiming that his office had discovered “serious vulnerabilities.” He left out edits from his own investigators refuting his assertions.

    His office then compiled an “Election Review Summary” in September that systematically refuted accusations of widespread fraud and made clear that none of the complaining parties — from state lawmakers to self-styled “election integrity” groups — had presented any evidence to support their claims. Brnovich left office last month without releasing the summary.

    Arizona’s top prosecutor kept private records that debunked election fraud – The Washington Post

    Turns out the investigation found… that Trump lost fair and square. Again.

    At the end of the article it lists a bunch of people who made wild claims about the election to the media, but wouldn’t repeat those claims when investigators showed up to ask about them. I wonder why that could be?

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    Station Eternity by Mur Lafferty ***


    Generally speaking, I don’t want to post negative reviews on my blog because why bother? That explains why I don’t often rate anything less than 4 stars.

    With that in mind, why am I posting about Station Eternity? Because the concept is great, and the last 120 pages are very satisfying indeed. The only problem is the book is 460 pages long, so that’s quite a ways to go for the last 120 pages.

    Is it worth it? I’m not sure, but I am sure I’ll be reading the next book in the series, which I hope won’t include quite as much repetitive world building (there are some things that are important for the reader to know for the resolution of the book to make sense… but I feel I didn’t need to be told the same things over and over again).

    I do love me a book full of wacky aliens, a reluctant detective, and spaceships and this book has all of that, and more!

    And I think we can all agree that the cover for this book is very good.

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