Read this: The City We Became

By N.K. Jemisin
Hachette/Orbit

Re: The City We Became

When I say “read,” I mean listen to the audiobook. I like audiobooks–some more than others. This one left every other audiobook I’ve ever heard sitting on the side of the road wondering wtf happened.

The story itself is great, no question. Jemisin kind of bitch-slaps Lovecraft (only in the most entertaining way). But for me the audiobook took it to the next level. I was able to borrow it through my library, which I always appreciate. I’m not always able to get the audiobooks I want at the library.

While the production values were great and the director’s choices and special effects were apt and very enjoyable, it still wouldn’t have been as wonderful without Robin Miles’s narration. She channeled the myriad voices of Jemisin’s novel brilliantly, but my favorite touch had to be the way she recycled Pat Carroll’s Ursula (of Disney’s 1989 Little Mermaid).

I have more book recommendations in store, but I just finished this one (and was left sitting by the side of the road wondering wtf happened), so that’s my tip for today.

Bike MS 2020 – COVID-19-Style

Summit
Summitt is ready to go!

This has been such a strange year that my usual summer highlight—riding to raise funds for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society—was completely up in the air for months. Because of COVID-19, it wasn’t clear that the Illinois ride—Tour de Farms—was even going to happen.

Eventually, we learned that the ride was still on. It’s just not happening in St. Charles, Illinois with herds of people riding together. This year the ride is virtual. Everyone is participating however they’re able to do it safely.

Our team (once known as the Power Pedallers) recently rechristened ourselves in honor of our inspiration (and my husband) Bart. With a terrific name like “Bart’s Posse” how could we not ride?

BikeMSBartsPosse_062320
Bart’s Posse: Tiger, me, and Captain Cookie

Captain Cookie, Tiger, and I will ride about 24 miles and we’ll document the feat with photos and maybe even video—or at least, the best we can while maintaining social distance.

June 27-28 is a big weekend for Bike MS rides all over the country. I don’t know how well the MS Society is labeling posts about local rides but if they do, the one we’re participating in is called Tour de Farms. Here’s the Bike MS Facebook Event Page (where they’ll be going live on June 27, 2020): https://www.facebook.com/National.BikeMS/

The virtual event starts at 9 am CDT. I believe it goes until Monday, June 29 at 1 pm, but I’m particularly excited about the 3-4 pm CDT on Saturday, June 27. There’s a big fundraising push during that hour, so if you were planning to donate to the MS Society via my fundraising page, I’d love if you did it then.*

The money we raise goes toward researching treatments and cures. It also supports and educates those who are dealing with the disease. MS hasn’t gone away or taken a vacation, even with everything else that’s going on. That’s why I’m still raising funds and why I hope you can contribute if you’re in a position to do so.

We’re in challenging times. Most of us have been under emotional and/or financial strain. There are many good causes that deserve support, and you might already have donated to some of them. But if you’re able, we’d really appreciate your support of our cause this year. We ride for Bart, for Madolyn, for Janet, for other friends and family who are fighting MS, and in memory of others.

Here’s the link to my fundraising page.

Thank you** in advance and take care of yourselves!

* But if you’d like to donate, and that time’s not convenient, please don’t let that stop you!

** Many, many thanks to those who have donated already! You’ve been so generous, George A, Elizabeth J,  Irwin G, Thomas M & Family, John M, Dr. Mickey S, Emmi M, Katherine L, Madolyn L, Steve and Lorie R, Ann L, Mary S, Robyn T, Sara G, Beth N, Tim Y, Randy B, Cecelia M, and Lori K.

Naperville, June 2020

A hotel in Phoenix, Arizona welcomes guests
with their commitment to human rights.
(Wikimedia – Creative Commons License)

Monday, June 1

After peaceful protests in downtown Naperville, some opportunistic thugs started vandalizing and looting businesses. Many windows were smashed and a lot of merchandise and supplies were taken.

Tuesday, June 2

Community volunteers came out to help with the cleanup. A few young teenage girls taped paper hearts on some of the plywood that had been put up in place of broken windows. Some of the hearts had the letters “BLM” (standing for Black Lives Matter) written on them. As they worked, an old white man got out of his car to shake his finger and yell, “This is a good city and you want to ruin it.” 

(With small paper hearts? Seriously?)

While he was busy frothing at the mouth, several white women went up to the plywood, tore the paper hearts down, and contributed their own verbal abuse.

Those young girls were speaking out against injustice in a peaceful way that harmed no one.

Their harassers were nothing more than hate-filled bullies. But something good emerged from their bile. Numerous people from Naperville posted their support for the girls and their condemnation of the privileged middle-aged and old white people who felt threatened by young people speaking up for justice and love. Not too threatened, though. At least they felt comfortable tormenting children.

Wednesday, June 3

In reaction to this event, many more people gathered in Naperville on June 3rd to post more paper hearts. Several Naperville businesses have joined in by inviting people to post hearts at their locations. My heart is full—both for the young people’s resilience and courage and for the adults who support them and their cause. 

If you want to show your support and your circumstances will allow it in the time of COVID-19, consider visiting some of these businesses:

  • Apple Store
  • Anderson’s Books
  • Starbucks Reserve
  • Mongolian Grill
  • Potbelly’s
  • Empire
  • Jimmy Johns
  • Ikkai Sushi
  • Coldstone Creamery
  • Kilwins Creamery
  • Jackson Ave Pub
  • Smoothie King
  • Red Mango
  • (or any others where you see these message hearts posted)

Of course, spending money at retail establishments and restaurants is pretty easy to do when you’re in a comfortable position. There’s some real work ahead of all of us. Not everyone can do everything, but we all must do what we can. As Desmond Tutu advised:

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.

And realize, as Tutu also said:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

This information comes from the Facebook page, 365 Things to Do in Naperville, Illinois. A video link to Wednesday’s activities is here: https://www.facebook.com/Naperville365/videos/257602402233749 

Pandemic Journal – Entry Two

A boy was having his 4th birthday. Because he didn’t want anyone to get sick, his friends and family gave him a special party.

They all decorated their cars.

The fire department came and used the siren on their big engine.

The parade began!

Everyone drove past and waved to the birthday boy.

The police came by and wished him a happy birthday. 

Everyone sang. It was LOUD!!! But it was fun!

Pandemic Journal – Entry One

My actual journal is too jumbled and dystopic to share as is, but as a start, here’s a Nebula reading list, courtesy of Locus. I’m hard at work on getting through it before the March 31 voting deadline.

Among the Nebula nominees is one I’ve already I’ve already touted in this blog: Sarah Pinsker’s amazing debut novel, A Song for a New Day. Whoever expected her predictions to come true so soon?

If you’re as discombobulated as I am, you might enjoy some of the sidewalk chalk art I’ve encountered in recent walks. So here you go:

This one says” Be brave and fight the virouse” (sic)

And as an encouraging reminder-


I found a couple more, probably done by older chalk artists

I’ll save the doom and gloom for another day.

Take care of yourselves, precious humans.
CB

A Song For A New Day

I’ve been writing very slowly lately. 

The excuse for my sluggardly pace? I’m trying to get better at it, rather than just churning out substandard prose that will make me cringe later. 

One of the ways I’m working on improving is by reading more. I’ve read a few enjoyable novels lately—I’m finally reading some Cherie Priest, which I’ve been meaning to get around to for ages. I’ll never actually get around to everything I want to read, but I’m working on it.

Cover image from Penguin Random House website

One novel I’m excited to recommend is A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker. Maybe this isn’t a book for everyone, but I’m not the only one who thinks it’s terrific. A bit of praise:

A back cover blurb by Charlie Jane Anders reads, “You’d better keep a copy with you at all times, because this book will help you survive the future.”

The starred Kirkus review calls it: “a gorgeous novel that celebrates what can happen when one person raises her voice.”

For my part, I love the plausible, unsettling near-future feel of the world Sarah Pinsker has created. It feels like it could happen about ten years in the future, or maybe even sooner. I love how the novel eventually feels upbeat. I love its implied call to action.

But will you like this book? You might if:

  • You love music, especially live music
  • You enjoyed her 2016 Nebula Award winning novelette, “Our Lady of the Open Road”
  • You want to know even a few of the 173 ways to wreck a hotel room
  • You like thinking up terrible names for bands
  • You feel hopeless
  • You feel hopeful
  • You crave a feeling of connection
  • You want to change the world

It’s Been a Year

EilBethCB_Pre_Bikes2As usual, Cookie, Tiger, and I did the Bike MS Tour de Farms ride – June 22, 2019

And I’m still fundraising, but we’ll get to that later.

The fact that it’s taken me this long to blog about the ride this year is a testament to how wacky the last few months have been. There were times I wasn’t completely sure I was going to ride. We had some health issues in the family starting around February, so training was a greater challenge than it sometimes is. And then there was…

GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE

Okay, that’s been going on for a while no matter what the Big Oil Companies want to you to believe. I refer you to Bill McKibben’s scary book Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

I know there are people in way worse shape than our family, but here’s how it hit us: This past May was the wettest in Chicago’s recorded history.

So there wasn’t much decent riding weather, which interfered with our training regimens.

The weather also meant that our yard (where the drainage has never been terrific) has pretty much been a wetland all spring and summer.

Deck
There’s been a lovely moat all around the deck

So in addition to trying to finish the novel I started in 2016, and dealing with the aforementioned health issues, we also had to find a solution to the standing water before the disease-bearing mosquitoes decided to make our yard their refuge.

(Talk to me later if you want to hear the horror stories about the neighbor who decided that somehow we caused the drainage issues and was threatening to sue us.)

Anyhoo. Just when I thought events could hardly increase my tension level, my beloved bicycle—the one I was planning to ride at the event—fell off the back of a bike trailer as we were on our way to a training ride. Poor Skippy.

Skippysm
R.I.P. Skippy

She was mortally injured and now has become an organ parts donor at Working Bikes Cooperative

I was inconsolable, but BK dragged me out immediately after the incident and bought me a new bike. And in more good news, it looks like insurance will cover the loss.

I’m calling her Summit after the late legendary University of Tennessee Lady Vols basketball coach, Pat Summitt.

Summit
Summitt

Summitt is also an aspirational name. I’m hoping that it will encourage me to do better on ascents.

Summit did me proud on the ride. We went 35 miles! Not as good as a couple of years ago, when we were riding 50, but Cookie, Tiger, and I all had stuff going on this spring, so we opted to do 35.

Tiger and Cookie raised funds like champs, but I’m afraid I fell down on the job this year. 2019 is the first time in several years that I might not achieve Gold Spokes status.

So if my tale of woe has awakened pity in your breast and you’re wondering how to allot your charitable giving this year, I could sure use the boost. I’m still eligible to join the Gold Spokes until about August 20. Here’s a link to my fundraising page 

If that doesn’t work for some reason, please let me know.

Thanks again to Cookie, Tiger, BK, Rocky, the Raupp family, my cousins Steve, Cecelia & Brian, Mickey, Kevin, Ann, Emmi, Kurt, Randy, the White family, Katherine L, and the Musto family. Your generosity is so much appreciated!

In case you’re interested, here are a few more pictures from the ride:

Beth_Pre EileenPre CB_Pre2

EileenBeth_Post BethCB_Post2

BethEileenAfter NoPixPls

Lindens

LindenInBloom

The linden trees bloomed late this year.

Their flowers, while pleasant, aren’t particularly showy. They don’t pop out in April or May, when all the crabapple, redbud, magnolia, ornamental pear, and cherry trees are showing off. I wasn’t even cognizant of them the first 30+ years of my life. It was only when I was getting a certificate at College of DuPage and walked along a gloriously scented avenue for a few days in June that I finally asked, “What is that fragrance?”

Lindens. Now I seek them out every year and find them all over. Thank heaven. Which is what they smell like.

I understand they’re a popular tree in Germany and had the occasion to ask a German friend (Simone Heller, who is the brilliant writer of such stories as “When We Were Starless” and “How Bees Fly”) if she liked them as well.

She shared this story from her childhood:

There were three enormous old linden trees behind our house, and I used to get up on a ladder with my dad to “help” with harvesting – most important thing was to look out for bees also interested in the flowers. We harvested the flowers only. I have discovered some places that serve linden flower around here as a hot or cold infusion during the last years, and they have harvested the seeds, too (the parts with the wings). They look very nice and it doesn’t hurt to have them, but the aroma and the pharmaceutical components are mostly in the flowers. 

We used to gather them in a basket to not squish them, and then bring them up to the attic to dry them over a longer period of time, spread out on a big cloth. They should dry in a shadowed place is what I remember, not in the sun. They were used in winter then, because they are good against the symptoms of colds or to prevent colds. But when I rediscovered them a few years ago, I found they also taste very good, mild, slightly sweet, and a lot like the blooming flowers smell. I remember not being so thrilled by the taste as a child, probably because they were used as a medicine, more or less.

We have to do some major regrading and drainage work in our yard and the old tripping hazard of a silver maple that makes it practically impossible to mow will soon be removed. We’re thinking of replacing it with a linden tree.

I don’t see myself harvesting linden flowers and creating infusions from them any time soon, but I love the idea that it’s possible…

2019 Hugo Nominations Announced!

http://www.thehugoawards.org/2019/04/2019-hugo-award-1944-retro-hugo-award-finalists/

I was so excited to see a Hugo nomination for my friend Simone’s novelette, “When We Were Starless”!

This novelette has made Simone a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon award. It is also featured in many year’s best lists. You can read it here: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/heller_10_18/

If you’re eligible to vote for the Hugos, you really should give this story a read. Read as many of the nominees as you can, of course, but don’t miss Simone’s.