7 Rules of Twitter Bios, In other news…, Book Review – The Memories of Eskar Wilde by E.H. Wilde, Short Story – The Moonlight Sonata Challenge Part I

Seven Rules for a Great Twitter Bio?

I’ve been active on Twitter now for a year.  My handle is older than that – I joined in January 2015 to read something referenced on Facebook and couldn’t find my way around.  So, I quickly bailed, thinking it was shit for the birds.   (No, I’m not a dad.  Yes, I’m here all night.)  Luckily, Twitter held my account, just waiting for me to try again.  Twitter’s very altruistic like that.  Yes, Sheldon, that’s sarcasm.   

Anyway, in my year on Twitter, I’ve learned a lot of things.  Some of it is even useful.  Some…not so much.  But I’m not here to preach Twitter lessons – at least not my Twitter lessons. 

I can hear someone saying, “They’re not called Tweeters.”  Indeed, they are, Gretchen.  In fact, according to Reuters, I qualify as a “heavy Tweeter.” For those of you who just made a comment on my weight, shame on you, have you no imagination?  THAT’s the best you can do? Anyway, a “heavy Tweeter” is someone who logs on six or seven days a week and tweets about three or four times a week.   Well, actually, I tweet more than four times a week.  Perhaps that makes me a “Neutron Star Tweeter.”  (Don’t bother googling it.  It’s not a thing.  Yet.  Maybe, though, you should google “neutron star” – it’s fairly interesting…)

If that doesn’t convince you, Gretchen, that Twitter users are called Tweeters, google “Are Twitter users called Tweeters?”  The immediate answer:  “A person who Tweets can be called a Tweeter.”  I’m not sure it’s legit to capitalize the verb “tweets,” but I’m not wearing my Grammar Police hat at the moment

But, I digress (one of those phrases I try to use as often as I can).  So, anyways. . .where was I?  Oh, yes, the seven ingredients.  Wait before we get to them, please keep in mind a Twitter bio is limited to 160 characters. Okay, here goes:

 It’s accurate.  Tell what you really do or are.

I got this one.  It would be hard to fail since it’s pretty self-explanatory.  And, yet, there are these gems:

Proud thinker.    I’m not sure, but I think someone set the bar too low.

Orhtopedic/ medical doctor.        The typo is not mine.  It was made by the Tweeter.  The tweets do not authenticate the bio…

Entrepreneur. Gamer. Coffee maven. Bacon trailblazer. Travel evangelist. Music lover. Zombie nerd. Food specialist.   Soooo many people on Twitter are bacon and beer trailblazers.  What exactly does it take to blaze a trail with bacon? 

Journalist Union Chairman. Amnesty International Human Rights Defender & 4-Awarded United Nations Staff.  The little known secret about the Twitterverse: there are thousands of people who are high-ranking United Nations officials within it.  Unlike this guy, they’re usually humanitarian doctors.  Or international surgeons. Actually, it’s not such a secret – if you’re on Twitter for a week, you run into many of the United Nations crowd.  Remarkably, every United Nations doctor, surgeon, and chairman who follows me is middle-aged or a little older and male. 

I am seeking for imperfect gentle woman.  I think there’s a malfunction in the communicator device.  Quick, someone perform a level 3 diagnostic!

Board Certified Nato Neurosurgeon & Functional Neurosurgeon and Coordinator of the Microsurgical A Dad Eat healthy Fitness A Traveler.  NATO doctors are all the rage, too, as are naval admirals and 4-star generals.  I don’t know why I don’t just go ahead and grab one of these incredible catches. 

It’s exciting. Make it sound cool. Because it is.

My bio is not exciting. There.  Is that the first step to fixing it?   Perhaps…but I do think it sounds cooler than some…

Never look down on anyone, because you don’t know tomorrow, and believe in yourself okay.  Moving on.

Businessman.  So very many businessmen.   Nothing more to them than that they’re businessmen.  That is until you’re stupid enough to follow back.  Then the DMs with sweet, badly-spelled nothings begin.

It’s targeted. Attract people like yourself.

I started to say I nailed this one because a lot of fellow writers follow me.  But, so do bots, cryptocurrency evangelists, one lady selling nail services in Paraguay, generals, admirals, people devoted to creating a blue wave, people devoted to promoting a red wave, six different
Keanu Reeves and bacon trailblazers. 

Let’s be happy with what we have Life is simple, it’s the world that complicates it.    I don’t even know what to say, other than I guess the Tweeter wasn’t targeting people like me.

Hello.  In the normal world, a bio of “Hello” would not seem to be targeted. In fact, it would seem to be general to the point of being vague.   In the Twitterverse, however, it seems to signal porn. Lots and lots of porn. Similarly, “Looking to meet new friends” can also mean porn, but not always. It’s kinda tricky.  It can also mean foreign men trying to find an American sugar mama.   

<Nationality> who can care about anything in life hope you live well.  Calling out a whole nationality of people seems to me to both be targeted and not targeted.  The message itself is baffling.

It’s flattering. Tell about your accomplishments.

I guess I failed this one.  But, again I’m not alone…

Always hate will find a way.   Uhm…

Passionate.   Okay, well, congratulations on that.

Talk about magic!  Well, there’s no conceit in this guy’s family ‘cause he got it all.  (Oh, Gretchen, do I have to explain everything to you?  He got all the conceit.  <sigh>)

Sparkling!   Uhm, same guy two different Twitter handles, perhaps?

I’m nobody.  I made the mistake once of trying to be nice to a person whose bio said “I’m nobody” after he followed me and said hello. Oh, he was somebody.  Somebody trying to play upon other Tweeter’s heartstrings with his hangdog bio so that later he could attempt to play upon her pursestrings.  Go ahead and be nobody. 

It’s humanizing. Prove that you’re legit.

For the record, I am legit.  I promise I am not a bot, or a United Nations, 4-star General humanitarian surgeon.

We deserve happiness.   I’ve seen this multiple times.  Always on protected accounts with American in the names.  I’m thinking it’s one of two things:  1) a bot waiting to inundate my inbox with bullshit; or 2)  a secret code for some Q-anon subversion.  Either way, not biting.

I’m a bot.  Well, not humanizing, but definitely legit – legitly a bot.  I appreciate when they self-identify,

It’s intriguing. Invite people to follow you.

Again, I failed.  Well, except I think the “…yet” at the end of my bio (before the DM warning) might be a little intriguing. Yes?  Okay, maybe not.  Apparently, it’s hard to be intriguing, which might explain all the bacon and beer trailblazers.

Single.  Amazingly enough, a lot of people share this same bio.  The mind boggles.

A joy it will be one day, perhaps to remember even this.    Maybe this should be an example of how to meet this rule because I have to admit I want to know what the hell “this” is.  Yes, yes, Gretchen, I know it’s a quote from The Aeneid.  But, how does it apply to their bios – oh, did I mention there are multiple people with this quote as their bios?  And, what about their lives is so epic to be boiled down to a haunting line from The Aeneid?  Inquiring minds want to know!

Loving Nature.  So, uhm, does it mean he’s a nature lover, or he has a loving nature.  Or, he likes to do his loving out in nature.  Perhaps intriguing, but I’m not asking. 

It’s connected. Use hashtags, @s, or links.

I threw in a hashtag and the link to my webpage.  Yay me!

I prefer serious relationship.  #proudsingle #lookingforman. The article doesn’t say this, because who would really think it necessary, but, perhaps you should make sure your hashtags go together when you put them in your bio.  I’m looking for something serious.  I’m proud to be single.  I’m looking for a man.  Maybe better get your personalities together before writing your bio, Sybil.

I think I got 2.5 out of the seven.  Maybe I’ll rewrite my bio.  I hate writing bios.  Maybe it’s good enough.  Or, maybe, just maybe, I’ll say I’m a bacon trailblazer.  If you have ideas, let me know.

In other news…

Well, Elon’s in charge now.  Word on Wall Street is that, at this point, Twitter’s only worth half of what he paid for it.  Consequently, he may no longer be the world’s richest man. Are you feeling sorry for him?  I remain a little disappointed that he made such a poor deal to begin with, but I’m optimistic that he will turn a turd into a gem…or at least a toadstool.

Some advertisers have departed – not necessarily due to Elon – and he’s said he’s looking for ways to make up the revenue, including charging high-profile people for their blue check marks.  He floated charging $20/month for the checkmark.  Then after Stephen King called him Tom Sawyer (on Twitter, of course), he dropped the price to $8.  Unfortunately, blue check marks don’t mean much as Valerie Bertinelli proved to the world when she changed the public name of her verified account to “Elon Musk” and gently trolled him with it.  Brilliant!    I love her!

He’s only been in a short time but some changes are readily evident.  Hate speech is up, mostly because our boy fired just about everybody who was monitoring those kinds of things.

Looks like maybe the restrictions on following too many people too quickly may be looser, too.  That’s a strange result given Elon’s fit over the number of bots in the Twitterverse.  Perhaps it’s because the Tesla engineers he put to sniffing Twitter’s code have a more technically advanced method of detecting bots.  Or, perhaps, like the hate speech increase, it’s because our boy eliminated too many people from the payroll without a plan for covering their duties.

Another event that occurred shortly after Elon took over:  Amber Heard deleted her account.  I don’t know if his takeover has a causal relationship to her departure, and I don’t much care.  I simply say, good riddance.

The ride is just beginning – I only hope it’s not on Tesla autopilot…

Book Review:  The Memories of Eskar Wilde by E.H. Wilde

If you can suspend your disbelief at some fantastical aspects of this story (and, I suggest that you do so), you will enjoy a marvelously told tale full of intrigue in The Memories of Eskar Wilde. 

Eskar is the narrator, and at the time he’s telling the tale, he’s just turned eighteen.  His story, however, starts much earlier – going back to his earliest memories with his parents Gabriel and Sascha.  It’s when he reaches his twelfth year that the action truly begins.  While on a business trip to France, Gabriel is killed in a hit-and-run accident (or is it?) in Paris.  Eskar and his mother immediately fly from their home in Australia to France to see to his father’s affairs there.

Included in those affairs is the recent purchase of a “fixer-upper”  estate in the south of France.  Once Eskar and Sascha arrive at the estate, Clos des Seps, they decide to delay their return home.  Eskar becomes driven to learn the secrets of his father’s life, and his best friends aid him in unraveling the mystery of his father’s attachment to France.

Here’s where we get to the fantastical aspects of the story.   One of Eskar’s best friends is a cat that may or may not be the reincarnation of his father.  Eskar and others ask the cat’s opinions – no, the cat doesn’t actually speak, but he makes his opinions known.  The cat goes everywhere with Eskar and is accepted in fine dining establishments throughout Paris.

 In addition to the cat, for a period of time, Eskar reports seeing and conversing with his father’s ghost.  Everyone takes that in stride when he tells them about it.

But the most fantastical aspect of all is Eskar, himself. At twelve years old, he’s not heretofore had the presence of mind to understand that his father’s profession would not require travel to France and has not noticed the family bodyguard who’s apparently been around his whole life, but he’s an expert on wine and French cooking and is a prodigy on the piano.  He runs around Paris, making reservations for himself and his thirteen-year-old friend, at fine restaurants, making small talk smoothly in French with people he encounters along the way.  In my opinion, this is all highly questionable for a boy of twelve.   I enjoyed the education I received on wine and food pairings and Paris, but it would have been more believable from someone older.

But, as I suggested at the top of this review, I suspended my disbelief because the tale itself is outstanding and is so masterfully told.  Against that reality is overrated.  E.H. Wilde, if indeed that is his name, is a virtuoso of the written word, but even more impressive, he’s a magical weaver of intrigue.  There are numerous twists and turns, and he keeps them all on track, closing the loop on every single thread.   And, he chose (wisely) not to tie everything up in a happily-ever-after bow at the end.  He lays hints that perhaps, over time, everyone may get their hearts’ desires, but he doesn’t force it.  Eskar, after all, is only eighteen, and his father’s only been gone six years.  It’s not time yet for any happily ever afters.

I heartily recommend this book for readers of all ages! 

Short Story:  The Moonlight Sonata Challenge – Part I

Backstage, Lily felt the old familiar butterflies as she heard the orchestra begin to tune.  As she always did before a performance, she said quietly to herself, “I am Lily Gabriela Machera-Davies,” and thought back to her first recital almost 20 years before.

* * *

When her instructor, Mrs. Reddy, introduced her, Lily froze.  Her legs wouldn’t have taken her out onto the stage if she wanted them to, and she definitely did not want them to.   Mrs. Reddy said her name again, expectantly; Lily did not move. Mrs. Reddy repeated her name a third time.  Robbie whispered loudly behind her, “Get out there!”  Suddenly unfrozen, Lily bolted down the stage steps and out the door into the hallway.  Moments later her father found her there in her beautiful purple and black recital dress, sitting on the floor against the wall, her knees drawn to her chest. 

“Lily,” he said, the concern evident in his voice.  “What’s the matter? Are you all right?  Are you sick?”

Lily left her head against her knees. 

“Well, something must be the matter,” her dad said gently.  “You’re hiding out here in the hall instead of playing your song for your great-grandmother Maria who came all this way to hear you.”

He squatted in front of her and reached out to pull her face up from her knees, saying, “Look at me, sweetpea.”

Her normally porcelain face was crimson in his hand, and she whispered, “I just couldn’t go on.   I couldn’t!”

“Why, honey?” he asked.

She said in a small voice, “I was too scared.” 

He looked at her lovingly and said, “Okay.   We all get scared sometimes.   Let’s just go out and watch the rest of the recital.”  With that, he took her hand and tried to pull her up from the floor.

She pulled her hand from his, and, her face flame-red again, said, “I can’t go out there with everybody  I just want to go home!  Please, just take me home!”

“Okay, let’s just go and get everyone…“

“No!” she cried.  “Please, daddy, I can’t see them right now!”   Tears began silently sliding down her face.

He pulled out his phone and sent a text.  Seconds later, a tone from his phone indicated he’d received a reply.

“Okay,” he said.  “Mom and Angela will ride with your uncle Michael.   Mom will get your things.  Let’s go.”

Later, at home, Lily went straight to bed after hanging up her beautiful recital dress.  Her mom stopped in to say goodnight.  Sitting beside Lily on the bed, she favored Lily with a loving gaze and said, “It will all seem better in the morning, Lily-bug.   I love you, and I’m so proud of you.”

Lily pulled the covers to her chin as she blushed to the roots of her hair.  She thought, “How can you be proud?   I ran off like a baby!”  But, she said nothing as her mother kissed her forehead.

There was a knock at the door, and her mom went out into the hallway.   Then, she came back to Lily’s bedside and said, “Nonna Sophia brought Bisnonna Maria to talk with you.”

Lily’s eyes got big, and she shook her head emphatically.  Her mother patted her cheek and said, “It’ll be all right.”  She moved out of the way as Nonna Sophia brought in a dining room chair and sat it beside Lily’s bed.  Then both women left the room, and Bisnonna Maria came in, closed the door softly, walked over, and sat in the chair.

She was a thin woman in her late seventies, with perfect posture and her white hair pulled back into a simple bun.  She wore a beautiful silk dress in various shades of teal and purple swirled together with black velvet low-heeled shoes.  Both arms were loaded with gold bracelets, and almost every one of her perfectly lacquered fingers wore gold rings.  Her face was flawlessly made up, and she looked much younger than her age.  She favored Lily with a small smile on her fuchsia lips.

“So, you chose not to perform this evening,” she said in perfect, Italian-accented, English.

Lily nodded.

“And why did you make this decision?”

Lily shrugged.

“Hmm,” Bisnonna Maria said.  “I heard you play your piece yesterday.  It lacked the feeling that Beethoven should invoke, but you played it technically well.   Why did you not play it, tonight?”

Her dark eyes bored into Lily’s, and Lily said meekly, “I was afraid.”

“Afraid of a monster?”

Lily shook her head.

“Then afraid that someone would bring you harm?”

Lily shook her head.

“So, then, afraid of what?”

In her meek voice, Lily answered, “That I would mess up in front of everybody.”

Bisnonna Maria scoffed.  “And, so what if you messed up?”

“I would be embarrassed.”

“And, yet, you were embarrassed anyway, were you not?”

“Yeah, but, people would laugh at me…and…”  Her voice trailed off.

“And, what?” Bisnonna Maria asked

Lily answered with her eyes downcast, “Well…you were a concert pianist, and I’m not that good….”

“Of course, you’re not ‘that good.’  You’re nine years old.  Do you think I was a concert pianist at nine years old?”

Lily shrugged.

“No, I was not.   I didn’t expect you to play like a concert pianist.  I expected you to play like you – although, truthfully, with a little more fire than I heard yesterday.  But, that will come when you feel the music.”

Bisnonna Maria pursed her lips and said, “I don’t think you were afraid.  I think you just lacked confidence.  Was that because you didn’t know your piece – because you hadn’t practiced enough?”

“No, I know it, and I practice all the time!”

“Well, then was it because you thought the piano would break?”

“No,” Lily said with a hint of laughter.

“Then, it must’ve been that you just didn’t believe you could do it.”

Lily shrugged.

“Hmmm,” said Bisnonna Maria.  “So, why do you not have confidence in yourself?”

“I don’t know,” Lily replied.  “I don’t know how to have confidence.   How do you get it?”

“Well, one way is to keep practicing.   But, that’s not all of it.  Let me tell you about some people who have great self-confidence.   Self-confidence looks different for each person, and each person finds their way.   Perhaps you will hear something that will lead you to your own.”

Next time: Bisnonna tells three stories of her family and her friend.

Published Flash Fiction, Gun Control Legislation, Elon, Book Review-Arnetta and the Mirror of Destiny, New Short Story – Something in the Air

Flash Fiction Published in FromOneLine Vol 3 Anthology

@FromOneLine publishes poetry and flash fiction prompted by suggested first lines.  I selected the line “Well, it’s done now,” and I’m very happy to report that my piece was accepted for inclusion in FromOneLine Vol. 3, available on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/FromOneLine-3-Meghan-Dargue/dp/1914949110/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2BTBWYNV2602M&keywords=fromoneline&qid=1657495600&sprefix=fromoneline%2Caps%2C80&sr=8-1.

First Significant Gun Control Legislation in 30 Years Passed

On June 25, President Joe Biden signed into law the first significant gun control legislation in 30 years.  Remarkably, the underlying bill was a bipartisan effort.    Major components of the legislation include:

  • More scrutiny on buyers younger than 21.
  • $15B in federal funding for mental health programs and school security upgrades.
  • $750M in federal funding available to states that enact “red flag” laws to remove firearms from people a court with jurisdiction deems a threat.  The money is intended to help enforce those laws and fund crisis intervention programs.
  • A ban against ALL those convicted of domestic abuse from owning a gun.  (Previous laws applied this restriction only to married abusers.  This provision closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole.”)
  • Requirements for more gun sellers to register as Federally Licensed Firearm Dealers
  • Creation of new statutes against gun trafficking.  The intention is to go after people who buy guns for people who can’t legally buy them.

It doesn’t have the ban against assault rifles I was hoping for, but it did hit several of the wishlist items in my June 11 blog.  It’s a good start, but it’s just a start.  There’s a lot of work to be done.

Here’s hoping that for the Fourth of July 2023 the bangs won’t be as much from guns as they were on the Fourth in 2022.

Elon, Elon, Elon

Well, it’s been coming for a while, and today (07/11/2022) Elon stopped beating around the bush and withdrew his offer to buy Twitter for $44B+.

It is highly unlikely that he will walk away from this financial shitshow without forking over at least $1B.  I say “at least” because it is possible that the court will order Elon to go forward with the purchase at the offered price. 

Elon’s been hinting at withdrawal since Twitter’s price took a nosedive along with a lot of other stocks. He’s said his hesitancy was due to Twitter not being able to substantiate its claimed 5% fake account rate. I, personally, think he’s right that the 5% claim is a gross understatement.  However, Twitter has put enough wishy-washy language around that estimate that I don’t think Elon will prevail on that point.  In addition, in articles I’ve read, experts on such acquisitions say that in this particular contract there will be language significantly limiting the circumstances under which either party can back out.

Twitter has vowed they’ll sue to enforce the sale as offered and accepted.  Prior to today, they might have caved and just gone for the $!B termination fee to save the legal costs of a lawsuit.  But, after Elon’s withdrawal announcement, Twitter’s stock price dropped another 30%.  In my opinion, that loss may spur them on to try to get that $54/share price that Elon offered three months ago. 

Of course, it’s also possible that either or both sides may be inspired to renegotiate the deal.  If I were Twitter, I wouldn’t go that route because Elon hasn’t proven to be an aboveboard suitor. 

Stay tuned.

Book Review: Arnetta and the Mirror of Destiny by Jeannie Chambers

Meet Arnetta, a sixteen-year-old orphan in 1985 who has lived with her maternal grandparents for the last eight years after her parents, her brother and her paternal grandparents (the ‘fun ones’) were all killed in a fluke car accident.  Named for her father’s love of Gunsmoke’s Marshall Dillon and her mother’s love of Etta James, Arnetta feels like she doesn’t belong and finds her grandparents unloving, stuck in hopeless routine, and overly-restrictive. 

In the books opening, she’s flashing back to the notification of her family’s accident as she looks desperately for shelter from a violent storm.  She finally finds that shelter in What’s New, a secondhand shop.  She meets the shop’s owner, Little Mann.  (A little person, his name was a bit of cruelty inflicted on him by his mother.)  While in the shop, she picks up an antique mirror and within it witnesses a car accident in front of the store.  The driver, a girl about Arnetta’s age,  looks directly at her in the mirror as it happens.  Only, there was no accident – at least not that day. 

Several days later, she comes along the street and sees the accident actually happen, just as it had in the mirror, only her perspective of it is different.  She sees the medics take the driver to the hospital, and becomes obsessed with talking with her.  When she finally does, the driver, Brinda, reveals that when she had her wreck she saw Arnetta in the shop – as she had been when holding the mirror, but not when she witnessed the actual accident.

Finally, Little Man tells both girls that the mirror allows gifted people to see glimpses of the future.  Then the three of them take turns looking into the mirror.  Arnetta sees herself going to the school dance in a beautiful dress with her crush, Brinda sees her mother happy and successful, Little Man sees the Challenger explosion and becomes so upset he has a heart attack.  The girls end up on a road trip to try to stop the Challenger disaster and along the way Arnetta, perhaps, learns some things about life in general and her life in particular.

I say “perhaps” learns because it’s not abundantly clear that she has learned anything.  See, Arnetta comes across as self-absorbed, and repeatedly in the story she uses her friends and lies to get what she wants.  I had hoped after her trip she would realize how good she really has it and vow to be a better granddaughter and friend, but all she gives is a weak “she was home.”  She really doesn’t come off as a very good person.

There were other things I hoped for in this book but didn’t get, such as a revelation of exactly what gift the three mirror gazers have in common and an explanation of the mirror’s powers and history.   Perhaps more will be revealed in future books ‘Mirror’ books?

Jeannie Chambers’ writing style is free-flowing and has a good cadence.  The story’s premise is good, and the image of President Ronald Reagan granting a single-use favor made me smile.  Overall, it’s a good story – it could just be more.

Short Story: Something in the Air

My cover story is that I’m here to assess station KZZA in a competition to rank local television stations servicing mid-size markets across the country.  The station manager, Bob, looking for the edge that will propel his career to the broadcasting big leagues, questioned nothing about my story and pretty much gave me free roaming privs.  Oh, I have a handler assigned to me, but he’s easily intimidated, and I can be…shall we say…compellingly intimidating.

It’s an overused cinematic quote, but I am a man with a particular set of skills.  I’ve honed those skills performing various…investigative…services for a selective clientele.  If I give you additional detail, I will, as they say, have to kill you.

Okay, that’s bullshit.  But, I’ve always wanted to say it.  In actuality, I’m a successful and very much in-demand private investigator.  I’m exceedingly good at what I do.  But, I’m not here on a gig; I’m here for family.  Three weeks ago, my cousin Brian – we grew up as brothers sharing a bedroom through most of our childhood – called and told me his youngest sister, Amelia, had gone missing, and the cops seemed to be doing nothing.  Amelia is a meteorologist at, you guessed it, KZZA, and she’s like my kid sister.

In my line of work, I end up knowing a lot of things I’d rather not know.  If something bad had happened to Amelia, I’d rather not know the details.  But if something bad hadn’t yet happened to her, I’d never be able to live with having not tried to save her.   I was on the next plane.

Since then, I’ve ruled out her disappearance having anything to do with her private life.  Brian said that when he’d tried to talk with Amelia’s boss, programming director Carroll Cecil Lombard (yes, his parents thought it funny to name him Carroll Lombard – he goes by C.C.) about Amelia’s last day at work, he was “twitchy and evasive.”  I’d decided then not to approach the station directly. 

Today, I let Bob set me up with an intern who gave me a presentation on the History of KZZA.  The alternate title of the presentation could easily be How Bob Mendelsohn Made Everything Better.  I wonder if the pretty little thing presenting was as annoyed giving it as I was sitting through it.  Still, it did give me an opening. 

When she trogged through the improvements Bob made to the meteorology department, I interrupted to ask, “Who’s your head meteorologist?”

“Sloan Missick is the acting head.”

“Acting?  Did the former head meteorologist leave for a different station?”  I furrowed my brow to convey that this was a serious consideration for ranking purposes.

“Oh, no,” she said quickly, then gulped and continued, “I mean I…I don’t know.”

“Is the former head still with the station then?”

She replied, “No…well, maybe…I don’t know if she’s actually been terminated.” 

I opened my mouth to ask what that meant, when she blurted, “I’m not supposed to talk about it.”

I looked over at my handler, Kent, who sat up straighter in his chair and ran his hand through his almost black mop of hair.  “Amelia McKenzie was the head meteorologist until about a month ago. Then one day she didn’t show up for work.”  He shrugged, but his eyes looked sad – sad and something else.  I couldn’t tell if the something else was fear or quickly masked anger. Did my handler know something, or did he do something?

Slowly, I said, “Are you telling me she just walked off the job? ‘Cause I gotta say if conditions here cause—”

“No,” he interjected.  Then, “I mean she appears to have walked away from her whole life.”

“She’s missing?” I asked incredulously. “As I think you know, our group has been reviewing KZZA’s broadcasts for quite some time.  No one has said anything to me about a story about a missing team member, particularly the head meteorologist.”

The intern nervously looked at Kent.  Kent squirmed and finally said, “The cops asked us not to make a big deal about it.”

“Not the police,” the intern offered.  “The feds.”

“The FBI’s involved, and the station hasn’t run the story?”

The intern, looking  again at Kent for help, said slowly, “I’m not sure it was the FBI.”

I sat back and said, “I gotta say guys, you’re both acting squirrelly about this—what’s her name, again?”

“Amelia McKenzie,” they said in unison.

“Yeah, Amelia McKenzie.  You’re acting squirrelly, and it gives me pause.  But for now, let’s just go ahead with the presentation.”

The intern finished her presentation, with me peppering her with questions intermittently, so it wouldn’t appear that I was unduly concentrated on Amelia. After the presentation, I asked Kent to join me for lunch.  I could tell he didn’t want to have lunch with me, but he agreed to go, anyway.  We went to a local diner, and we both had the club sandwich special – me with chips, him with fries.

I asked him a few questions about the activities planned for that afternoon – interviews with a few department heads and a behind-the-scenes audience to the 5:00 p.m. news.  Then, I took my shot.

I swallowed a bite of sandwich, and while Kent’s mouth was full I said, “So, I could be wrong, but it seemed to me that you looked very sad when we were talking about Amelia McKenzie’s disappearance.  Did you know her well?”

Kent stopped midchew to stare at me.  He’d been pent up since we sat down, so I think he’d been expecting me to come around to questions about Amelia, but he’d perhaps gotten a little relaxed as I’d talked about everything else throughout most of lunch.  Now, he chewed fast and swallowed visibly.    Then he took a drink of water – I think he was buying time to figure out what to say.  For my part, I just continued to look him in the eye unwaveringly.

After wiping his mouth, Kent finally said, “Yeah, we’re friends.”

“Friends friends, or the benefits kind?” I asked.

“Friends,” he repeated displaying just a hint of annoyance.

“What do you think happened to her?”

“I don’t know,” he replied with even more displayed annoyance.

I held his eyes.  “I know you don’t know.  I’m asking what you suspect happened.”

He was silent for just a moment.  Then he said evenly, “I think somebody grabbed her.”

“Grabbed her?”

“Kidnapped her.”

“Hmm,” I said.  “For what purpose?”

He sat back, dropping his napkin on the table.  “I wish I knew,” he said.

“Did the feds truly tell CC to keep things bottled up?”

He nodded.


“Maybe you should ask him.”

I leaned forward and lowered my head so that I had to look up from under my brows at him.  Then I put my fists on the table.  Overkill, perhaps, at this point, but I was barely keeping control of myself.  I knew this skinny guy knew something.

The words came tumbling out of his mouth. “It has to be her focus on the fine particulate matter hanging over the desert Southwest.”

I thought he might say a lot of things, but that was nowhere in my inventory of possibilities. I didn’t realize I was sitting with my mouth open until he said, “I KNOW,  It sounds like a crazy thing for the feds to want to bottle up, but if it’s not that, why did they confiscate all the tapes of her last broadcasts, her computer and one of our servers?”

“They took everything?” I asked.

He hesitated, and then said, “Yes.”

In a split second, I decided to take a chance on Kent.  “Kent,” I said.  “I/m not really here to rank KZZA in any competition.  I’m investigating Amelia’s disappearance.”

He just looked at me, so I continued. “I’m a private investigator brought in by the family who is frantic to find her.”

Immediately, Kent said, “I have copies of some of her broadcasts, and I have prints of some of the analysis she’d performed.”

Turns out Kent was concerned enough for Amelia that he was willing to trust the first person who came forward to try and find her.  Luckily, I was that person.  We quickly made plans for me to go to his house to look at the files he had and for him to help me understand what Amelia had been on to.  I impressed upon Kent that, at the station, we must both act like my assessment was still ongoing. 

When I went to Kent’s house that evening, I learned that he had more than just Amelia’s files and broadcasts; he had security cam footage of the federal agents who visited the station.  Some of that footage was from prior to Amelia’s disappearance.  We isolated photos of each man, and I sent the photos to my tech guy Arnie to run them against photos from the fed employee databases.

Then I turned my attention to what Amelia had been working on.  She had been tracking smoke from a wildfire in Colorado – tracking it through meteorological computer programs that measure fine particles in the air. She’d noticed that the smoke seemed to have split in two directions – northeast and south to New Mexico.  This was highly unusual, and she was excited to find whatever phenomena caused it.  Part of her analysis was to contact fellow meteorologists in New Mexico and in Nebraska.  Nebraska reported the skies were hazy, and air quality was poor.  But, New Mexico reported perfect visibility and normal air quality.

So, Amelia doubled down on analyzing the data, and found a pattern in the particulate matter over New Mexico. She hadn’t yet worked out all that the pattern indicated, but she knew that a pattern meant that the particles were not naturally occurring.  She contacted the National Weather Service, and the next day, the mysterious feds visited KZZA. The following morning, Amelia was gone.

I didn’t know whether to hope they truly had been feds or that they hadn’t. If it were feds and they wanted her to help them with something, she’d probably turn up.  If they were feds and they wanted to shut her up, she might not ever be seen again.   I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but my mind was spinning every evil government plot I’d ever seen at the movies. 

Arnie didn’t get back to me on the facial rec until the next afternoon.  Pentagon.  He couldn’t find exactly what division, which he said was very strange. I didn’t have time to worry about that.   I instructed him to get me a phone number for the highest-ranking agent, and then I canceled my next station interview and went out to buy a burner phone.  Or, more specifically I went out to pay some kid to buy me a burner phone.

After I got back to my hotel room with the burner phone, I sent all of Amelia’s files to Arnie to secure them, meaning multiple back-ups in multiple locations.  Then he and I discussed how he should start laying eggs throughout conspiracy sites and social media.  Just enough to hint that the feds were involved in Amelia’s disappearance.  Depending on how my phone call went, we’d start dropping specific names and info about the pattern Amelia had found in particulate matter over New Mexico.

At almost midnight, I heard my phone ping.  Arnie.  The highest-ranking of the feds we’d been able to identify was Terrence Hachey, and I had his desk phone and personal cell phone number.  Now, how much shit to stir?  Apparently, I was in a shit-stirring mood because my fingers were punching the number into the burner phone a little 14-year-old extortionist had charged me $50 to purchase.


“Hello, Terrence,” I replied menacingly.

“Hey, man, what’s up?” Not quite menacingly enough, apparently. Oh, well, let’s just go along for a minute.

“Not much.  You?”

“Oh, nothing much OTHER THAN TRYING TO SLEEP!”

Well, either Hachey was alone, or he didn’t give a rat’s ass about anyone else sleeping.

Calmly, and still trying to sound menacing, I replied, “Well then, let me get to the point.  You need to return Amelia McKenzie to her home forthwith, or there will be hell to pay.”

Silence,  So, I repeated, “Forthwith.”  I try to use the word ‘forthwith’ at every opportunity.  

Still, he said nothing.  I figured he was trying to get a trace without alerting me to that fact, so I knew to keep it short.

“Terrence, we’ve already put it out into the ether that feds from the Pentagon snatched her.  If you don’t return her tomorrow, we’ll attach your name to that information, and we’ll also reveal the fact that there’s something going on in the air over the Southwest.  Yeah.  Your secret’s not secret.  I’ll call you again in three hours.”

I didn’t wait three hours.  I was hoping they’d think they’d have three hours and be trying to set up all sorts of confabs, only to have me call Hachey before they were set up. Yeah, sometimes I overthink things.

I dialed him again an hour and 20 minutes later.   I didn’t even let him get his greeting out.  “Have Amelia at the door to her apartment by 8:00 a.m. tomorrow – uhm, I guess it’s today — or, your name and what you’ve been up to goes out on the internet.”

“That’s impossible,” he blurted before I could hang up.

“Why?” I asked quickly, hoping that the simplicity of it would catch him off guard and he’d just tell me.  You’d be surprised how often it works.

“Because I’m not the master of time, space and dimension,” he snarked.

Instantly, I was both shocked and furious.  In a tone that sounded frightening even to myself, I said,  “Are you telling me she’s dead?  If you killed her, the internet is the least of your problems.”

“No, no,” he replied, much less cocky.  “There’s just no way I can have her in Indiana in six hours.”

Okay, so she’s alive.  Maybe I could get him to let me know where she was.

“Okay, Terrence.  Here’s what you can do.  Get over to wherever she is, and have her ready to talk when I call back in 30 minutes.”

“I’ll need more like an hour.”

“You got 45 minutes.  Better get a move-on.”  Then, I hung up.

That tiny voice in my head warned that I might be a little overly self-confident, but my gut told me that Amelia was alive and that Hachey was going to make sure that I spoke to her in 45 minutes.  I wasn’t sure where we’d go from there, but I’d figure that out when I heard her voice.

I gave Hachey five extra minutes before I called back this time.  I figured it wouldn’t make a difference on them setting up the trace, and it might save me from having to call back.  The phone rang twice and then a quiet female voice said, “Hello?”

I couldn’t tell if it was Amelia or not.  In a gruff tone I said, “Put Amelia McKenzie on.”

“This is she.”

Still couldn’t tell.

I demanded, “Tell me something about yourself only your oldest brother would know.”

She countered with, “How about something only my oldest brother and our cousin Virgil would know?   I don’t think I have anything only Brian would know.”

I suppressed a laugh.  My name is Victor Steven Samuelson.  I go by Steven.  Once, Amelia had asked what my first name was, and I refused to tell her.  She, knowing that it started with the letter V, decided the only thing it could be was Virgil.  She called me that for a solid month one summer before I finally broke down and told her.  Still, I couldn’t give myself away by accepting that clue.

“Whatever,” I growled.  “What’s the fact?”

“Well, my brother and my cousin convinced me I could change my eye color with food coloring, and when Mom saw the mess on my face, she made them do theirs, too.”

“Hold on.”

I put them on hold both to act like I was verifying facts and to laugh outloud.  It was Amelia all right.  Once she got over her nerves, her voice sounded right.  For the record, we didn’t have her put food coloring directly in her eyes.  It was colored water.  Her dad read all of us, including my Aunt Clara, the riot act when he got home  “All of our effing kids could’ve been blinded, Clara!”  He does not find the story the least bit funny to this day.

I got back on the phone.  “Checks out,” I said.  “Have you been harmed, Miss McKenzie?  Are you being held against your will?”

“I’m unharmed,” she said.  “The other question is a little complicated.”

“Tell Hachey he’s got eight hours to get you back to your apartment.”

“Well, eight hours might be a little tight.  We have to get to ABQ, then ORD, then IND, and then the  drive…”

In the background I heard Hachey hiss, “I told you not to tell him where we were!”

Responding to him, she said in her sweetest playing dumb voice, “I didn’t – I just told him airports.”

I did laugh out loud at this point.  Then I said, “Tell Hachey not to worry about it – I can reach out and touch him any time I want.”

She declined to relay that message. 

“Okay, “ I said.  “But tell him you have to call your brother from your cell phone in two hours with your full itinerary.”

She passed on that demand.  I couldn’t hear what Hachey said, but he must’ve agreed cause she told me she’d call Brian within two hours.”

Kent and I were sitting outside her apartment building when a black SUV dropped her off.  We waited for it to leave the complex before we went to her door.  She didn’t immediately open the door.  Instead, she yelled, “Who is it?”

Simultaneously, Kent yelled his full name while I said with a wry grin, “Virgil.”

She had the safety latch and the deadbolt engaged;  I guess some lessons were learned.  When she got the door open, she threw her arms around Kent first – I suspect their “friendship” is headed in a bit of a different direction.  Then she bear-hugged me around the middle.  When she finally let me go, we went inside to get the details on where she’d been the past month.

Seems somehow the feds had not detected the anomaly until Amelia started talking about it in her broadcasts.  They had just identified a pattern when she called the National Weather Service with her more detailed information on it.  The feds convinced her to help them study it, and through both manipulation and then downright coercion, further convinced her to leave with them without notice to anyone.  Stupid move on their part.  Had they taken time for a cover story, I wouldn’t have been on their tail.

They were adamant that the anomaly was better studied at a specific location and that the whole thing be kept hush-hush.  “Why?” I asked.  Remember me saying that in my line of work I learn a lot of things I’d rather not know? This turned out to be one of those times.

She summed up the answer to my question and the question of what Pentagon division Hachey worked for in three words: Roswell, New Mexico.  

The Probable End to Nationwide Abortion Rights, Book Review — The Missed Kiss by Nicola Lowe, Short Story — Invasive Hitchhiker

The Probable End to Nationwide Abortion Rights

Let me say upfront, I am not pro-abortion.  I pray that every woman facing an unplanned pregnancy will choose to bear the child. 

I am, however, very much in favor of a woman having the right to choose what to do with her body in the weeks before a fertilized egg becomes a viable baby.  I also believe that a woman has the right to also make a tough decision in later stages of pregnancy when continuing the pregnancy endangers her life. 

I firmly believe that many anti-choice proponents truly are coming from a place of caring in their views.  Most of those caring anti-choice advocates are women.  Unfortunately, most of the political white men pushing to regulate women are not coming from a place of caring.  They come in with the goal of controlling women.   If that weren’t the case, why would these politicians push to create laws that punish women for getting abortions OUTSIDE of their states?  Why else would Marco Rubio go after Tesla and other companies whose insurance programs pay for out-of-state procedures not allowed in their employees’ state of residence? It’s one thing to say, “We will not allow abortions in our state.”  It’s a whole other level of authoritarian overstepping to say, “We will find out about your medical information and where you’ve been, and we will punish you for being pregnant, going to another state, and coming back not pregnant.”

I am particularly appalled by states that do not allow exceptions for babies conceived of rape, particularly rape of underage girls by men abusing positions of trust.  The girl/woman is already unforgivably traumatized by the rape, and then she has to endure nine months bearing the child of a rapist.  Don’t get me wrong – there are some strong women who gladly bear and raise the child.  And that’s a remarkable and commendable choice.  Other women do not have that fortitude, and to force them through a pregnancy resulting from the most traumatic event of their lives is beyond cruel.

I see this invigorated attack on abortion rights to be part of the white male backlash for no longer being the unquestioned dominators of American life.  No longer are people fettered with their rules on what a family is, what love is or who can marry.  No longer can they sexually harass women with guaranteed immunity.  No longer can they attempt to intimidate women, people of different sexual orientations, or people of color with guaranteed immunity.  They’re frustrated and angry over their diminished power over everyone.  What was the seminal event that changed their station in American life?  Well, I’d say probably the civil rights movement; however, they can’t rail against that directly because out and out saying you want a return to the days when you could openly deny the rights of a person based on race or gender doesn’t play well in the court of public opinion.  But baby killing?  Baby killing is BAD, and so abolishing the decision that made undeniable women’s right to make decisions for themselves – regardless of where they live in the U.S.— became the target.  

Yes, yes, I know that Alito’s draft decision states the reason for overturning Roe is that it overstepped states’ rights and so was unconstitutional.  And maybe, just maybe, Alito truly is looking at the topic purely through a jurisprudence lens.  I cannot extend the same open-mindedness to some of the other justices because I question their ethics.  The recent conservative additions went through intense questioning on Roe v. Wade and not one of them said “I believe it is unconstitutional.”  They couldn’t do that and end up appointed to that most lofty of judicial benches. They cared more about being immortalized in history as one of the few Supreme Court Justices than they cared about truth.  Someone needs to go back through their confirmation testimony with a fine-tooth comb to determine if they out and out lied.  If any did, they should be removed from the bench and prosecuted for lying to Congress and by extension, the American people.  If they didn’t out and out lie, well congratulations to them on their careful deceit; let them go down in history as people of low honor and high moral turpitude.  And let us learn from their deceit: the confirmation process needs to be less about political grandstanding and more about forcing absolute answers.

I’ve heard numerous uneducated and backward people say on television, “She made her choice when she had sex.”  There are different judgmental flavors to this refrain.  Sometimes it’s “pre-marital sex.”  Sometimes it’s “promiscuous sex.”  Beyond the obvious question of what choice did she have when raped, these judgments are at their heart misogynistic.  The man chose to have sex, too.  He can’t be made to suffer all the physical changes and symptoms that accompany pregnancy.  But, he can be made to suffer the same financial changes and lifestyle changes. 

Do not give me any crap about child support.  I’ve worked with the child support program for most of my adult life.  For every father truly wronged by the system, there are 500 women and thousands of children wronged by the father. That said, I’m talking beyond child support.   For instance:

  • Fathers should have to pay half of the pre-birth medical costs, and if the mother cannot work due to the pregnancy, for the mother’s living costs.
  • If the mother’s body is irreparably harmed by the pregnancy, the father should have to pay for half of the resulting medical costs, including whatever it takes to put her back to having her pre-pregnancy body.
  • If the mother loses a scholarship or otherwise cannot attend college because of the pregnancy, the father’s life plans should also be put on hold.
  • Fathers whose children receive state assistance should be labeled as “Welfare Dads” and have that stigma show up in background checks the same way that mothers endure it.
  • If mothers get arrested for leaving their children unattended in order to go to work, the father should be arrested, too.

What’s the long-term answer?  Legislation, of course.  How will legislation happen?  By electing people who will get the job done.  That doesn’t mean electing polarizing, extremist people.  If we continue down this “our crazies against your crazies” path, nothing meaningful is going to get done.   Another part of the answer is creativity – a little out-of-the-box thinking.  Maybe we don’t keep trying to introduce legislation to codify Roe.  Maybe, instead, we first target striking down state laws that involve the State tracking its citizens’ movements across state lines and prying into their medical records.  Maybe we initiate laws that say if a State denies a raped child an abortion, and that raped child dies as a result of the pregnancy, the State is on the hook for billions in penalties for a preventable death.  Pro-life, yes?

In other news: 

Well, Elon’s backpedaling on buying Twitter.  He says it’s because the percentage of users who are bots is out of control  However, he knew this before – it was one of the problems he wanted to fix.  It’s more likely the dip in Tesla’s stock price, which changed the terms of his financing/reduced his ability to finance, that has him rethinking the purchase.  After a week of looking at the results of Twitter’s bizarre feed algorithms, I’m a little disappointed.  I was hoping he’d fix some of that. 

Book Review: The Missed Kiss by Nicola Lowe

If you like the romance trope of a love triangle where all the main characters are flawlessly beautiful and the sexual tension seesaws until there’s finally a sweet explosion, you should give this book a try.  It’s a bit like the old Harlequin romances, where the beautiful female protagonist is a secretary, and the love interest is a beautiful, successful professional who’s going to whisk her away to a better life filled with passionate love.  It’s a formula that works.  The kicker in this story is that the main character, Lily, sets up situations where there’s extreme sexual tension with two different men, even though she claims she would never cheat because of having been cheated on in a previous relationship. 

The other kicker:  although the story ends with Lily being with one guy (the incredibly gorgeous dark-haired guy with brown eyes so like her own), at the end she’s still pining for the other guy (the incredibly gorgeous lighter-haired guy with bright blue eyes that amaze her), too.  Oh, and there’s a sequel, so, yes, the ending turns out to be a cliffhanger. 

The story is well written, and the author knows how to write sex scenes for readers looking for romance with heat rather than graphic descriptions of body parts.  The story moves quickly and it makes you hang on to see how the triangle is finally resolved.  If you’re looking for a light read in the romance genre, pick up this book!

Short Story:  Invasive Hitchhiker

I was tooling down Route 1 earlier, the needle somewhere north of the speed limit, when the Black Keys’ “Wild Child” came on Alt Nation.  I cranked it as high as I could stand it in the tiny space of my car, and I’m jammin’, when my right eye’s peripheral vision catches a glimpse of something hovering beside me.  I mean literally beside me, as in the car with me.

Quietly, I growl, “Shit, shit, SHIT!!”   I’m sure it’s a spider because I’ve lived that particular nightmare before.  Luckily, I learned a few things from my previous spider hitchhiker experience.  Top of that Lessons Learned list is to make no sudden moves.  See, what happened last time is that I turned to see exactly what was riding with me and where exactly it was, and, in turning, I disturbed his thread, and he instantly dropped on me.

I screamed like a banshee and immediately started beating myself with my right hand, looking down to see where he was.  He ducked inside the neckline of my shirt, and then I really came unglued, trying to beat my chest and simultaneously remove my clothes at 40 miles per hour (I had taken my foot off the gas when I began beating myself).  As people passed me blaring their horns, they saw a deranged woman behind the wheel of a Ford Explorer that had seen better days.  They really should’ve realized something was wrong when I swerved and hit a guard rail, but nobody stopped to check on me.  They had all passed me when I jumped from the vehicle, shed my shirt and attempted to shake out my bra.  The spider dropped a thread from my bra, and I’m not proud to say, I smashed him against the backdoor of my Explorer.  I went on my way with another small dent in the Explorer, and nobody but the spider worse off for the experience. 

Well, that’s not true.  I have nightmares about spiders landing on me – specifically, I have nightmares where one, evilly intelligent spider lands on me.  I’m never sure exactly what his nefarious plan is, but in the dream I know he has one, and he outsmarts me at every turn until I wake up sitting straight up in bed with my hands in my hair.  Damn spider.  I’d smash him again if given the chance.

So, anyway, I was not going to end up with a spider in my bra again, so I was cutting my eyes to the right to try to see how close the evil eight-legged bastard was when he started floating forward.  Not a spider – it was either a dirt dobber or a wasp.  My first thought was, “Do not be one of those crazy people who wreck their car because there’s a ‘bee’ in it.”  My next thought came straight out of my mouth, “Please God, please God, please God, let it be a dirt dobber!”  (I was told as a child that wasps sting and dobbers do not.)

No such luck.  He landed in the middle of the dashboard.  Definitely a wasp.  A small, speckled wasp.

I started to quickly consider my options when I noticed the wasp was acting weird.  He was doing some kind of dance where he rubbed each of his furthest back legs against his butt and then wiggled it.  There was something about his movements that made me think the wasp was a she instead of a he.  I drove on darting my eyes between the road and the wasp because Route 1 was too busy to risk getting hit trying to exit my vehicle on the shoulder.

I rolled down the window, hoping she’d be blown out.  She kept dancing on the dashboard.  So, I rolled down the passenger side window, too.  Immediately, my long brown hair started whipping in front of my face.  This is what went through my head at that moment:

OMG, I’m gonna get stopped for erratic driving, and then Imma try to explain to the cops that there was a wasp dancing to the Black Keys on my dashboard and I tried to blow her out of the car not realizing my hair was loose and so then I was trying to control my hair while watching the wasp to make sure she doesn’t decide to do her little butt wiggle dance on me and of course the wasp is not going to be anywhere in sight when the cops look and so the cops are going to give me a roadside sobriety test and I’ll be one of those people who fails those when they haven’t been drinking and my car will be on the side of the road while I go to jail and the wasp is going to hatch out a bunch of babies and I will have to douse it in gasoline and burn it.

When it comes to worrying about events that have yet to happen, I can go from 0 to 250 in the space of three seconds. 

When I calmed my mind enough to take a good look at the wasp, she’d hunkered down on the dashboard to avoid the wind tunnel.  I closed the passenger window so that I could quit pointlessly fighting my hair.  My winged companion stood up straight and resumed her little dance.

“Fuckity, fuck, fuck!’ I yelled out loud, then cringed for fear that the noise, or perhaps the vulgarity (just because she’s a rocker doesn’t mean she appreciates creative F-bomb accents) would send her flying at me.  But, with the Black Keys so loud and the open driver side window, she probably didn’t even hear me.  That’s when it hit me:  turn down the freaking music.  Using the steering wheel control, so as not to startle her, I lowered the volume. 

Immediately, she took off in that floaty way wasps have with her legs hanging like streamers.  Before I could even summon a scream, she floated toward my face and then ran into a strand of my hair flying from the left side of my head. I unleashed the screams I’d been holding in as she tried to navigate around my flying hair. She headed for the windshield and then turned back toward me.  Still screaming, with my left hand, I swatted her out the open window.

That would’ve been the end of my ordeal, except that I had the misfortune to be in the driver side backseat as a teenager when my brother, who was driving, hocked a loogie and spit it out his open window.  Yep, I got a snot ball right between the eyes.  There was a lot of screaming in the car that day, too. So, I knew there was a better than average chance my stinger-bearing hitchhiker was behind me. 

I took the next exit, all my skin tingling, anticipating the angry sting of my Black Keys loving nemesis.  I pulled into the nearest parking lot, got out and opened every door and the back hatch.  I looked for her for about five minutes.  Finally satisfied that she was gone, I got on my way again.

An hour later. I cranked up Jackson Brown’s “Doctor My Eyes” and was singing along when I thought I saw something to my right again. I turned my head (totally an acceptable move with wasps – just not with spiders).  Nothing was there.  I laughed at myself and sang at the top of my lungs. 

Thirty minutes later, I make the final turn before reaching my destination.  Maneskin’s “Supermodel” comes on, and I crank it up.  From out of nowhere that freaking wasp floats up to the dashboard and starts her weird little dance.  I just kept the music cranked and let her get her groove on until I parked in the driveway, turned off the car and bolted out the door. 

As I looked around wild-eyed for something with which to kill her, she floated out the door I’d left open, and flew away, ninety miles south of where she started.  

And, that my friends, is how invasive insects spread so quickly across the continent.

Well, Looks Like Musk is Taking Over Twitter, Book Review – The Life and Times of Angie Bardot, Short Story – False Friend

Well, Looks Like Musk is Taking Over Twitter

In my last blog in which I recounted my experience of being “limited” by Twitter, and Twitter not being able to explain why, I suggested maybe the possibility of Elon Musk taking over Twitter wouldn’t be such a bad thing.  At the time, I didn’t really think it would happen.  Twitter’s Board was resisting the takeover and had, in fact, issued a shareholder rights plan, AKA a poison pill, to try to avert Musk’s purchase of any greater stake in the company.

Then, suddenly, it was announced that they had accepted Musk’s offer of $44 billion.  Reading between the lines (i.e., looking at multiple online sources), it appears that the Board looked at potential options for selling Twitter and none came anywhere near Musk’s offer, and so they decided to take it.   Why?  Because more than 76% of Twitter stock is owned by “institutional investors” who wanted a payday on their investment.  After approximately 10 years of Twitter failing to earn a profit, those investors apparently pushed to accept Musk’s offer.  So, in another case of corporate greed (it is rampant in the U.S.), without any consideration of Twitter’s more than 200 million users or the employees who have given the Twitter culture a 4.2 (out of 5) rating on Glassdoor, they agreed to sell to Musk who has made no secret of the fact that he intends to take the company private, close the San Francisco headquarters, fire the board (or pay them $0) and tighten up spending.

When the board announced acceptance of Musk’s offer, a good portion of the Twitterverse lost their minds.  Some said Musk intended to make everyone pay to use Twitter in order to remove ads.  Some said he bought Twitter because he’s a Trumper, and he intends to reinstate Trump and make Twitter primarily a stage for Trump.  Some said that Twitter will now become a maelstrom of misinformation.  Many of these people predict the downfall and entire destruction of Twitter.

There’s no two ways about it:  Elon Musk is seven different flavors of wackadoodle.  I mean, he:

  • Named one of his eight (EIGHT!) children X Æ A-XII
  • Accused a rescuer of the soccer team trapped in a cave in Thailand of being a “pedo guy” and allegedly hired a private detective to dig up dirt on the rescuer because the man said Musk’s idea of a submarine rescue wouldn’t work
  • Illegally threatened workers trying to unionize
  • Ran afoul of the FTC by tweeting that he had funding (not true) to take Tesla private
  • Added a fart noise feature to Teslas
  • Has tweeted multiple times about farts and farting
  • Sold flamethrowers to raise funds for one of his companies and promoted those sales through a tweet about the zombie apocalypse
  • Smoked pot on camera on a Joe Rogan podcast
  • Sent a Tesla roadster into space

Wacky as he is, he loves Twitter.  Consequently, it is highly unlikely that he’s going to do anything that would out and out destroy it. IMHO, he will reinstate Trump, not necessarily because he’s a Trumper, but because he is a staunch advocate for freedom of speech.  Furthermore, Musk has publicly stated that he doesn’t agree with the tactics of either extreme rightwingers or leftwingers, and has said he’s not much interested in politics. 

Musk has given mixed messages about whether he will move Twitter to a completely subscription model.  In one announcement, he seemed to indicate he would promote the Twitter Blue subscription that already exists, and would give those subscribers: the verified blue check mark currently provided only to celebrity accounts; features not available to non-subscribing users; and an ad-free experience.  In another conversation he mused that a subscription model would allow Twitter to not be so influenced by corporations.  Reportedly, he told banks that he might charge companies for embedding or quote tweeting posts by verified users.   It’s hard to say at this time whether he’ll go to a totally subscription model, but I doubt it.  Like I said, he clearly loves Twitter, and I don’t think he wants the exodus that such an act would trigger.

He’s definitely talked about laying off employees and changing corporate culture.  I think that probably Twitter employees — particularly executives — are right to view the Musk takeover with trepidation.  Unfortunately, that’s always the case when a company is sold.

Another fact the Twitterverse folks running around with their hair on fire should consider:  Musk hasn’t yet fully proven he has the funds to complete the purchase.  He’s cashed in 5% ($8.5 billion) of his Tesla stock and secured almost $26 billion in loans.  He still needs about $10 billion more in cash, but it’s not clear at this point where that cash will come from.  He may be the world’s richest man, but much of his fortune is tied up in his companies. 

So, everybody needs to cool their jets and unbunch their panties — for now.

In other news:

Publication of my short story “Miss Luna’s Visit,” which was pushed back from April 1 to May 1 is apparently pushed back to an unspecified date.  <sigh> Patience is a virtue.

Another short story has been picked up for a July release!  More on that later.

Book Review: The Life and Times of Angie Bardot by Angela Bardot

In “The Life and Times of Angie Bardot,” the author shares her journey after finding out shortly before a major milestone birthday (The Big Six O) that her husband of 36 years is cheating on her.  She tells it in first person – almost a stream of consciousness flow at times – and so the reader is intimately privy not only to the events of Angie’s life for the next few years, but also to her emotions and the changing ways in which she views those events and herself. 

This is not a formulaic get-back-at-the-ex-by-living-your-best-life-and-find-your-true-love story.  I mean, Angie does sort of start out with that intention, but real life and some questionable choices (some made me literally laugh out loud, and others made me cringe for Angie) take it somewhere much more authentic, if, at times, just a touch overly self-indulgent.

Angie’s escapades prove that age ain’t nothin’ but a number and that it’s never too late to pursue what makes you feel fulfilled.  I thoroughly recommend this book!

Short Story: False Friend

Lena was loading the dishwasher when her phone vibrated against the granite countertop.  She glanced at the display and saw it was her friend Laurie calling, so she picked up the phone and swiped to take the call.

“Hey, Laurie, what’s up?” she said.

Laurie answered solemnly, “Hi, Lena.  Are you at home?”

Instantly, Lena was on alert.  “What’s wrong?”

Laurie said in the same tone, “I guess you haven’t heard.”

“Haven’t heard what?  What’s going on?”

“Brett’s been in an accident.  They’re not sure he’s going to make it.  If he does, he may be paralyzed.”

Lena’s heart skipped a beat, and all thought was knocked out of her head.  For the space of about five seconds, she was physically stunned.

“Are you there?” she heard Laurie ask.

“Yeah,” she replied.

Laurie said quickly, “I just thought you would want to know.”

“No, no, I appreciate you calling to tell me.  What happened?”

Laurie told her that Brett was on the interstate the night before when a semi-truck blew a tire and lost control.  The semi slammed into his pickup, sending it into the median where it flipped and continued flipping into oncoming traffic.  Luckily, no further collisions occurred.  There was one person riding with Brett who was also in critical condition.

“Tamara?” Lena asked in a small voice.

“No.  I haven’t heard yet who it was,” Laurie replied.

“Okay, thanks for letting me know.  Would you please keep me updated on how he is?”

“Sure, honey.  Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine – just momentarily shocked.  Really, I’m fine.  Thanks for calling.  I’ll talk with ya later.”

“Okay, honey. ‘Bye.”


Lena was fine, but after she thought more about Brett, she reeled from the fact that she had little emotion about his possible death. She felt nothing more about his potential death than she would feel about a casual acquaintance’s death.  Brett was not a casual acquaintance.

Less than eight years earlier, Lena had been sure that he was ‘The One.’  That illusion was shattered when Brett’s ex-girlfriend Cassie sent her photos via Facebook Messenger with the accompanying message, “Payback’s a Biatch!”  The pics were of Brett out dancing with Lena’s best friend, Tamara.  Lena had been visiting family back east at the time and had gotten the message while playing cards.  She’d finished the game at hand and then excused herself to go to bed.  Once alone, she’d immediately dialed Brett’s number.  He didn’t pick up.  So, she’d dialed Tamara’s number. 

“Hey, girl!” Tamara’d greeted her.  Lena could hear music and a partying crowd in the background.

She had worked hard to keep her voice even.  “Hey, have you seen Brett out and about tonight? He’s not answering his phone.”

Tamara had immediately replied, “No, no I haven’t seen him.  He’s probably home asleep.”

Her voice dripping sarcasm, Lena said, “Home asleep?  Then why do I have pictures of him with his hands all over your ass?”

The line immediately went dead.  For the rest of the weekend, they both ignored Lena’s calls and texts.  By the time she had gotten home Sunday evening, Brett had left all of her belongings from his apartment in her living room, along with her dog, Barry, who he had been supposed to be taking care of.  He left her house key on the coffee table without a note.  By then, both Brett and Tamara had blocked her calls and had blocked her on all social media.

She’d tried to convince herself to just accept that she’d been dumped without Brett ever saying a word and to accept that her best friend threw her away without so much as an “I didn’t mean for it to happen.”  She’d decided at that point not to humiliate herself by further attempting to confront them for an explanation.  She’d lost her resolve one night at 2:00 AM and had driven to Tamara’s apartment and banged on the door.

Brett had opened it.  Somehow she hadn’t expected that.   Her mouth had dropped open as she looked up into his hard brown eyes.  “For fuck’s sake, Lena,“ he’d whisper-shouted at her.  “Are we going to have to take out a restraining order? It’s the fucking middle of the fucking night.”

She’d started crying, tears silently running down her face.  He’d rolled his eyes.  Then Tamara had stepped under his arm.  When she’d seen it was Lena, she too had rolled her eyes and said, “Oh, God.”

The sight of Tamara leaning up against Brett wearing his t-shirt as a nightgown had loosened Lena’s tongue.  She’d looked Tamara in the eye and asked, “Why, T?  How could you?”

Tamara had rolled her eyes again.  She’d said coldly, “No answer I give is gonna make anything any different.  It is what it is, and you need to stop embarrassing yourself.”

Brett had followed that up with, “I’m gonna shut the door now. If you knock again we’re calling the cops.”

Tamara had stepped away without even looking at Lena, and Brett had shut the door quietly in her face.

She’d not spoken to either of them after that. Laurie’s husband Rob remained friends with Brett.  And for the first year after Brett dumped her, Lena had put her friend in an untenable position by pumping her for information on Brett and Tamara’s lives.  Part of what Laurie imparted to her was that Brett and Tamara painted her to all their mutual friends as being a psycho.  Lena had been instantly furious, and exclaimed to Laurie (who already knew the whole story), “That’s a lie!  I went to Tamara’s apartment one time – I wasn’t a psycho like. . .Cassie…”

As she finished the sentence her ire evaporated as realization dawned on her that Brett was running the same game on her that he’d apparently run on Cassie.   That night she’d sent a note to Cassie on Messenger apologizing for her part in painting her as a psycho when she and Brett had first gotten together.  Cassie had responded by blocking her.  Lena hadn’t expected anything different – they’d never been friends.  She just had felt compelled to apologize.

When Laurie told her Brett and Tamara were getting married, Lena had cried for two days – not over Brett, but because she and Tamara had always said they’d be each other’s maids of honor.  On the day of their wedding, Lena had sent a prayer up that her former friend would be happy and had vowed not to give either of them any more of her thoughts.

That was six years ago, and she’d mostly kept that vow.  She thought about how Tamara must feel as her husband clung to life.  She also thought about his mother , a sweet woman Lena had liked very much.  She could only imagine his mother’s torment.  She sent up a prayer for Brett’s recovery and for comfort for his mother and her former friend.

Two weeks later, at lunch, Laurie told Lena that Brett had regained consciousness, and doctors expected him to recover.  They’d even told the family that he’d regain limited use of his legs.

Lena was legitimately happy at the news.  “That’s great news. Tamara and his family must be over the moon!”

Laurie’s face took on a strange look.  Then she said, “I didn’t tell you this.  It turned out that the other person in Brett’s truck was a woman he was having an affair with.”

Lena shrugged.  “I can’t say I’m surprised.”

Laurie nodded and replied, “Yeah, I guess not.  Well, when it looked like Brett might never wake up, Tamara said the other woman didn’t matter.  Put on a big show of grief, saying all that mattered was that he lived.”

Lena asked, “And when he woke up?”

“When the doctor said he would recover, she walked out of the hospital.  Turns out she’d already cleaned out the house and the bank accounts.  Apparently, she’d only been hanging around in the hope of money from a GoFundMe account his sister had set up.”

“Wow,” Lena said, stunned.  “I don’t even know what to say.  I accepted a long time ago that they’re not the people I thought they were, but to pretend to be grief-stricken to get a little more money…Wow.”

Their conversation turned to other subjects, and Lena didn’t give Brett or Tamara another thought. Their struggles had no place in her life.

A few days later, she was at Costco when she heard a familiar voice behind her say, “Lena?”

She turned to find Tamara standing there.

The women looked at each for a moment, and then Lena said, “Tamara.”

“How are you?” Tamara asked.

“Fine, thanks.  I’ve got to get home, so…”  Lena turned away.

“Okay,” Tamara said, and Lena walked off.

That evening as Lena was preparing for bed, the doorbell rang. She turned on the porch light and looked through the sidelight.  Tamara stood there looking nervous.

“Oh, my God,” Lena said to herself, but she opened the door.

Immediately, Tamara said, “I’m sorry for just showing up, but after running into you today—”

“What do you want?” Lena interjected.

Tamara’s words came out in a rush. “I want us to be friends again.  I’m sorry about what happened.  But you have to understand – Brett is so manipulative.  He had me all turned around.  He made me —”

Lena rolled her eyes. “You do not have to tell me how manipulative he is.”

Tamara chuckled quietly.  “No, I guess not. But, he made me feel like I was the most important person in the world, and I didn’t want to lose that. I’m sorry that—”

“You’re sorry that you didn’t have the decency to stay away from your best friend’s boyfriend?  You’re sorry that you told everyone I was a psycho?  You’re sorry that you threw me away like trash after eight years of friendship?”

“You don’t understand!” Tamara exclaimed.  “He had me all turned around.  He told me that you looked down on me, that you made fun of me!”

Again, Lena rolled her eyes.  She could not believe that this woman, who she had once called her bestie, did not see how her actions – not Brett’s – had forever severed their friendship.  “You’d known me for eight years and him for, what, two?  But, instead of coming to me and telling me what was going on, you snuck around, until I found out, and then you cut me dead.”

“And, I’m sorry.  But, he—”

Lena didn’t wait for Tamara to again blame her decisions and her cold treatment of Lena on Brett. She interrupted her with. “But he dumped you for another woman – go figure. Then, after you cleaned him out while he’s in the hospital, you don’t have a whole lotta friends left, so you thought you’d see if I hated him enough to give you a pass on what you did to me.”

Tamara snapped, “I have plenty of friends.  I was trying to reach out to you to do the right thing.”

Lena smiled disingenuously and said in a tone filled with insincerity, “Oh, okay. Well, now you’ve done that.  So, thank you so very much!  Thanks for stopping by!” 

With that, she started to close the door, but Tamara grabbed it and stopped her.

“So, that’s the way it’s gonna be?  Why are you being like this?”

Immediately, Lena shot back, “It is what it is, and if you’re not able to see why, me spelling it out for you won’t make you ever get it either.”

She shut the door.

Twitter Limitation, Book Review – Bandun Gate, Flash Fiction

Twitter Limitation

This past week, World’s Richest Man Elon Musk announced his bid to take over Twitter.  He indicated he intends to take the company private to increase free speech and expose its algorithms that determine what content is seen in feeds. 

Also in the same week, Twitter out-of-the blue announced in a pop-up that it was limiting my actions for three days because I ran afoul of its rules. 

Are these actions related?  I doubt it, but my resulting experience has me wondering if Elon might be on to something in that Twitter is too controlling and arbitrary.

Here’s how my Twitter limitation went down.  Early Monday morning, I was reviewing the list of people who had followed me overnight.  I followed back one, no issue.  I followed back the next, and that’s when the tiny pop-up appeared telling me my actions were being limited for the next three days for possible rules violations.  Those weren’t the exact words, but it definitely made it seem my violation was not fully determined.

I barely finished reading it when it disappeared.  I went to my messages, because, surely, Twitter would give me a full explanation for what horrendous crime I’d committed.  Right? Nope, no message. 

I checked my numbers:  Followers higher than those I follow.  That’s what someone told me I needed to maintain to prevent being “limited.” I’m careful to not tweet anything controversial because I’m using Twitter to promote my writing, so I’m not looking to put anyone off. Consequently, I knew content wasn’t the problem.  I told myself maybe it was a glitch and that’s why the pop-up disappeared so quickly.

I followed back the same person, again.  The action went through without issue.  I followed back a third person, and BOOM I’m told I cannot follow anyone at this time.  “At all?” I wondered.  I start searching the rules to find out what land mine I’ve inadvertently detonated.

And that is when I became enlightened as to the nefarious side of Twitter from which Elon Musk is trying to liberate us.

Twitter uses undefined parameters to declare account activity suspicious.  I’m not exactly sure what they’re trying to prevent or why, although it seems they do want to thwart bot accounts.  I would think one surefire way to do that would be to suspend accounts that out and out label themselves as bots, but that’s just me.  At least three such accounts have followed me (along with three guys named Keanu Reeves, five or six admirals, generals and diplomats).

They reference multiple places mysterious ratios that trigger them to take limiting actions.  Seems there’s no set ratio, it changes as your account changes.  It’s kinda like being in a relationship with a non-violent but very controlling narcissist who constantly changes the rules while telling you it’s you who’s inconsistent. 

I recognized that, but, still, I thought I’d try to find out exactly what I’d done to be “Limited.”  So, I sent a note through the Contact Us feature.  In my note, I asked them to tell me what rule I had broken.  I received in response a form email signed “Twitter” that said they’d received my appeal.  I quickly replied that I wasn’t appealing – I just wanted to know what I’d done wrong.

A few hours later I received what I’m sure was a form email but was signed by “Ollie.”  After saying he was sorry to hear I was limited, he pointed me to the rules I’d already researched to no avail  So, I sent Ollie a response stating that the rules documentation did not help me, and asking again for him to just tell me outright what my crime was.

I didn’t really expect him to respond, but he did.  This time he apologized for the inconvenience, and said the limitation would eventually end.  Then he told me the message I’d received when the limitation first went into effect told me what I’d done.  My reply:

Ollie, the message I received did NOT tell me what I did wrong.  YOU have not told me what I did wrong.  Do you not know?  To punish someone without explanation is arbitrary and capricious.  Is that what Twitter is?

Again, I didn’t expect him to reply, but again he did:

For most accounts, this is a temporary outcome, and if no further negative behavior occurs, the account will eventually be restored to full access. 

Please let us know if you need help with anything else! Be sure to follow us @TwitterSupport for all the latest updates on Twitter.

My response was not quite the same tone:

Ollie, Ollie, Ollie, you’re not hearing me. I’m not protesting the action.  I’m asking for an explanation of WHY, so that I don’t engage in the unacceptable behavior again.  I’m a rule follower.  But, I have no idea what rule I violated.   Is the answer that Twitter doesn’t know either?  Is this some artificial intelligence gone wrong scenario?   Should we alert the authorities that Twitter’s algorithms are plotting world domination?

I was almost giddy awaiting Ollie’s reply to that.  Disappointingly, with his response, I realized that Ollie is a bot:

Thank you for your patience! We have more information for you. 

You may encounter a message that states, “You are unable to follow more people at this time.” We may lock an account if appears to be compromised or if it is in violation of the Twitter Rules or Terms of Service, including due to aggressive follow behavior. Accounts in a locked state are limited in actions they can perform, including following. Read more about locked and limited accounts.

Be sure to follow us @TwitterSupport for all the latest updates on Twitter.

I didn’t bother responding again. A few hours later my penalty expired.  Well, at least the penalty I knew about expired.  My tweets don’t appear to be getting the views they were previously.  And that brings me back to Elon Musk.  Maybe he really will make the feed algorithms more transparent and more user-controlled.  And, maybe Elon would bring real people to respond to Twitter Support inquiries. Or, maybe Elon plans to use Twitter’s AI algorithms to achieve his own world domination.  You pays your money, you takes your chances.

In other news, here’s my redbud tree.

Book Review:  Bandun Gate by Miriam Van Scott

Have you ever been warned to eschew Ouija boards, seances and Tarot cards because you don’t want to attract the attention of dark beings? In her book, Bandun Gate, author Miriam Van Scott imagines the terrifying impacts of attracting that unwanted attention.

It starts with her fascination with a haunting structure called Bandun Gate. She’s warned by a member of the Gullah community to stay away, but she ignores the warning and takes her daughter Abby to see it. Inadvertently during that visit, Abby invites a haint (a malevolent spirit) to come with her. From there the terror begins.

If you are looking for a simple ghost story, do not read Bandun Gate! This is horror on a deeper level, involving occult subjects.

If you’re looking for occult horror, this is the book for you! It is expertly written; the descriptions within it are vivid and stick with you – both the descriptions of Charleston and the surrounding low country and horror aspects of the tale. I could not read it at night for fear of nightmares! Miriam Van Scott is a master at her craft!

Flash Fiction

I didn’t have time to craft a short story for this week’s blog.  Instead, I offer several flash fiction pieces from the daily Twitter writer’s prompt I follow.

Remember the Night

She’d always remember that night -the summer night she last saw him, last felt his arms around her. The air was warm, the frogs were serenading the bright moon, and his lips were soft on hers. Murmured promises, and then he was gone, never to return.

On Raven’s Wings

Sophia said, “Bad news flies on raven’s wings, while good news floats with butterflies.” Joni pondered her words and then said, “Incoming raven: Your butterfly arrived too late to secure this wedding venue.”

That Story You Told

The child said to his PaPa,”I was thinkin’ ‘bout that story you told ‘bout walkin’ to school. Dad said he can’t hop from post to post, & my teacher said it’d take all day to walk back & forth 10 miles. I think maybe your pants are gonna catch on fire.”

The Here and Now

“Ha,” the being scoffed. “You puny humans, living for the here and now when a million other universes exist along the time continuum!” The cop replied, “Yeah, yeah, move it along, buddy-you can’t camp here-not now & not later.”

When I Fall Down

“My secret to life?” She said, “When I fall down, and boy have I, I pull myself up-maybe with help, but I don’t just lie there waiting for someone else to lift me. We all fall. The secret is to not live your life like a medical alert commercial.”

Float Back to Earth

The child gently blew and watched the cloud of fluff rise on the breeze and then float back to earth. The old man snapped, “I’ll thank you not to help the dandelions spread!” Innocently, the child replied, “Maybe you should look for their beauty.”