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Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

Snug #stayathome

Bean bags aren't for the humans in this house.


Executive Orders re-read

Executive Orders  - Tom Clancy

Given my current country of residence's complete incompetence and the news that my native land is trying to be the world leader in everything including incompetence, I needed to escape to a world where real problems are met and dealt with by leaders with integrity and the skills to think through issues rationally with a view towards the long-term.


In other words, a fantasy.


I have always been and will always be, an unapologetic fan of Clancy's works - the ones he wrote himself - so falling back into Jack Ryan's world was, if not a comfort, at least familiar and comfortable.  It's been 2 decades since I last read this, and it generally holds up perfectly.  The first half of the book is a bit overly idealistic, but what struck me about it is that Tom Clancy showed a startling degree of prescience not just in some of his major plot lines, but in his story arc.


Executive Orders is the story about a non-politician ending up as President of the United States, vowing to eject the political riff-raff out of Washington, and appointing business sector executives to the cabinet to get things done.


Sound familiar?  Of course, Jack Ryan wasn't a paranoid narcissist and he was highly educated and qualified regardless of his lack of political savvy.  He also had more integrity than your garden variety black widow spider.  But Clancy imagined the world we live in today twenty years ago, with startling accuracy, albeit in the most idealistic light.


His idealism extended to America's response (and only America because his plot extended no further) to the epidemic that grips the country in Executive Orders; his national lockdown works flawlessly; almost nobody ignores the mandate, there are no rushes on grocery stores, and there's no general panic.  Of course, I'd like to think that any country's population would react to an epidemic of ebola exponentially better than they're reacting (or not) to the corona pandemic, so maybe my faith in humanity hasn't been completely snuffed out.


Either way, it was good to revisit a world that works, even when everything is pear-shaped.

#stayathome pets

One of us is re-reading Executive Orders - but I'm not sure which:


Sunday's bird of the day #stayathome

Not strictly stay at home, because MT and I went, with caution, to a local park yesterday; I needed to get out and move and there's only so many times you can walk around your own block.  The lots were relatively full, but scanning around, we couldn't see more than a handful of people scattered at wide distances, so we spent an hour on the unused mountain bike trails, frankly veering away whenever we saw someone approaching.


Today's bird is also not new, but Rainbow Lorikeets are the hams of Australia; between their plumage and their antics they are begging to be photographed.  I can't be sure, because I wasn't going to be invasive or disruptive, but I get the feeling they were nesting in the dead tree trunks.




The great bookshelf project of 2020 update

Progress was made last weekend!  Two walls are now completed and we think we'll have enough wood left for the third wall, and, it appears, the time to get it done in the coming weeks.  Assuming I don't run out of brackets again.


The room is small so full frame pics are impossible, but you get the idea:




Still heaps of work to do and I'll be doing 'finishing' touches for months to come, but it's really starting to take shape!

Some delightful bookish news for once...

Things are so awful everywhere right now, I thought I'd take a moment and, you know, post something that's actually book related on BookLikes.  


As you know, we in Australia are under a 'draconian' lockdown, which essentially means the pubs and bars are closed because they have to be and nobody else is open because they're smarter than the government.  Ahem.  Just before the 'lockdown' was scheduled to begin at noon on Tuesday, I received my belated (due to extenuating circumstances unrelated to the pandemic) birthday box from the bff living in The Netherlands:



It's pure coincidence that my birthday box resembles most people's idea of a emergency provisions box and probably reflects my introversion more than anything else.  There's a jigsaw puzzle sort of hidden in there, some chocolate (Tony's!), nutella, and two books.


The two books - she was so excited about these that she almost gave the game away way back in November.  Upon opening them, I was a tiny bit confused:



They gorgeous books, but they're in German.  I don't speak or read German of course; I'm an American and the closest I come to bilingual is a northern and a southern american accent.  Then I opened them, and it took me a couple of minutes but I got it.


It's the inscriptions inside the covers:




Specifically, the dates:  they were each inscribed to someone on my birthday and MT's birthday, respectively, albeit 100 years ago or more.


She swears she stumbled on them by coincidence but she's still outdone herself and pretty much guaranteed a lifetime slot in worlds bestest, most thoughtful friend.  I am humbled, and gobsmacked.

Parody? Satire? No, no: real life.

Where do I begin?  When last I left you my BookLikes friends, Australia was hanging tough in the land of delusion, claiming it had the highest testing rates in the world (it doesn't), that all the cases were because of 'overseas travellers' (they aren't, though, so far most positives are, because overseas travellers and their contacts are the only ones who are being tested), and our supermarkets and liquor stores were being mobbed.


As of tonight, here are the highlights since then:

 - The states and territories have rebelled against the federal government, closing all their schools, and with the exception of Victoria and New South Wales, their borders.  


- Tasmania has rebelled against everyone, and has gone from 'no-one can come in without self-isolating' to 'any non-resident will be turned away' to 'every non-resident currently in the state must leave by midnight Sunday', all in the last 4 days.


- The PM announced that all non-essential businesses must close, weddings could have no more than 5 people (bride/groom/witnesses/celebrant), funerals max 10, no yoga, but boot camp training was ok with a max of 10 people, because the PM wasn't going to tell someone they couldn't work (???).  But when asked what 'essential workers' were, the PM responded that an 'essential worker is someone who has a job'.


- Hair dressers could remain open if appointments were kept to 30 minutes or less and 2 sq. meters between individuals was maintained.  When everyone went 'wtf?' the government said 'ok, hair appointments can be more than 30 minutes'.   o_O


-  The PM went on to say shopping centers would be closed - no wait, shopping centers were open, but the food courts had to close.  But they could sell takeaway.  


-  He went on to say that everyone who can stay home should stay home.  Unless they needed to go to the shops (ie retail shops), and then they should go to the shops, but just stay home.


-  House parties should be avoided, but he wasn't going to tell people they couldn't have friends over, but really everyone should just stay home.  When asked about enforcement, he replied that of course, if the party was noisy the police would respond.


This was all done in one sweeping, fabulous, clusterf*ck of a press conference that was so catastrophically bad, he has announced he will not do any further press conferences, to which everyone breathed a general sigh of relief.


There's mud slinging over cruise ships allowed to dock, and international flights being given old information and allowed to disperse, and WA not allowing ANY cruise ships to dock.


Our cases are doubling every three days and we only have 3000 ventilators in the country.


If it weren't all so deadly, it would be hilarious.



Tuesday's #stayathome bird

This might not last too much longer; my very small portfolio of pictures featuring interesting birds is rapidly being exhausted.  


But here's a pic I took a few years ago on a weekend in the northern part of our state.  Australia has several Cockatoo species beyond the well known Sulphur Crested Cockatoos.  This one is called the Gang-gang Cockatoo.


Today's #stayathome pet

These definitely won't be daily because ... cats be cats.  But today, while working on the great library upgrade of 2020, Carlito couldn't help himself:



At least there are books in this picture, right?

Today's #stayathome bird

is a Corella - think of it as the permanently hungover cousin of the sulphur-crested cockatoo.  They travel in massive, noisy flocks, and every late-summer/early autumn, their flight path takes them over our house as they descend on neighborhood trees to eat the seeds, leaving an unholy mess behind.  Some people think they're a pest, but I think they're hilarious, and anyone who expects the great outdoors to remain neat and tidy deserves a little hungover corella in their lives.



Not the greatest picture but one I took with the new telephoto lens, so it's a newbie effort.   Here's a slightly better one I took several years ago, when they got desperate enough to descend on the pear trees in my very small front garden:


When bad news is good news ...

I guess this was probably brewing for a while, but directly after Australia's PM did a press conference today talking about national unity and re-affirming the national policy of keeping schools open, the states of Victoria and NSW announced the closure of all non-essential businesses starting tomorrow, and Victoria has shut its schools effective Tuesday.  NSW is expected to announce the same tomorrow.  An hour later, the ACT territory of Canberra (home of the national government), followed suit.  2 states and the Northern Territory have shut their borders to EVERYBODY, effectively making it impossible to travel intestate in the western part of the country.


It's a conflicting moment for me, as MT's business will, undoubtedly, not be considered 'essential' and he's going to have to send his 4 guys home for an undetermined amount of time, while trying to figure out how he's going to keep paying them, and rent.  The stimulus package will help, but in the great wisdom of the government, the most important parts of it won't be available until the end of April.  There has been no announcement of home mortgage amnesty, which we were hoping for, as we could put that money towards payroll.  We'll see what happens - events last year have put us in a tenuous situation now, but we're certainly not as bad off as many, many other businesses.


But, I'm cautiously relived.  The closures will give MT a better chance of escaping infection, and hopefully keep the stress off the healthcare system.  Maybe - our current trajectory looks an awful lot like Italy's statistically, and we've had some catastrophic decision making going on in the form of several cruise ships allowed to dock and disembark in the last two weeks that weren't screened for COVID 19.  At least one, the Ruby Princess, has had 26 confirmed cases that they've been able to track down.  I'm afraid the shit is gonna hit the fan here in two weeks or so.  But just to keep things real,  the casino is still running a few gaming rooms, and the rugby refuses to stop until the government forces them to.  And Sydney-siders are defying the closures of the beaches and continue to gather.


Oh, and the biggest brewery in the country has come out and publicly stated that the government had to make brewing and distilling an essential service because in these incredibly uncertain times "people need to be able to access beer and other liquor at bottle-shops".


Now, THAT'S Australian.


For Whisky in the Jar...

'lito, in oils.  Or at least as close as I can get with photoshop.  :D


Speaking of wildlife in my back garden...


Doing his Tawny Frogmouth impression...


#stayathome bird of the day ...

I got a bit bored today - restless, really because I have plenty to do - and decided to do a bit of camera practice from my back garden.  Usually, this means every bird in a 5km radius immediately disappears, but today, as soon as I looked out the back, I saw a large bird in the tree on the property behind ours.  I knew a Tawny Frogmouth lived in the neighborhood, but have never been able to see him, because he's usually nesting in a huge eucalyptus tree in different yard.  I hightailed it over to the next block and he obliged. (I keep saying he - I have no idea what the gender is; tawny frogmouths aren't dimorphic)


Tawny Frogmouths look a LOT like owls, until you see them from the side.  They aren't owls (they're more closely related to nightjars). He was all fluffed out so I was unable to get a good profile shot, but hopefully you get the idea.




Where to go to guarantee easy social distancing ... and birds

Several weeks (months?) ago, I mentioned that I'd been early awaiting an excursion that required a permit.  Well, the permit finally arrived and we've been twice already.  Where to?


The Werribee Western Water Treatment Plant.


Yep, a sewage treatment center.  But not just any water treatment plant, this one covers more than 100 sq. km, and is part of an international treaty - the Rasmar Convention - that protects wetlands across the world for migratory birds.  This, along with the large area of permanent standing water, has made it the second most bio-diverse spot in Australia after Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. (More information about the plant can be found in this very well-written article.)


After our first trip, I made an important realisation: as much as I loved my new camera, I made a mistake not going for a telephoto lens.  I rectified that in the following weeks and a follow up trip has justified my decision, though also made it clear I have a steep learning curve ahead.


For the bird lovers, or those just wanting a break from all the doom and gloom, I give you a selection of the more well executed photos, or more interesting species of birds from those two trips.  There will definitely be future trips made, and should everyone here finally see the light and admit wide-spread social distancing is necessary, we'll definitely be able to flee to this quiet, gorgeous (yes, gorgeous, and almost not-at-all smelly!) patch of land, where it's pretty much just us and the birds whenever we need a sanity break.


White-faced Heron:


Golden-headed Cisticola:


Australian Pelican:


White-fronted Chat:


Tree Martin, Fairy Martin and Welcome Swallow:


Kites:  Whistling or Black, I'm not sure which (I suck as a 'birder')


Brown Falcon:


Black Swan:


Welcome Swallow:


Swamp Harrier:




Not a bird, but a damselfly:

I don't even know where to begin



Is everybody doing ok?  Is everybody healthy?  Is everybody maintaining their pre-2020 levels of sanity?


Does everyone have enough toilet paper?



I've been a ghost around here, as life was inadvertently preparing me for the social apocalypse and the very real economic one.  When shit hit the fan here down under last week, I found MT and I to be oddly well-stocked - due to a series of fortunate mistakes* - and I've been able to completely avoid the hoarding insanity that has gripped the world.



I also made the decision this past Monday to self-isolate; as some of you may remember, MT has an autoimmune condition and is on a number of immune suppressants.  I run the IT in two primary schools, and the Australian government, in their infinite wisdom and boundless stupidity, refuse to close any schools.  Because experts.  Don't ask them which experts, they'll just tell you "Australian experts".  


Anywhoo, I am lucky.  My employer is backing me and honestly even the education department - in my state at least - has already started distance learning protocols.  


So, I'm working from home while MT, madly scrambles to keep his business going.  He has 4 employees so social distancing has been easy to implement, and the cancellation of all events has killed business enough that he can put them on half day shifts.  It's just a matter of waiting to see if he, along with everyone else, will be able to stay in business until we reach the other side.  And washing his hands.  A LOT.


I haven't been reading.  At all. 6 weeks without picking up a book unless I've moving it from shelf to shelf or into a box.  Which leads me to an update on the great bookshelf installation of 2020.  It's still in progress, hampered by the fact that I ran out of the  brackets I need, and apparently that bracket is not a popular Elfa item in Australia.  As in, I keep buying out the entire country's stock of the damn things, and then have to wait until a new shipment comes in.  Currently, we've been waiting for the last 30 brackets to be had to arrive and - yay! - notification came that they'll be delivered sometime between today and Monday.


This last week has been so crazy, I felt an overwhelming need to re-read Pride and Prejudice, which I finished this morning.  Ms. Austen is a great comfort to me, but now I'm not sure what, if any, book I'll pick up next.


I've been out playing with cameras and stalking birds a few times since I last checked in, but I'll do a separate post about that because pictures.


I'm hoping a silver lining to all this madness in the world will be that life will slow down a bit and I'll be able to get back to the steady monotony I so dearly cherish and that allows me the very not-monotonous pleasure of spending all my free time here on BookLikes.


By the way - I don't suppose they fixed the 2020 date issue?


I hope everybody is hanging in there; I'm preparing a marathon post catch up next and look forward to finding out how everybody is staying sane.




* - I've been ordering my TP online for the last year, using a subscription service I kept forgetting to update with a longer delivery gap, so we were already well stocked.  I also lost my mind and my dietary principals about 3 weeks ago and ordered a bunch of US junk food - pop-tarts/chex mix/pepperidge farm cookes/root beer - and that order arrived Monday.  I also have a standing order from an organic produce home delivery service, and I'd double ordered last week (placed two orders, but not for the same stuff), and sort of lost track of how much I'd ordered.   We are sooo ok for the short term.