Our esteemed leader Kevin Sadeghian of the Northern Virginia Tesla Owners Group, like all of us, misses our occasional Tesla meetups. The last time we met, I was late, without #CO2Fre, and had just voted, and so was a bit out of it, not even appearing in the group photo. That was just the start of the Week from Hell for me, which was the same weekend I got a $1,800 bill from Tesla and was at the whim of lackadaisical Uber drivers.
So Kevin, realizing we’re all at home, Sheltering in Place, created a virtual meetup. He took an empty parking lot, with a photo of his Tesla, and invited all of us to photoshop our Tesla in there with him, as if we were actually meeting. Starman, my good friend Mel‘s Tesla Roadster, #PascalTesla from my dear friend Margie Hunter, and many other members.
Unfortunately, because of the events from the Week from Hell. Fast forward to today and with the scare surrounding the Weather and Safety Leave, which I’m still not willing to talk about publicly, I was so afraid when I researched that last weekend that I would not be paid because of some documents I read on the Internet. I thus refused to add #CO2Fre to the photo, decrying that I was worried I would not be able to keep here if I was to go for months without pay on Weather and Safety Leave. I am still facing one week of unpaid leave due to the Week from Hell, bringing the total cost for that seven day nightmare close to $5,000 out of my pocket—not to mention my Hedge Fund has tanked to July 2017, initial levels after just making a $2,300 commission payment in December.
However, when the office confirmed I would be on paid leave, I figured I could in fact weather the storm. I would be bankrupt and #CO2Fre would doublessly be repossessed if one more tragedy befell me, but for now, I’m just okay. And so I put #CO2Fre right next to #PascalTesla.
Last time I did a review of the entire The Ark, and this week I was hoping to do the entire Pertwee story, The Mutants in one go, but time got away from me, not to mention that Weather and Safety Leave scare I still am not ready to talk about. So this time, I’m just doing part 1, with other parts to follow.
We start out with what looks like a fox chase. Yet, we see a terrified, middle-aged gentleman and no fox. He’s human—or at least mostly human, apart from the chitinous, jet-black spine along his back.
The bombastic Marshal and his two less-than-willing lackies, Stubs and Cotton are on a Mutt Hunt. They are giving chase and when the Marshal finds the poor, beleaguered, heavy-backed soul, we find him already dead. Clearly, the Marshal takes no prisoners. One is, naturally reminded of a 1930s Lynch Mob, all the more poignant as Cotton, played by Rick James, is clearly an Antiguan with African roots.
Meanwhile, on Earth, Jo Grant is rather peckish. Of course, the Third Doctor is, as usual, totally oblivious to his companions needs, instead tinkering with some device that will give Bessie faster breaking. Suddenly, the Time Lords give the Doctor a rejected, black football, as Time Lords are want to do, and send him to Solos.
The Doctor and Jo land on Skybase 1 with their charcoal football and puts around a bit, examining a clearly bland and empty storage room. Come on, Doctor, where’s your get up and go? Has it got up and went?
Finally, we meet Ky, a charismatic freedom fighter. Now we get to see the racism at play, Ky has to take the Solonian transport (fountain for coloreds) and one for Overlords (whites). The Overlords are clearly the Human colonists. It looks like the British empire is subjugating native peoples even in the thirtieth century. Ky doesn’t get along with the Uncle Tom, like Varan, working for the Overlords.
As the Solonians leave, one Uncle Tom remains behind. At first, all seems normal until the human examines the Uncle Tom, and notices the same chitinous shell around his hand and calls him a Mutt. The Uncle Tom goes crazy and attacks a human guard, killing him, then flees.
Finally, the Doctor gets out his trusty Sonic Screwdriver and leaves the storage closet.
Meanwhile, the Marshal is asking Varan for a patsy. Varan offers his most loyal subject as tribute, his very own son. This even startles the Marshal since he knows just what’s going to happen to his patsy.
Stubbs and Cotton are playing Chess with Windchimes. When the first door fault goes off, they say bugger it, who cares about his nibs.
The Doctor and Jo are attacked by the Uncle Mutt, and break into yet another storage room, setting off a second alarm.
When the second one goes, Stubbs and Cotton realize they’d better get a move on. They find the Doctor and Jo and Stubbs shoots the Uncle Mutt, killing him. Then, for once, some characters in Doctor Who do the logical thing: they arrest Jo and The Doctor.
The Administrator is looking to retire. Earth has no more interest in Solos and all he wants is to leave the planet to its own devices. He’s bored, but decides to meet with the Doctor anyway. The Doctor gives him the charcoal football, and then the Marshal takes it. It opens for no-one. The Marshal tries to blast it opened, and, failing, rolls his eyes, and then leaves with the Administrator. Stubbs is left to guard them.
In the Marshal’s office, the Administrator is trying to give the speech of his life, announcing that Earth is giving Solos its freedom. Too bad he’s such a blowhard. He has to get through every word of his speech before he can make the announcement. Ky is right impatient and starts heckling. In the chaos, the Marshal smiles, waiting for Varan’s son to pull the trigger and assassinate his boss—that’s one way to get ahead.
The Doctor does some Venusian Aikido and he and Jo escape without the Socic. You’d think they’d have locked them in, but I guess after one logical move, they were done.
Varan’s son shoots the Administrator and pandemonium ensues. Of course, as the Martin Luther King, Jr. of Solonians, Ky high tails it out of there, just as the Doctor and Jo arrive on the scene. In the corridor, Ky runs into the Doctor and… the charcoal football finally opens.
Jo and the Doctor chase after Ky, and Ky takes Jo hostage, down to the surface of Solos and its semi-toxic atmosphere.
Once again, I finished this book just in time, despite starting it right after The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities. Only this time, it’s because my commute went from an hour each way to five seconds each day to nothing because I’m on Weather and Safety Leave. Again, that’s a long story that, like yesterday, I’m punting for another day. Such is life with SARS-CoV-2, but in this respect I’m quite luck and still have my health. However, it does mean without that long commute, my reading time has become a fraction of what it was. But, I made it!
Noah Strycker spins a fascinating tale of the secret lives of birds. Clearly, the author loves class Aves and is an avid birder himself. His love of all modern dinosaurs shines through. Each chapter and section is set with a distinct theme and a story that focuses one one of our fine, feathered friends and how it relates to we mammals. So, without further à Deux, let’s dive in like a bunch if timid penguins!
Corvidae are smart! I’d never heard of any creature outside of the mammals passing the Mirror Test. The fact that some Magpies can utterly blew my mind. Heckle and Jeckle would have been proud! Damn, that bird family is cleaver! And the way Nutcrackers can remember where they cached food photographically is astounding! If we leave, I bet they’re taking over!
Hummingbirds are crazy violent. But Chickens take the cake, they are hierarchical. I mean, keeping track in your ranking up to thirty birds deep. Of course, it does break down with more than thirty and there’s still the triangle problem. Who knew chickens weren’t condorcet?
It was fascinating to hear that dummers can keep better time than Parrots. Which is to say, a Cockatoo can keep good time, but it isn’t good at noticing a change in tempo. It makes me wonder why they’re not as coordinated as Boirds or their prototype Starlings. Parrots still may have good hearing, but one thing’s for sure, Vultures have excellent eyesight. However, only Turkey Vultures can smell you from a meter away with its great, big nostrils, though not much more.
The main takeaway for me is how similar some bird behaviors are to humans. Bowerbirds males try to impress female birds to find a mate, and humans try to impress other humans in order to get a date. The birds build little shrines, complete with vanishing perspective, and we humans buy clothes, and cars, and houses, and do sports, or just become smart by reading lots of science books. And when you get the mate, being as faithful as a Fairy Wren could mean success. Then again, female Fairy Wrens who fool around do tend to live longer? 🤔
From about 2020-03-23T14:30:00Z (10:30 am, Monday) to about 2020-03-23T23:30:00Z (7:30 pm, Monday), Google was redirecting all my email and either bouncing it or deleting it.
Let me repeat, google deleted or bounced my email for Nine Hours, as a part of the setup of my setup for a paid Google Apps account. The setup for these accounts are a bit weird. They require you to create a new google entity with your own company URL. Fortunately, I have multiple domains I own and maintain, including this one, TimeHorse.com.
I probably should have used my writing group domain, RestonWriters.org. After all, the whole reason I wanted to get a paid Google account is because Meetup was moving to Online-Only meetings, following the outbreak of SARS-COV-2, and I needed a tool that allowed for video conferencing.
Skype was a non-starter. For one thing, it’s great for person-to-person communications, but for group chats, it has this annoying habit of muting everyone except the current speaker and you have to wait until that speaker stops to get a word in edgewise. My understanding is WhatsApp has the same problem.
Meetup actually suggested using Google Hangouts or Zoom. I happen to like Zoom. I use it for my regular NPVIC Grassroots strategy meetings and for Toastmasters and it’s always worked great. Zoom does support up to a hundred participants, both free and Pro. The only problem is, each of those Zoom sessions are either limited to the free forty-minute block or are using an up-to-24-hour Zoom Pro Account. Since most of my Meetups are at least an hour, breaking meeting up into forty-minute chunks would be tedious. And, at $14.99 a month, the professional account is well out of my price range.
Just before the first week of Virtual meetings began, my writing colleagues and I, including Elizabeth Hayes, who runs The Hourlings, tested both free Zoom and Google Hangout. Despite being limited to ten people, we decided on Google Hangout and I mapped it to our official Virtual Meeting URL.
Ten people worked fine for Reston Writers and for the Saturday Morning Review. The Saturday Morning Review actually worked out quite well because Meetup, despite suggesting we move to a virtual platform, still won’t let you delete the venue from your event and mark it as virtual, which, when editing events can cause some confusion. But when the Library cancelled all our events, I just deleted them all from the Meetup Calendar, and recreated them with no Venue and just announced them as occurring in Cyberspace.
Stay with me folks, I’m getting to the email…
As Sunday approached, I new ten participants wouldn’t be enough. Google Hangout would be fine for Bewie Bevy of Brainy Books and Saturday Morning Review, and likely The Science Book Club, as they all usually have fewer than ten participants for each meeting. The Hourlings, on the other hand, often had twelve, and sometimes as many as sixteen!
I new Zoom was $14.99 a month, but I read that Google App accounts could up the number of participants to twenty-five. Unfortunately my 2TB Google Drive account didn’t qualify. I had to get a Google Apps account.
And that’s where my troubles began.
At first, I could only sign up for the $12 per month account, even though I’d read it could be had for $6. Since the setup has a fortnight trial period, I didn’t worry about the financial discrepancy. I set up the account with my business email address for TimeHorse, LLC. I associated it with with that email, it connected to my Gandi Registrar, and my account was ready to go. I created a Google Hangout and assigned it to the Virtual Meeting URL, hoping it would allow twenty-five. The plan was to use it with the Hourlings to verify that fact.
It failed! We still could only get ten people into the meetup despite it being a paid account.
Unfortunately, since Monday I’ve been on Weather and Safety Leave from work because my Telework agreement was revoked, but that’s a story for another day as this post is long as it is! However, it did allow me to speak to Google and they suggested I try Google Meet. Meet was included with all Google App paid accounts, and it would allow for up to a hundred people and could be as long as I needed. Also, I could downgrade to the $6 per month account and I would still be able to use it. I thus downgraded.
We tried it with Reston Writers Review and it worked wonderfully. We had up to twelve connections simultaneously! But I’m getting ahead of myself.
At around 10:30 am, that Monday, after chatting with Google, I was examining my Google Apps account more closely. It was telling me I had one last step I needed to complete: integrate me email with Gmail.
That’s when my troubles began. You see, what this innocuous, turn-key step says it does is it says it sets up GMail for your company. What it actually does is obliterate all the MX Records (email routing information) of your DNS (Internet routing information) Zone File (routing configuration file) on Gandi and replace it with MX Records that point to Google. The setup wizard doesn’t actually tell you this and I’m totally oblivious.
At current writing, I have 188 forwarded email addresses set up on Gandi with their MX Servers. One of those is my business email, the one Google took over and is my Google Apps login. That’s the email google set up as the official email address used in GMail. Once the GMail setup goes through and I send an email from the GMail interface to my personal email address on the timehorse.com domain.
It never arrives. All day long, I watch my email and, strangely, nothing arrives after 10:30 in the morning. I refresh and refresh, and it’s still nothing. Where have all my emails gone?
It’s not until I’m setting up for Reston Writers that I decide to contact Google about this. I’m crazy-busy setting up the Google Meet, opening up the pieces we’d be reviewing on my computer, and, simultaneously, chatting with Google, trying to figure out why I’m not receiving any email.
Eventually, Google Tech Support starts talking about MX Records and a chill runs down my spine. As you probably gathered by now, I am well versed in DNS records and Zone File manipulation. I even have a Python script which updates my DNS A Record when the IP Address for this server changes.
With trepidation, I logged into my Gandi account and saw the damage. Google had modified my Zone file and added a bunch of strange new MX Records pointing to Google. They had nuked all my Gandi Email forward since they’d redirected all email traffic to google. As google only had one account registered on the domain, timehorse.com, namely my business email address, every other email address I possessed was either being deleted or bounced by google!
Fortunately, Gandi’s Email Forwarding page provides a warning when the Zone file doesn’t point to their email server, listing the correct MX Record settings to use Gandi as the mail hosting server. I quickly commented out the Google MX Records and pasted in the Gandi MX Records around 7:30 pm, in the middle of my Reston Writers meeting.
Needless to say, I was miffed that I could not give my full attention to my writers during our weekly writing gettogether. But it’s good I finally did figure out the disastrous actions committed by Google after only nine hours, and not a day or more.
I may never know what was contained in those nine hours of lost emails. I suppose there is one blessing, though. I get too much email already and still have dozens of unread messages I’m desperately trying to catch up on. One Covidapolis, novel-length email after another from every business under the sun. STFU companies, you’re all doing the same thing and I don’t like reading the same message again, and again, and again! You have a plan, that’s all I need to know!
Maybe Google was doing me a favor?
In the end, I was able to solve the problem because I got skills and I’m available for hire!