‘Tis the Season for Genealogy

If you’ve been thinking of looking into your family history and starting to fill out your own family tree, now is the time. I mean, not just “Today is the first day of the rest of your life,” but “The holidays are the best time to start.”


Think of the family gatherings. Thanksgiving dinner. Christmas vacation. All those parties, christmascreativecommonsflickrmaybe even a wedding or a baby shower. It’s the perfect time to ask questions. What’s grandma’s middle name? What’s Uncle Charlie’s birthdate? Where was Aunt Eva born?

Caution: Some families bicker and argue over everything from the spelling of a name to whether grandma’s family in Germany was Jewish or not, to who was great-great-great grandpa because he was married to someone but it wasn’t to your great-great-great grandmother. If you’re taking notes (and you should), just jot down the different opinions and ask someone for their casserole recipe to change the subject.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiRtKG9r_fPAhXL34MKHVh7B0cQjhwIBQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.webdesignhot.com%2Ffree-vector-graphics%2Fabstract-green-tree-vector-illustration%2F&psig=AFQjCNGH3IanM4q6PA2SOPJBGk0HLdIKpA&ust=1477533531210419Before you pack the car, take a little time to write down what you know (or think you know). Ancestry has a printable 4-generation chart. Misbach.org has one that fits 6-generations on one page. Start with yourself and work your way back. You may want to use a pencil in case you find out the name your grandfather always used isn’t his legal name.

Sidebar: About 23 years ago, my mom called and said my grandfather was in the hospital. I went to the hospital to see him. I went to the desk and asked for Hoyt Cook, and they said they didn’t have anyone by that name. Remember, this was before cell phones, and my mother was at the hospital. Somewhere. Unreachable. Eventually, I got it sorted out, and come to find out, Hoyt was my grandfather’s middle name, and they booked him under his legal first name. I kind of knew that, but not well enough to recall it in the lobby of a hospital where he’d been taken rather suddenly. Use a pencil.

If you fill out a couple of generations before you get to the family gathering, it shouldn’t take long to verify what you have and make corrections or additions. Then you can start asking what you don’t know, like your great-great grandparents’ names and where they’re from.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwid6aS9sPfPAhWl7YMKHWAxDi8QjhwIBQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wikihow.com%2FDesign-a-Family-Tree&psig=AFQjCNEVt1Lz1u6Nsw7rXFff9nXTMpN43g&ust=1477533787859769The more you can find out from your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, or even family friends, the better armed you will be to start finding the answers that can fill in the blanks that no one knows.

I got a late start at genealogy. I was always moderately interested in the family history, but while I enjoyed hearing the stories of hog thieves and hellraisers, I didn’t really commit any of it to memory or write it down. Now my grandparents are all gone, and my mom’s memory isn’t what it used to be. The families are spread out and we aren’t able to get together in person as much as we once did. So, if you’re still young, please, fill out the chart now, even if you just stick it in a drawer for now. Someday, you (or your kids) will be glad to have it.

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Star Wars Fan Fiction

If you follow my blog or my Twitter account, you know I’m a longtime fan of the Star Wars saga. In 1987, at the 10th anniversary convention in Los Angeles, I learned about an unofficial club called Forces of the Empire. I eventually joined and became an active member for several years.

Cover of booklet containing the guidelines for members of Forces of the Empire.The club’s focus was on continuing the adventures through fiction and (occasionally) live action role-playing. Members lived all over the world, so even when we did have our annual get-together at MediaWest*Con in Lansing, Michigan, not all the members could be there.

I created several characters. Jazz Calbison is a pilot in the Rebel Alliance who finds out she has the Force, turns to the Dark Side, then gets turned back to the Light. RoAsha Br’yl-Castan is a diplomat from the planet Shandalay. Arani Adja is an Imperial officer. Qasimir Rave is a mercenary.  Corian Aca is a Sith.

Recently, I was going through a huge file of club-related paperwork, and I came across a series of interconnected stories. They involve several of my characters. These would have been written around 1993, as they also include characters (Shockeye and Aslan) developed for my then-brand-new husband to play at MediaWest*Con.

A certificate stating that my Imperial persona, Arani Adja, had been promoted to Lieutenant Senior Grade.

When my Imperial officer earned a promotion, I received this certificate.

These stories are mostly set-up for what was supposed to be a very involved storyline. Life got in the way and I ended up dropping out of FOE, but I think you’ll be able to see where they’re going. It took a few minutes to decide what would be the best reading order. “Maris Veramor” is first, because it takes place during the Jedi purge (remember, these stories were written pre-prequels and well before “Order 66”). The others all take place about ten years after Return of the Jedi. They’re PDFs, so this will take you to another page, where you have to click again to view.

Maris Veramor

Star Crux

Destiny’s Crossroads


Night Work


Remember, these were written nearly several years before the prequels and 22 years before The Force Awakens (dang, I’m old). I do have a mention of Coruscant; that planet was established in the then-new Timothy Zahn novel “Heir to the Empire.”

I hope you enjoy reading the stories, and I look forward to hearing what you think of them.

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Storm Warning: Should you evacuate?

Satellite photo of Hurricane Ivan.

Hurricane Ivan, 2004

I’ll not soon forget the night I was working as a TV news producer, cranking out the 10pm newscast with a hurricane bearing down on the Gulf Coast. I answered the news hotline and a frantic woman was on the other end. She wanted someone to tell her what to do, where to go.

As a news producer, I gave people the facts, information that they could use to make a decision for themselves. It wasn’t my place to tell this woman whether to stay or go or whether she should head north, east or west, just as I cannot write here what you should do in the event a hurricane is coming your way. I can tell you what to consider when you’re making up your mind what to do.


If you’re a few miles inland, not in a flood zone, in a well-built house, you can probably ride out the storm at home. You’ll want to have at least three days worth of food and water for the humans and animals that share your life. Flashlights, a radio, and extra batteries. Fill up your car and get an extra can of gas in case it’s a few days before you can fill up again. Extra gas if you have a generator. Refill your prescriptions if you need to, stock your first aid kit, and it’s not a bad idea to have a couple of tarps and a rope on hand in case you have some damage. Board up your windows and pick up anything in your yard that could become a missile in 150mph winds. Be prepared, and you’ll probably be just as safe as you would in the closest school.


If you live within a mile or two of the coast, you may be at risk of storm surge aka inland flooding. The best way I can describe storm surge is to tell you that it’s the highest high tide you will ever experience. It is a wall of water, with waves on top, and it can literally sweep a house off its foundation.

The residents of Grande Lagoon subdivision in Pensacola, Florida, learned that from Hurricane Ivan. About 30 residents stayed in their waterfront homes during the storm, and several died.

Standing water fills a residential road in Escambia County, Florida. after 6 inches of rain.

Flooding can be a concern anywhere.

Even if you don’t live right on the coast, if you live in a flood zone, chances are you’ll be dealing with high water. Rivers crest and drainage systems are quickly overtaxed, especially when branches and other debris start blowing around.

Rising flood waters not only put you at risk of drowning, it’s an unsanitary situation that could lead to infection or disease.


Is anyone in your household dependent on electricity? If someone relies on an oxygen machine or other medical equipment, keep in mind that it’s very rare not to lose power in a tropical storm. It’s not impossible that your power will stay on, but I wouldn’t count on it.

If it’s really difficult for you to evacuate, call your power company NOW and talk to someone about their priorities in a massive outage. They may be able to put you on a “medically necessary” list, ensuring that your neighborhood is one of the first to be restored. Bear this in mind: power crews can’t just rush in anywhere. Downed trees have to be cleared. New poles may have to be erected to replace ones that break or fall during the storm. If you live down a dirt road, a road prone to flooding, or if there are any other hazards, they may have the best intentions to get to you and still not make it.


Don’t wait until a disaster is imminent to consider your options. Think about all the different factors, such as heavy winds, torrential rain, potential for tornadoes, and your personal need for electricity. While the sun is still shining, decide what you’ll do, so that when the storm is coming, you waste no time; you can just act.

And please, if you do go, don’t leave your pets behind!

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The nuclear threat and TV movie-as-warning

The Day After TV movie advertisement

The Day After TV movie advertisement

Back in 1983, just about everybody watched the made-for-TV movie “The Day After.” The 33-year-old film became a hot topic again, at least for a few hours, when its airing was re-lived in the 2016 TV series “The Americans.”

Coincidentally, I was going through some folders in my filing cabinet and came across a 9-page essay about “The Day After.” No author’s name is listed. I think it was probably written by my Canadian pen-pal, Chris Scott, because it was next to some other items she had mailed to me.

This essay would have been written in the mid- to late

Cover of Newsweek magazine with the headline "TV's nuclear nightmare."

Newsweek magazine cover from the time.

1980s, fairly soon after the movie aired. Today, we are in a different world. I thought some of you who have a new or renewed interest in “The Day After” would enjoy a perspective untempered by time and a changing world order.

I have uploaded it as a PDF file. You can download it by clicking the following text link:

Essay on “The Day After”

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Why Star Wars Fans Stand in Line

SW-THE-FORCE-AWAKENSStar Wars: The Force Awakens opens on Friday (well, Thursday really, but the official opening date is December 18th), and around the country, fans are already lining up to see the movie. Most of those fans bought their tickets weeks ago, leading some youngsters to question their sanity.

Some will say that you still need to line up, because having a ticket doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a center seat or an aisle seat or that you’ll get to sit with your friends. The first people in line are the first in the theater. That is one valid excuse for lining up, but here’s the real, deep-seated reason.

It’s part of the Star Wars mythos.

star wars sf chronicle 920x1240

San Francisco Chronicle, 1977

You see, boys and girls, back in the dark ages of 1977, you actually had to stand in line to buy a ticket. Some theaters only sold tickets for the next show — meaning if you wanted to see the 8:20 p.m. showing, you had to buy it after the 6:00 p.m. screening started. When the first Star Wars (now known as Episode IV: A New Hope) opened, no one knew just how big a phenomenon it was going to be. There weren’t a lot of multiplexes, and the ones that had multiple screens probably had just two or three. And this was a time when you had to have a physical 35mm print to run through your projector, so there was no programming a blockbuster to show on three or four screens from one digital copy on a hard drive in the projection booth. One print=one showing. Star Wars is just about two hours long, so one print=about nine showings a day, if you ran it around the clock and allowed just 19 minutes to get one audience out, clean up their trash, and hustle the next audience in.

Star Wars Portland Oregon -3ffe39502f9da645

The Oregonian, 1977

Just about everyone wanted to see Star Wars and a lot of people saw it two or three or a hundred times. So you begin to understand why film goers back then found themselves standing in line.

Even when we got to 1980 and The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in 1983, you still had issues of maybe one theatre in your average-sized town had the right to show the movie, and they only had it on one or two screens. If you wanted to see the movie, you got in line, and if you wanted to see the first screening, you got in line really early.

Auriette with an unidentified Darth Maul, waiting in line for "The Phantom Menace"

Auriette with an unidentified Darth Maul, waiting in line for “The Phantom Menace”

I didn’t see the first movie until August of 1978 (thank you, Uncle Howitt), and even though the movie had been out for a year, people still stood in line for at least a little while to buy tickets. I don’t remember a long wait for The Empire Strikes Back; I went with a group of nerds who were taking PE in summer school so we didn’t have to deal with it during the school year. I do remember the movie opened in Pensacola a week or two late, while the theater got upgraded for 70mm. By Return of the Jedi, I made up my mind, I was seeing the first showing, and I got to the theater around three or four o’clock in the morning; I was the third person in line, and I made two really good friends that day.

By the time the prequels rolled around, the lines for the first screenings (at midnight on opening day) were like a party. A lot of people come in costume, bring their toys, and just hang out. We all have a shared love of that galaxy far, far away; we’re all excited; and it’s a lot of fun; but I don’t think that’s the primary reason we’re there.

Auriette in Naboo Pilot costume

Yours truly waiting in line for “Revenge of the Sith”

The primary reason, I think, that people wait in line for Star Wars is because it’s tradition. It’s what we had to do for so many years, that we still feel in our hearts that it’s what we should do when we’re seeing a Star Wars movie.

What am I doing this year? I don’t have a costume, and I’m a little confused by the fact the movie is actually opening a day before opening day. Plus, I’m put off by Disney deciding to open it in December instead of the traditional Memorial Day Weekend. So, I got my tickets for Friday afternoon, and I’ll head to the theatre as soon as I get off work. I bought my ticket a few days after they went on sale, and I don’t know what kind of line there’ll be, or if I’ll be able to walk right in and find a seat. Part of me will miss the line experience, and if I love this movie as much as I do A New Hope, then I’ll re-think my options for Episode 8.

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A Special Project for a 600th Anniversary

On October 25, 1415, King Henry V lead his vastly outnumbered English forces into battle against the French on a field near Agincourt.

The English won.

Nearly 200 years later, William Shakespeare told the story of the king’s campaign in his play “Henry V.” When he got to the part about the battle of Agincourt, he wrote an amazing speech for King Henry to rally his troops. You’ve likely heard bits of it before. It’s used during football season a lot, and “Band of Brothers” was the title of a popular book and TV miniseries about World War II. Here’s Kenneth Branagh’s take on it:

Here’s the text I’ll be using in my version:

He which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his friends,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Here’s the project, which I’m working on for First City Shakespeare in Pensacola: I want to make a video of this speech, with the lines read by different people, preferably military veterans and service members. I want to shoot the clips at some of the military monuments and sites that we have in this area. And I want to have it ready to post to the internet by October 25.

If you are a veteran or active duty service member and would like to take part, please contact me by email no later than September 15 using the form below or you can message me on Twitter.

I work full-time during the week, so we’ll most likely be shooting on weekends. I’d love to have people in uniform, but I don’t know what the military’s rules are; dress as you feel is appropriate for a military-themed video.

This is not a paid project; it’s strictly volunteer as a way to raise awareness of First City Shakespeare, to salute some of our veterans, and to remember those English warriors who accomplished a great military victory 600 years ago.


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Not Again! Credit card info stolen for the third time!

Chip and Pin Credit Card

Navy Federal Chip & Pin Credit Card

UPDATE: Who’d’ve thought Navy Federal Credit Union would be so stupid?!

I realized tonight that my new, more secure chip-and-pin card that I started using in February had the same account number as they issued me in October. So, whereas I thought it would be quick and simple to track the thief; and whereas I thought it had to be one of just eleven retailers where I used my brand new card; in fact, it could have been any number of places where I shopped since October. It never occurred to me to tell anyone to make sure they gave me a new number. It never occurred to me to compare the number on my old card. It happened quite accidentally while I was calling to discuss why one out of five fraudulent charges still hasn’t been credited back to my account.

I was convinced that my card had been skimmed at a store or jotted down by a waiter. Now I realize that it’s probably another major data breach. I expect an announcement any time now that the breach has been corrected.

It still flabbergasts me that with all the hacking, they didn’t bother to give me a new account number. Unbelievable!!


This is really frustrating! This is the third time our credit card account has been compromised in the last 13 months.

We were hacked twice in 2014; I believe the first incident was the Target breach, and the second was probably Home Depot.

I got proactive, called the company and demanded a chip-and-pin card.

I received the card in the mail end of January. I used it for the first time on February 3. Today is February 15, and we were notified first thing this morning. The account has been closed, and I’m supposed to have a new card by Wednesday or Thursday. I’m filling out a fraud affidavit, and I won’t have to pay anything. It’s just such a hassle to deal with, and it makes me angry that thieves are out there getting away with this!

The two incidents last year were, I believe, proper hacking. The bad guys stole massive amounts of data from retailers, created forged cards, and sold them to people who used them at Walmart, Macy’s, McDonald’s, and a couple of gas stations.

This time, someone used our card and spent nearly $300 at “Wargaming,” which I gather is some sort of online computer gaming site. You apparently can’t contact the company without creating an account, so I’ve messaged them on Twitter.  We’ll see if they care.  Anyway, I think this one was probably skimming. It can happen at stores, but I believe it’s more common at restaurants, where you hand your card to someone and it’s out of your sight for several minutes. I don’t know that. I can’t prove it; this are just my thoughts.

What I can tell you is that I have used that card on two websites and at nine stores and restaurants in Pensacola.  Here they are:

I have removed the list of stores due to the fact that I used the same account number at a good number of brick-and-morter and internet stores over the holidays. 

To the best of my knowledge those are the only places I’ve used the card in the past two weeks since I received it. My husband’s card has a different account number and has not been compromised.

If you’ve used your card at any of those places recently and your account has been compromised, please get in touch  with me. I’m @Auriette on Twitter.  If we can go to law enforcement with several cases linked to one or two possibilities, I think it would give them something to go on to start an investigation.

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