May 2023


To the Stars: I saw George Takei in London

George Takei

Last fall when Twitter started being destroyed, I set up an account on Mastodon – and after an initial burst of activity on Mastodon, I have reverted back to my Twitter-scale of use. (In other words, I don’t use it at all.)

That said, during my “active” time on Mastodon, I followed George Takei. I have a long history of being a George Takei fan – from being addicted to Star Trek (the original, thank you very much) as a kid.

His autobiography, To the Stars, was a bit of a revelation in some respects – for here was a man who I knew as Lt. Sulu talking about his experiences growing up in a Japanese Internment Camp during World War II. His book was deeply engaging and I offered it to my Mother since she too had a passing interest in this aspect of American history. Knowing she was not a Star Trek fan, I noted, “you can stop when you get to Star Trek.”

(She too was fully engaged – read the whole book and when she gave it back to me, she noted, “nobody seems to like William Shatner.”)

All of this was before he came out – at least publicly. I’m not actually sure when he came out as gay (I mean, I could look it up, but that’s too much work for my rambling mood) – but at some point he became famous for being the gay actor who played Sulu in Star Trek. There are probably a lot of other aspects to his fame, but from my perspective, these are the key points.

Back to the point: during my brief super active Mastodon period, George Takei announced that he would be starring in a musical in London about Japanese internment camps in the USA during World War II – a musical entitled “Allegiance.”

This is why I found myself in London over Easter weekend – I went to the last performance of Allegiance on Saturday, April 8, 2023, with two friends.

For my first time seeing George Takei in person, I was very happy. The musical was set at Heart Mountain (in Wyoming – I’ve been there, one of two Japanese Internment Camps that I’ve visited while on vacation Stateside – the other being Amache in Colorado) and covered all of the key points about this period of American history. I’m sure some of the nuances were glossed over in the name of music, but the essential parts of the story were correct, as I understand this history.

There’s no point for me (a gay, white, CIS-male) to try and arrive at some larger moral message – this was a terrible bit of American history and it is super important that we never forget.

It was excellent seeing George Takei in person – a pleasure. I hope to witness his acting again.

The Main Maine Problem

Back in November I took a week long vacation to Maine and Boston with a friend.

We didn’t need a car for the Boston part of the trip, but the Maine portion need one. After landing in Boston, we got our rental car and headed north – it was a real shitty red Honda Civic, undesirable on two levels: first, because it was red; second because the road noise was VERY LOUD.

Fortunately the “Low Tire Pressures” light came on shortly after we entered Maine – meaning that we could justify swapping cars when visiting a Maine branch of our car rental company.

Before renting the car, I knew that we would be driving on the New Hampshire and Maine Toll Roads, but not a lot. From Boston to our hotel we could pay $2 to New Hampshire in cash, then $4 to Maine in cash. For our couple of days driving around Maine, I figured we would spend no more than $8 more – a trip up the coast, a trip to Augusta, and that’s it.

Clearly it made much more sense to pay these tolls in cash than to pay $14.99/day for an EZPass enabled car that would have allowed us to go through the EZPass lanes and never worry about the tolls.

Arrival day went fine: our plane was early, immigration a breeze (even for non-citizens), the car rental center was empty, and we were rapidly on the road north. We paid our tolls without any issue and then checked into our hotel.

After a quick shower and cleaning up, we stopped by the Portland Airport’s car rental company and swapped the car in less than five minutes – our new car was a white Kia of some kind – forgettable in that there was nothing wrong with it and it was a color that would not attract the attention of police.

The next morning we went to drive on the toll road – $1 – but the collector wasn’t there, so there was a sign telling us to go to a website and pay, or to call in. We paid a subsequent $1 toll without any issues and headed off to the Maine Maritime Museum – which I can heartily recommend. Given that I, normally, do not give a rat’s ass about ships and other nautical type things, I can honestly say that this is a most excellent museum worth visiting. I think we were there for over two hours.

Alas, I was in a race, in a way, to pay the toll before it got sent back to the car rental company – because I was sure it would trigger an expensive bill, even if I only owed $1. (For reference, because I missed paying a 2€ toll to enter Jūrmala, Latvia, I ended up paying 86,30€: 50€ for the infraction, 30€ administrative fee from the car rental company, and 6,30 VAT.)

Sunday night I tried to pay online – only to learn that because the car was already registered with EZPass, I couldn’t pay online.

Monday afternoon I reached a human being after being on hold for a long time – only to learn that the violation wasn’t in the system yet and that it could take 48 hours to process the photographs of miscreants like me.

Tuesday morning, I reached another human who told me it wasn’t in the system, but that she could take $1 from me anyway to help prevent the fine.

Tuesday afternoon, I got an email back saying that the charge had already been picked up by the car rental company’s account.

I did not, alas, get a $1 refund.

I did get hit with a rather modest (less than $10) charge for the toll road usage – much less than if I had paid for the device up front, which surprised me. Had it actually been a significant charge I would have protested up the wazoo – but at some point my time is worth money.

Which gets to another truth: I enjoyed my vacation in Maine – even if we were a couple weeks too late for the fall colors.

However, I see no point in returning to Maine: the other Portland – in Oregon – is in a state without any toll roads in the parts I like to visit. I like Lobster Rolls, but I can get them in Boston – where I do not need to rent a car.

Just some food for thought.

Paper Ordering Forms

In 2022, ordering something is super easy with constant updates.

I get an email confirming the order, I get an email telling me my order has been shipped. Then I get an email from the delivery company telling me that they will be delivering my package. A day or two later, I get notification from both the company I ordered from AND the delivery company that my package is on a truck. Often I will get notified of a delivery window, then, after I get the package I get an email informing me that the package has been delivered.

Lots of emails.

Remember back in the 1980s and 90s, when you would get a catalogue in the mail, then carefully pull out the order form from the center of it, write everything down carefully, then write a check. You’d drop the pre-paid envelope in the mails. Subsequently, a month later, the package would appear on the doorstep and you’d be thrilled. The only hint that you might have that your order was successful is if your check cleared and a statement from the bank came in the intervening time – but the timing rarely worked out that way.

24: Matthew Shepard


Today marks 24 years since Matthew Shepard died.

It remains difficult to write my thoughts about him every year, some of this is because I feel like I am being a bit repetitious, some of it is because I never quite know how to address my feelings about him every year.

It’s not easy to pause and consider what Matthew Shepard means to me.

His murder remains a central memory in my life – one of those days/experiences that I can relive when I close my eyes.

One of three vivid moments in my life: Space Shuttle Challenger. Matthew Shepard’s Murder. September 11th.

This is a moment to dwell – even as I abhor dwelling in most other areas of my life. A moment where I am vaguely spiritual in my thinking – even as I am an active atheist.

His murder was nonsensical – but in being nonsensical, his life has incredible meaning. His memory is a force for good on this planet.

Rest in peace, Matthew. Matt.

R.I.P. Matthew “Matt” Wayne Shepard – *December 1, 1976; †October 12, 1998

For historical reference, see 2004200520062007200820092010201120122013,  2014201520162017201820192020, 2021 or any of the many times he’s been mentioned on my blog via a search for Matthew Shepard.

Völklingen Ironworks – A Cynical Take

Last October I popped over to Saarbrücken for a weekend, gong there to see the Völklinger Hütte — A UNESCO World Heritage Site that, from a distance, seemed pretty cool.  It turns out I found it rather boring — and I wrote a note to a friend about what I thought:

Today I am in Saarbrücken, Germany — which is right on the border with France.

About 11km away from me is the Völkingen Ironworks — an enormous facility that used to produce steel until it was closed in 1986.

It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site — and for 17€, one can visit the factory. It is clearly a place that used to be incredibly important, employing thousands of people, producing massive quantities of steel.

Now for the cynical Adam version of history: When the factory was closed in 1986, the local economy was fucked — clearly, nothing could replace the employment that the old steel mill provided. The local community, though, had a problem: this huge, ugly, factory on the edge of town. What could they do with the site? Option (1) find somebody to restart the steel mill (never going to happen). Option (2) tear down the facility, remediate the heavy pollutants, and restore the area into something vaguely resembling what it looked like before the factory was built (WHOA EXPENSIVE).

Then somebody had a brilliant idea: this place was important! This place made steel! This place is history! “maybe we can turn it into a UNESCO World Heritage site” -. and they did. By being a UNESCO World Heritage site it means that they only have to pay to somewhat maintain the facilities to look like what they looked like when the place closed and they would never disturb the underlying pollution, which could become incredibly costly to remediate.

My take might be incredibly cynical, but I suspect there’s a nugget of truth to it….

Beyond that, I enjoyed Saarbrücken and I would happily return to explore its more interesting touristic sites.

Weekend in Vienna

In July, I decided that I needed to plan a weekend in Vienna in order to, uh… escape the heat of my apartment for an air conditioned hotel room in Vienna. Yup, I specifically sought out air conditioning in Vienna and I appreciated it. The dates were set: the last weekend in August would be a long one in Vienna.

Once I was there, my Friday objective was to take a hike through Lainzer Tiergarten, a massively large park in south-westish Vienna. It’s over 6,000 acres of nature, with trees, grassy areas, and wild animals.

Wild boar

Yup, even Vienna can be a boar.

It was a great 8.7 kilometer (5.4 mile) hike on a rather hot day – it peaked at 30°C (86F). I was rather odoriferous by the end – while parts of the hike were in the shade, enough of it was in the sunshine that got progressively hotter and hotter as time went by.

This ended up being my principle activity in Vienna – I had a grand time doing other small things, but my Friday ended up being just this hike. I ended up back in my hotel, taking a long soapy shower before finding an early dinner. Thereafter I ended up watching Netflix in my hotel room.

Saturday involved a walk by the Danube and dinner with friends, before returning home on Sunday.

I feel like I know Vienna well enough that I no longer feel compelled to do touristy things whilst there. I like this feeling.

Essen: Well worth a visit!

Statue for Mining in Essen I spent last weekend in Essen with a friend.

The raison d’être for the trip was the Zollverein, a coal mine that has been turned into a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I’m that kind of weird.

Last October I visited the Völklinger Hütte near Saarbrücken, a steel mill turned UNESCO World Heritage Site. I never blogged about it (it happened during one of my non-blogging moods) – but it was hugely disappointing. Perhaps I will post my thoughts about it soon. Saarbrücken rocked, I would happily go back, I just wouldn’t bother to go near the Völklinger Hütte again.

Saturday morning we started by visiting the Museum Folkwang, which is a free and excellent art museum located in the heart of Essen. There were some excellent bits and bobs in the museum, and we managed to arrive on the opening day of “Expressionisten am Folkwang” – which showcased some of the museum’s best bits from the collections (and, to be fair, some completely and totally forgettable pieces of crap – in my humble opinion).

Slides at Museum Folkwang

After that we made our way to the Zollverein, where we wandered around much of the grounds.

We’d originally planned to visit the Red Dot Design Museum, but when the cashier started providing a lecture about the rules of the museum that took more than five minutes (in German), saying things like, “this is not a playground” and then itemizing several things you couldn’t touch, etc…, I had enough: if a design museum has to provide lengthy, detailed instructions on how to visit the museum, then its design has completely and utterly failed. One would hope that a design museum would be, largely, intuitively designed. After all, good design is 99% invisible.


The wander around the grounds turned out to be a good introduction to the facility: it allowed us to wander past most of the coking facility – a ginormous building/structure behind the mining facilities. Most of the questions we had about this facility were subsequently answered when we took the guided tour (in English) later in the afternoon.

Zollverein - Coking Plant

For a coal mine, by the way, its buildings were very pretty – steel framed construction with a curtain of bricks.

The guided tour lasted about an hour and was given by a retired school teacher whose father had worked in the mines.

This was not my first coal mine: I’ve actually visited two area mines in back in Wyoming, where the earth is stripped off the top of the coal, then a very thick seam of coal is blasted to smithereens and then transported off for processing and onward shipment.

Unlike my first coal mines, this mine was down a shaft and the seam of coal was, as I recall, only 1.5 meters thick, which is tiny compared to the ones in Wyoming.

The tour was comprehensive: our guide talked about the community surrounding the coal mine, then we climbed to the top, saw where coal was initially processed, sorted, and (if of the right quality) sent on a conveyor belt to the coking facility.

Patron Saint of Mining

When it was all said and done, on Saturday I walked 24,500 steps – I slept like a baby.

But before I close, I must note that the Essen in Essen was excellent: we ate at a French bistro on Friday evening and had a lovely Vietnamese meal on Saturday.

I would go back to Essen.

Making it Better in Wyoming, continues

About 11 years ago, I promised to donate money to the University of Wyoming Rainbow Resource Center every year.

I’ve kept my promise – some how donating enough to become worthy of individual attention from the UW Foundation. I don’t personally think that I’ve donated enough to qualify for this kind of attention, but be that as it may, it’s nice to be noticed every once in awhile.

Generally speaking, I give money in August for use during the subsequent school year. This year I’ve donated a substantial sum to the “Rainbow Resource Center Scholarship” – a scholarship fund that I am responsible for having had established. I also donated to the Rainbow Resource Center’s discretionary fund and, because I still listen to their output, Wyoming Public Media.

I view the donations as going into a black box: Wyoming is not an easy place to be a member of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, whether one is a fully out and proud or whether one is struggling with identity. Further, I have to fully recognize that I have the luxury of sitting in Berlin, Germany, living my life the way I want to live it, without many (if any) hindrances. The people running the UWyo Rainbow Resource Center know far better than I do what the UWyo students and community need and my input would be completely unhelpful at best.

Before donating, I asked how much money was in the two funds – I have to admit that the funding in the Rainbow Resource Center Scholarship fund was disappointingly low. This clearly means that its being used. I’m glad the funds are there to help people, I am sad that it is being used to the extent that it is being used. (In case anybody from UW reads this: I do not need to know for whom or why the funds are being used – it’s a black box from my perspective; keep using the money as needed..)

Nine Euros – A Great Summer

I’m a huge fan of Germany’s experiment with public transport this summer: 9€/month for unlimited local transit across the entire country?


Strangely, though, I’ve not really taken advantage of it, other than my trips to the airport, I’ve been out to the northern end of the S1 (Oranienburg), the northern end of the S25 (Hennigsdorf), and twice to the area around S-Mühlenbeck-Mönchmühle.

Oranienburg was fantastic: I went with a friend to Schloß Oranienburg (we purposefully did not go to the most (in)famous attraction in the area). The park was outstanding and fun.

Hennigsdorf was an utter disappointment. Had I paid for an extension ticket to visit the village I would have cried. Given that it was “free” under the terms of my 9€ ticket, I can now say that I’ve visited it. No need to ever return.

As for S-Mühlenbeck-Mönchmühle – the first time I walked back from the station to the city, the second time I wanted to visit a pizzeria in the area, but decided against it after seeing it in person.

Would I have done any of these things without the 9€ ticket? No.

Am I glad I did them? Yes.

Next weekend I’ll be visiting another city in Germany – the 9€ ticket will be very helpful there. I’m not using the 9€ ticket to get there because taking local trains would take at least 7 hours and 50 minutes and a lot of tight connections. Instead I am taking an express train – just shy of four hours in an InterCity Express.

I hope that Germany is able to figure out a way to extend the 9€ ticket – maybe not at 9€, but in some way, some form.

Podcasts I listen to (2022 Edition)

My Podcast Addict Screen

I’m fast approaching the three year mark of walking at least 10,000 steps every day, even on days when I travel and it is otherwise difficult.

A small celebration will occur when appropriate.

Many of my steps – I dare say close to most – have been accompanied by podcasts. Given that it’s probably been over a decade since I last listed what podcasts I listen to… here I go with what I currently listen to while walking – in alphabetical order, as show in my podcast app, Podcast Addict.

99% Invisible – This is one of my favorite podcasts. The program is about every day design and how it affects our lives. This podcast is excellent because it brings to the fore things that often are overlooked because it blends into the background. Five Stars, highly recommended.

Airline Voices – I’m not sure if this podcast is active any more, but the feed has first person stories from people in the aviation industry about their experiences on 9/11. The podcast arrived last year on the twentieth anniversary of the terror attack and comprises a number of thought provoking talks about what people were doing on that day and how it affected them. Five Stars, highly recommended.

Bad Gays – I discovered this podcast a few months ago, thanks to an article in The Guardian about their then forthcoming (now published) book, Bad Gays. Comprising an American living in Berlin and a Brit in the UK, this podcasts painfully dissects the lives of individuals throughout history who were gay (or on the spectrum) and whether or not they were bad gays. The podcast is super educational, but the hosts come at it with an extreme far left perspective that can be, at times, too liberal for my tastes. There are also an amazing number of caveats scattered throughout the episodes because they are too unwilling to take a stand and call somebody who was alive before the modern gay era, gay – because, well… because. Four Stars, recommended.

Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase – I’ve been listening to this podcast for a very long time. Betty is a flight attendant for a major US carrier – one that is a “Team” player; though she will not say this explicitly. The podcast comprises stories about work as a flight attendant, often featuring her coworkers. It also includes stories about her own travels, often to obscure places that I would love to visit. Five Stars, highly recommended.

CBC World at Six – The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s World at Six is one of the podcasts I’ve been listening to the longest. Normally I listen to the Pacific version of the news, which is “live” between 0300 and 0330 in Germany – when I listen to it while going to work it is still fresh and relevant. CBC has a great capacity to tell world headlines, important US stories, and, of course, Canadian News. I know more about events in Canada that I should. Five Stars, highly recommended.

Cranky Talk – This is a weekly podcast covering the aviation industry. Most episodes are pretty short and the coverage is rarely in-depth, but rather it gives an overview of a topic. Sometimes there are exceptionally good episodes, so this is a matter of sometimes winning the content lottery. Four Stars, recommended.

Sarina Bowen First Chapters – I’m a huge fan of Sarina Bowen’s books – and sometimes she releases first chapters of the audio books on this feed, so I can hear the chapters before the books are published. Sarina is one of a few authors whose books I will buy without question, without even having read a summary of the book. I admire the amount of research and care that goes into her writing. That said, audio books are not my thing and this feed is rarely updated. Three Stars, excellent choice if you like her books.

Gay Pulp – Oh. My. God. This podcast consists of books from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s being read aloud – but not just any books, the paperbound porn novels that were terribly written. Generally speaking, I am a HUGE FAN of this podcast. Books are typically unintentionally hilarious and wonderful. However—the current book, Queen’s Castle, by Remi Caruthers, is not really striking a chord with me. Gay Whore, To Want a Boy, Summer in Sodom, Queer Pen, Buffy ad the Holy Quest, and Glory Hole all enraptured me. This isn’t something for the innocent (unless they want to be corrupted): Five Stars, highly recommended – except for the current book.

Lost Highways – This is a podcast by History Colorado that comprises very well researched stories from Colorado’s history. The podcast is, perhaps, a bit less regularly published than I would like / hope, but that’s fine. If you’re from Colorado or care about Colorado’s history, this is a great podcast. Five Stars, highly recommended.

Murdaugh Murders Podcast – If you’re a fan of true crime, this is a worthwhile podcast. The crimes it is investigating are not yet solved. This is real time coverage of ongoing criminal investigations in South Carolina. The research is high quality, but the dramatic presentation tries to oversell the importance of the journalism. That said, I’m not from South Carolina and its corrupt judicial system doesn’t (normally) directly affect me. Four Stars, recommended.

Radio Spätkauf (“Get Help Berlin” on the grid) – this is “Berlin News in English.” Generally speaking, it’s published once a month and provides an English language overview of news in Berlin and, sometimes, in Germany. They occasionally do deep dives into specific topics – which is how I found them. Their series, “How to Fuck-Up an Airport” is decently researched and provides a decent overview of how we ended up with Berlin Brandenburg International Airport instead of something decent. However, the hosts are very liberal and want things that I do not want. There are also elements of naivety in their coverage. If you live in Berlin, it’s a five star program worth listening to. Otherwise, two stars.

RadioLab – This is a famous science podcast that, I think it is fair to say, revolutionized how science stories are told in an audio format. Unfortunately, now that the two original hosts have retired, the podcast seems to be focusing on how to raise money for WNYC, its host radio station. Historically this podcast was excellent, I feel like it has jumped the shark, but I still keep giving it chances. I probably should drop it. Two stars, it survives because of its history.

Rumble Strip – This is a Vermont focused podcast. I don’t have much of a Vermont history to speak of, but I find the podcast charming and fun to listen to. Four Stars, recommended.

State of Belief – I’m not religious. Far from it. However, this program provides a liberal-religious take on US politics every week. The content is well thought out and provides a depth of knowledge that I would probably otherwise never consider. Four Stars, recommended.

Stuff the British Stole – This Australian based podcast investigates things that the British Stole throughout history, talking about the consequences of this theft. The research is top notch and the stories engaging. I hope new episodes come out soon. Five Stars, highly recommended.

Taskmaster The Podcast – I am a Taskmaster addict. I love the TV show very much. This podcast discusses the current UK series or, when there isn’t a current UK series, past UK series. If you’re not a Taskmaster fan, then this podcast will not be worth listening to. Ed Gamble is a terrific host. If you adore Taskmaster, then this is easy: Five Stars, highly recommended.

Taskmaster: The People’s Podcast – this is a second podcast about the UK Taskmaster, but it is the weaker of the two. Lou Sanders, the host, is not my favorite contestant and I’m not a huge fan of how she hosts the show. However, I love Taskmaster, so… uh… I listen. Three Stars; only for hardcore Taskmaster fans.

The Atlas Obscura Podcast – The Atlas Obscura website is a terrific way to find obscure, funky sites while traveling. Four days a week, there’s a new episode that explores something interesting. Friday is a repeat from the back catalog. Five Stars, highly recommended.

The Big Ponder – This is a German-USA podcast that takes dives into topics of interest in both places. The range is eclectic and you never know what the next episode will be about. Four Stars, recommended.

The Horne Section – Alex Horne, the Horne in the Horne Section, is why I discovered this podcast. He, like me, doesn’t have a musical note in his body, but he does have a band. The episodes are usually excellent, but… alas, Alex Horne is a very busy man: he is the Taskmaster’s Assistant, so there hasn’t been a new episode of the Horne Section in a very, very, long time. Five Stars, highly recommended.

The Modern West – Wyoming Public Radio puts out this series which covers life in the rural, modern, west. Topics are diverse, the research is excellent, and the voices diverse. Five Stars, highly recommended.

This American Life – This is an old favorite. Though, I think it might no longer speak to me because I am not enjoying the new episodes as much as I used to. Four Stars, recommended.

Welcome to Provincetown – The first season just finished – this is a take on life in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in the summer. I’ve never been, but apparently, the city is incredibly gay. I enjoyed listening to the podcast, but I have to confess that, as a misanthropic, introverted gay, Provincetown sounds more like a nightmare. Four Stars, recommended.

What Roman Mars Can Learn About Con Law – Formerly “What Trump can teach us about Con Law,” this is a monthly podcast where Roman Mars hosts a discussion with Elizabeth Jon, a Constitutional Law Professor, to discuss recent news with respect to constitutional law. Started in response to the nightmare that was Donald Trump, the program continues today. Five Stars, highly recommended.