Look, Ma! I’m in a book!

My dear pond readers may remember I recently announced that I sold a second short story that will be appearing in print in a book of short stories. As promised, here is more information: my story is titled Kitsune Tea and is published under my pseudonym, E.A. Lawrence (check out my author page tab for more info!). The anthology is titled ROAR 7 and is being published by Furplanet publications. The book is available for pre-order. I’m super excited about this career development and I hope you enjoy my story in this collection. Thanks for stopping by the pond, dear readers.

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Michigan butterfly by E.A. Schneider

Good News

Here is the best piece of news I’ve heard all week, dear readers: Canadian scientists have published a paper in the Lancet detailing an extraordinary new treatment for severe progressive multiple sclerosis.  That link will take you to an excellent write-up of the discovery in Vox but this link will take you to the original Lancet article.

I’ve mentioned my personal struggle with multiple sclerosis before here in the pond, heck I even have a tab devoted to it here. This is a big deal to me but I also just think this story is inspiring. Want to know one of the many cool things about science that I think I’ve mentioned a few times? Everything is connected. That amazing miracle up in Canada was only possible because there was a bunch of basic scientific research available to draw upon from stem cells, leukemia research, lymphoma research, auto-immune research, and probably many other fields that I’m unaware of; the publication has 38 cited references and 25 co-authors. The implications of the work these 25 scientists did extend beyond multiple sclerosis to other auto-immune diseases and who knows what else in the future. Just thinking about all of the citations that had to happen to make all the 38 works possible that made this paper possible, fills me with awe at the breadth of research necessary to facilitate each discovery scientists make. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Each discovery, each eureka moment, fuels the next one, even one you might not expect. Every penny towards research, be it private or public, helps the researchers do their necessary work. I also personally believe that every prayer and positive thought contributes in some way to these sorts of discoveries, too. I hope contemplating this story, and all the hands that made it possible, fills you with hope & wonder, too, dear readers. Have you read or experienced something that gave you a feeling of hope? Please share it below in the comments and thanks for stopping by the pond today.

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Light and Leaves from Michigan by E.A. Schneider

 

Repeatable Joy

The ability to repeat an experiment and replicate results consistently is a cornerstone of science, dear readers. You don’t want something you try, especially something important, to prove to be a fluke. A good experiment can be accurately repeated time and again. This basic fact is burned into my brain. I know that art isn’t science but for me and the way my brain works, I kinda think that anything real should be repeatable.

When my first professionally published story, “Valentine,” hit the Internet a few months ago, that little voice known as Doubt did whisper in my ear. Me being me, I argued.

“You know that it was just a fluke, right?”

Well, I hope it isn’t…

“You know that they didn’t publish your story because they actually thought it was good.”

Then why?

“You know that this isn’t going to happen again, right? Because it’s not.”

That’s probably true; but maybe if I just submit one more time…

If you’re a writer or an artist, you probably have your own version of that dialogue between yourself and your inner demon of Doubt every day, too. I am confident that I’m not the only one. Heck, you probably have your own negative give and take just being a human being.

While I know that Doubt will never go away I am happy to announce that I have managed to get it to shut up for a little while thanks to a victory of epic proportions: I sold another short story. HAH! In your face, Doubt! You can suck it!

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This whole people-publishing-my-stories thing is not a fluke, it is repeatable. And I hope that I can repeat it many times over. Now, I have to get cracking on some more fiction. Thanks for joining me in my happy dancing, dear pond readers.

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My story will be appearing in an anthology that will be published in both book form and epub form later this summer, probably in July. I will post more details as I find them out. In the meantime, dear pond reader, the happy dancing will continue. Thanks for stopping by.

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Science is the coolest

Check out these nifty science stories I’ve been reading about lately, dear pond readers. As you read these, picture your best old-timey radio announcer voice because that makes it extra fun. Also, science fiction is rapidly becoming science fact. All we’re missing are jet packs and replicators.

Mammal who survived the comet that killed the dinosaurs still exists!

Microfish tiny robots that could help deliver medicine and remove toxins!

Acoustic tweezers that can manipulate cells!

Vitamins that can minimize disease damage in multiple sclerosis!

Resurrection of a nigh-extinct subspecies with biotechnology!

The future is now! What do you think, dear readers? Leave a comment below and thanks for stopping by the pond today.

 

 

 

 

Star Trek Guide: the Conclusion

Hailing frequencies open, dear pond readers! A couple months ago now, I published a post detailing a plan to introduce someone to Star Trek in one day. Now, I can publish the sequel to how that day actually turned out. I’m re-posting the blurbs featured in the original post to give you all some context on what we’re discussing.  Enjoy!

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A small subset of my beloved Star Trek model collection by E.A. Schneider

Introductions:

You know me, Ellen, your friendly neighborhood pond-dweller who is a definite Trekkie. I have picked the viewing and am asking my nerd friend questions. The nerd friend who is the inspiration for Star Trek day is Amber of burgeoning Youtube fame as a co-host of the Drunken Library. Amber, would you like to put a blurb about yourself here at the pond with any links you want?

Amber: Sure! The Drunken Library is a YouTube channel where my friend Sam and I get drunk, talk about books, and generally revel in an abundance of shenanigans. You can find us at: http://www.youtube.com/c/drunkenlibrary

Ellen: Thanks again, Amber. Alright, on to the episodes!

The Blurb: 
Star Trek: the Original Series: “Balance of Terror” Season 1, Episode 14 This episode has everything: fabulous writing that grapples with contemporary socio-political issues, intense character moments, and some thrilling action. The performances, especially guest star Mark Leonard and Leonard Nimoy’s Spock, are really something special. And that final scene? Be still my nerdly heart! It’s a good episode, especially when you think about the world of the 1960s with all that Cold War tension. ST:TOS really excels at confronting issues of race, prejudice, and the difficulties of maintaining peace with warring neighbors throughout its three season run; this episode is a great example.

 

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The Romulan warbird from the “Balance of Terror”

 

The Viewing:

Amber: When did this episode air?

Ellen: Apparently, 12/15/1966. What did you think, Amber?
Amber: I liked it. It’s cool to see them not being famous people, see where they started. I can’t help comparing it to Doctor Who, that’s my massive nerd obsession. Did they film it in color?

Ellen: Yeah, they did.

Amber: Okay, cool.

Ellen: Did you notice how diverse the background extras are?

Amber: No, not until you mentioned it. I noticed Uhura and George Takei on the bridge, that’s cool.

The Blurb:
Star Trek the Animated Series: “The Practical Joker”Season 2, Episode 3
The Animated Series is awkwardly placed in Star Trek.  It is officially licensed, it includes the same voice talent, many of the same writers from the live show write episodes, and some things from the animated series went on to influence the rest of the shows but…it is not canon. Technically, by my own rules, this series shouldn’t be in this viewing day because it is not main storyline. But, given all of the above positives added to the creative renderings of aliens impossible to show on live TV, and the bigger parts given to supporting characters, particularly women, I just can’t help but really love this series. Also, the cheesy animation is entertaining in its own right. Therefore I declare this to be Bonus Viewing! “The Practical Joker” features the “Rec Room,” an early use of holographic technology without which we wouldn’t have all sorts of awesome adventures in other series. I also think showing the pitfalls of the technology that makes this future possible in a comedic way is fun sci-fi.

 

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The  computer has a sense of humor.

The Viewing:
Ellen:
This episode aired on 9/21/1974, over ten years after TOS went off the air. What did you think?

Amber: Doesn’t take itself too seriously, it is cheesy in a cartoony way but I liked it.

The Blurb:
Star Trek: the Next Generation: “Darmok” Season 5, Episode 2
A fan favorite and a personal favorite, “Darmok,” is about the overwhelming importance of communication and the lengths a committed diplomat will go to make sure that connection is made. “Darmok” also showcases the universal importance of Stories in a very compelling way. It inspired me to read Gilgamesh, actually (you’ll understand why if you watch the episode). This episode has great action, characterization, and more than a few stellar lines by Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard. Diplomacy over violence is one of the big points of Star Trek, and Picard’s Enterprise does it so well. Even though this episode is primarily a Picard vehicle, you get to see his crew working as a team to help him through a pretty unique first contact and considering how amazing his crew is, that’s important.

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The Viewing: 
Ellen:
This aired on 9/28/1991.

Amber: Okay, I think I saw part of this series when I was a kid, not this episode.

Ellen: What did you think when you saw them land on the planet with daggers?

Amber: Didn’t think it was a duel. Maybe an offering or a hunt?

Ellen: What do you think of Picard’s response? The crew’s?

Amber: At least he wasn’t all aggressive. [The crew] was all aggressive, not necessary.

Ellen: The children of Tarmar only speak in stories, what do you think of that?

Amber: Like the concept, not sure how effective it is but thought it was cool.

Ellen: Does it remind you of anything we do?

Amber: Yeah, inside jokes and pop culture references. I like that the crew understood what was happening but not the story but the Captain understood the story without the historical library info. It was like immersion vs. research for learning a language and I find that really appealing.

The Blurb:
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: “Duet” Season 1, Episode 18
Deep Space Nine grappled with the messy complications of war in all its stages: before, during, and after. Through the clean-up of Bajor post-Cardassian occupation and with the Dominion invasion it does this messy job very well with a stellar cast of characters who undergo tremendous growth over the course of the show. I think “Duet” encapsulates all of these themes while showcasing the powerful Major Kira Nerys at the beginning of her journey. Major Kira has some understandable issues with Cardassians and this episode forces her to confront them but it is still a stand-alone, you get all the exposition you need within the first few minutes. Fans generally hate on the first three seasons of Deep Space Nine. While I agree that the show didn’t find its stride until season four, I think there were still a lot of good episodes with compelling stories in the first three seasons and that a show needs time to build momentum, especially a show with a big ensemble cast.

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Kira and Maritza from DS9

The Viewing: 
Ellen:
So, what did you think?

Amber: It was an interesting progression. It was sad that he tried to do something good then got stabbed. Racism at its finest!

Ellen: Were you able to follow what was happening alright?

Amber: Rough to catch what was happening at first, your background before the episode helped. It was interesting to watch her being so conflicted about something based on prejudice and overcome racism to think positively toward someone different. Always is cool when that can happen.

The Blurb:

Star Trek: Voyager: “Blink of an Eye” Season 6, Episode 12
The Prime Directive states that Starfleet personnel are prohibited from interfering in the development of other civilizations. It is their highest principle and it can be pretty hard to hold up sometimes, but what do you do when you’re influencing a civilization and you didn’t know it? This is the main question of this episode and is an excellent showcase for the strengths of Voyager. Within Star Trek the series frequently explores difficult ethical questions, especially when the Prime Directive is in play, and I think that tends to be when the franchise is at its best. The premise of Voyager,a ship lost and alone literally hundreds of years of travel away from allies, particularly lends itself to questions of morality versus pragmatics, pushing the boundaries a little on all those high-ideals Star Trek is known for. But, Voyager has a lot of haters, I used to be a doubter, but I liked the show overall when I got to re-watch it on streaming. I loved the ensemble cast, especially B’Elanna Torres and Tom Paris, and I liked Captain Janeway a lot. Voyager is definitely worth a second look.

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The Viewing: 

Ellen: So, what did you think?

Amber: I really liked the captain and SevenofNine seemed cool. It was really neat to see a timey wimey civilization, almost like playing CIV [Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution] to see it all go by so fast.

Ellen: What do you think of the crew and their decision not to fight?

Amber: They put a lot of faith in the astronaut, without him they were effed. It’s a strong commitment to the prime directive. I wouldn’t have understood all that without your explanation, though.

The Blurb:
Star Trek: Enterprise: “The Cogenitor” Season 2,  Episode 22
Speaking of the Prime Directive, this is an episode that explores why a powerful, wanna-be-technologically-sophisticated race of explorers might need a rule like that if they are going to go star-hopping. Again, more big questions with good storytelling and the plucky ensemble cast of Enterprise exploring the universe. The premise of Enterprise is that it chronicles the beginning of humanity’s voyage to the stars before the United Federation of Planets was founded. Like Voyager, Enterprise also has a lot of haters, and I also used to be one. But, after re-watching the show, I realized that I let prequel prejudice color my judgment. “Why do we need a prequel? Who needs prequels, anyway?”<–younger, more nerd-rage-y, Ellen. Well, this episode actually gives a good answer to that rather petulant question. Enterprise has its ups and downs, I think it was really hitting its stride in its last season, but this episode is definitely one of the ups.

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The Viewing: 
Ellen:
Alright, the last episode. It aired on 4/30/2003 and was directed by Star Trek alum, LeVar Burton. What did you think?

Amber: Is that how they made the Federation, by going around talking to people?

Ellen: Yes, that is exactly how they made it.

Amber: Cool. That episode seemed to have a pretty big shout-out to “Dead Poet’s Society.”

Ellen: Yeah, I can see that. I don’t know if there’s a connection though.

Amber: That episode also had the weirdest flirting I’ve ever seen.

Ellen: [Laughing] Yeah…Star Trek definitely has its share of flirting over the years. Malcolm is kind of the worst security officer, too. What did you think of the story?

Amber: I get [Trip’s] impulse but still, but, if they [the Cogenitor] can’t achieve the dream you’re getting them to dream, you’re not really helping them.

Ellen: Yeah, it’s pretty complicated. You also don’t know if they ever established diplomatic relations or not after this and what could have changed if they could’ve had a diplomatic relationship. It is really bittersweet.

The Blurb:

Bonus Viewing: Trekkies(1997)The fan culture of Star Trek has a life and significance unto itself, which Denise Crosby sets out to document with love and humor in Trekkies. I think this documentary is splendid. Crosby catches everything from the ridiculous to the affecting as she travels the U.S.A. talking to trekkies of all walks of life. Who knows? Maybe if my geek friend winds up interested in watching more Star Trek, she might even watch the sequel with me another day.

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Fly on, little Trek baby

The Viewing: 
Ellen:
That’s everything, Amber! What did you think of the documentary?

Amber: It was interesting. It was kind of all over the place but it was nice to get some insight into some of the impact of the show.

Ellen: What is the verdict on Star Trek day?

Amber: This was really fun. The food was delicious. I think I’ve been missing out on food whenever I try to get people into “Doctor Who.”

Ellen: That’s okay; I do also just really like to cook, too. What did you think of the show?

Amber: I think that I’m going to watch some more. I’ll watch some of the first one and see how it goes.

Ellen: Cool! Did you have a favorite episode from today?

Amber: I liked the Voyager one, “Blink of an Eye,” the best because it was so timey-wimey. I also liked “Darmok” because I’m fascinated with language so the language barrier was really neat and it was a cool way to approach linguistics.

Ellen: Thanks again for coming and giving Star Trek a chance.

Amber: Thanks for having me it was fun. I really liked the tour format of one episode per show; it was great to get a sense of the franchise without being too overwhelming.

 

Q’pla! Star Trek day was a success. First and foremost, Amber, my nerd friend, had fun and doesn’t hate me. Huzzah! Second, she enjoyed the shows and might just watch more. I can’t ask for anything more than that. This calls for my favorite GIF.

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Picard from Insurrection found using a google search

 

Now, regarding the food, I came up with a bit of a spread. Below you’ll find my menu and a couple of recipes so that you can make it so tasty to watch Star Trek.

 

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My out of this world spread, at least in part

The food that I served included:

  • Crescent rolls
  • Lemon curd
  • Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.
  • Pizza
  • Star Trek Cookies
  • Sisko’s Creole Gumbo
    • Recipe below
  • Baguette
  • Klingon G’agh!
    • Recipe below
  • Romulan Ale
    • Recipe below

The tea and crescent rolls, a poor person’s croissant, were my shout out to Captain Picard. I don’t know if he likes lemon curd but I can just picture Picard with a lemon curd decked croissant in one hand, steaming cup of tea in the other, and listening to a concerto in the morning.

I have no immediate Star Trek tie in to the pizza but I am sure that it is served in one or other of the shows because pizza is amazing. Also, any day devoted to geeky nerd fan-dom should include some pizza.

Star Trek cookies! They were just sugar cookie dough but they were super tasty all the same. I also like the cute chubby appearance the shapes took on during baking.

 

 

Sisko’s creole gumbo is a recipe that I significantly adjusted from the America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook. It was an experiment, I’ve never made a gumbo before, but the results were quite delicious. Here’s the recipe, as I did it, and please don’t blame the folks at ATK for how yours turns out, blame my freestyle in the kitchen.

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My interpretation of Sisko’s Creole Gumbo

Ingredients:

  • Condensed French Onion soup in a can
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups minced onion
  • 1 bag frozen gumbo vegetable mix
    • Contains:
      • okra
      • onion
      • red bell pepper
      • green bell pepper
      • sweet corn
    • 2 celery ribs, minced
    • 6 garlic cloves, minced
    • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
    • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
    • 1 pound Andouille sausage, sliced ½ inch thick
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
    • ½ bag frozen deveined, shelled large shrimp pre-cooked
    • 4 scallions, sliced thin
    • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Directions: Sauté minced onions in vegetable oil with garlic cloves and celery until onions are golden brown/translucent, about 5 minutes. Defrost frozen vegetables for about 4 minutes in microwave. Put condensed French onion soup into slow cooker. Add cooked onion mixture, defrosted vegetables, chicken broth, thyme, cayenne pepper, and mix. Stir sausage slices and bay leaves into slow cooker. Season chicken with salt and pepper then nestle into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. Close to the end of cooking time, boil a large pot of salted water. Add the defrosted, shelled, deveined shrimp and cook until opaque, about four minutes. Shred the chicken from the gumbo either on a cutting board or using shears in the pot. Mix in the cooked shrimp, the scallions, the parsley, and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Serve with rice or baguette.

 

For some extra interstellar flavor, I made my interpretation of the Klingon delicacy, G’agh! It does not involve live serpent worms but it does involve cabbage, which is probably just about as appealing to some. Again, I adjusted a recipe that I found in the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook, Slow Cooker Revolution. I basically use their recipes as a jumping off place to experiment and you shouldn’t blame them if your interpretation of this dish doesn’t turn out. Below is my interpretation of their Sweet and Sour Braised Cabbage, which sounded like a warrior’s side dish to me.

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Gagh! A warrior’s side dish

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds sliced red cabbage
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 package pre-cooked bacon pieces
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • Dried thyme, to taste
  • Ground cinnamon, to taste
  • Caraway seeds, to taste
  • Ground allspice, to taste
  • 5 cups pure apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Directions: Microwave cabbage with half the oil and salt to taste for about 20 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker using tongs. Soften onion and spices with remaining vegetable oil in the microwave for five minutes. Put spiced onions in slow cooker with cabbage. Add the apple juice, the package of cooked bacon, half the brown sugar, and 1 bay leaf to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 hours. Stir in vinegar and sugar, adding more to taste as desired. Remove the bay leaf and serve.

 

Romulan Ale is a legendary menu item of the Star Trek universe. It is supposedly so alcoholic, so potent, that it is banned across Federation territory and bootlegging it is an under the table privilege of commanders on the edge of the galaxy. The fans know only one thing for sure about Romulan Ale: it is electric blue. Regardless of show or movie, the potent concoction is always depicted as a vivid blue that practically glows in the scene. The Internet abounds with recipes for Romulan Ale and a variety of ingredients are used of varying legality and safety. Not being a mixologist or a particularly alcohol savvy person, I fixed on the color and decided to just make something I would find tasty. I used ratios because I have no patience for measuring things in the kitchen and prefer a more heuristic approach. Good luck with this! I found it tasty but I think the basic principle of mixing what you want to drink is a good one.

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Romulan Ale with some interstellar company

Ingredients:

  • Electric blue Gatorade
  • Vodka, cake flavor (or personal favorite flavor)
  • Sprite or other clear lemon-lime pop

Directions: I did a 1:1 ratio of vodka to Sprite. Then I did a 3:1 mixture of Gatorade to vodka/pop mix, stirred, and poured. I served the drink cold, like the revenge of a Romulan. I wanted to garnish it with sour gummy fruit since DS9 established the Romulans like sour/tart flavors but, alas, I wound up not being that coordinated. You could adjust this to be more or less alcoholic based on your personal preferences but I found this to be tasty and it was certainly electric blue in the pictures.

There you have it, dear pond readers! The discussion and menu for my Star Trek day all outlined above. I hope that this inspires you to go watch some Star Trek with some yummy food and good friends. What do you think of our comments on the episodes? Do you think you’ll try these recipes? Do you think you’ll try to give anyone in your life a tour of Star Trek? 2016 is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and a perfect time to introduce people to this amazing franchise. One of my favorite Internet spots, io9, also did an article on introducing Star Trek to people that you can check out for more variety.  Leave your comments and thoughts below please and thanks for stopping by the pond today. Live long and prosper!

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Peace and Long Life

So many Days

A lot went on in April. There was Earth Day, International Tabletop Day, and Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary to name a few things. I had big plans to write blog posts about all of these things but I think instead I will do this blog post including links to things of relevance because sharing links is fun.

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Earth from the surface of the moon, courtesy of LROC

Earth Day for me is about our stewardship of this incredible island in the dark that all of us call home. Looking at the Earth from space really drives home the fact that, as incredible as space exploration is, we live on the best piece of real estate in the solar system and we really need to treat it well. The lunar reconnaissance orbiter camera (LROC) is a really neat NASA mission that is continually churning out amazing images of the moon and also puts out some cool images of Earth. That image above is not only my favorite picture of Earth but it is the product of some really hard work that is detailed over in this post by LROC that I think photography geeks will particularly appreciate. Earth Day inspired this really neat article that I appreciated. Even though there are some sad things in that story like ocean acidification, global warming, and deforestation, there are some really exciting and inspiring things in there too. I found the discovery of a coral reef and the Red Colobus Monkey to be a source of particular joy. April also marks days like World Penguin Day (April 25th) and World Tapir Day (April 27th) to shine a light on some amazing species that need conservation. We can’t give up on this wondrous world, we just can’t, and hopefully enough members of the human race never will.

Board games have become a big part of my life in the last couple of years. Thanks to an interest rekindled by watching Geek & Sundry programs like Tabletop and Critical Role, I have gotten to make new friends and have a lot of fun playing board games and D&D. International Tabletop Day was April 30th and it celebrated the fun world of board games while raising money for charity. Hopefully, they will keep going with this tradition for years to come.

William Shakespeare died in 1616 on April 23rd and we’ve been performing his plays, reading his poetry, and discussing his legacy for the last 400 years. I’m a big fan of the Bard and find his work perpetually fascinating. Every time I read his plays and poetry, I find some new nuance that I never noticed before. One of my favorite bloggers had some fun posts celebrating Shakespeare that include parts from some of my favorite pieces of Shakespeare that you can see here and here. Just because, here is another great speech from another play of his I like.

“Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.”
― William ShakespeareA Midsummer Night’s Dream 

Now that May is under way, we have already had Star Wars day, National Teacher’s Day, and Mother’s day. Later this month we also have world MS day. How was your April, dear readers? How is May going for you? Thanks for joining me here at the pond! May the force be with us all and hopefully this will be a fabulous month.

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This also includes teachers and mothers in my book. Luminous beings indeed, lost we’d be without them.