Thursday, July 02, 2020

Otium


As all y'all know, my sabbatical for Fall 2020 was granted. This means I don't have to return to campus until January 2021.

Also Dr. Skull is currently unemployed, due to the virus. (Normally he'd be teaching at the Governor's School right now.)

And the kid is back up the hill, taking a summer class.

So I have absolutely nothing to do, day after day after day. The last time I had this much leisure, I was ten years old.

8:30: I get up, drink coffee, do the NYTimes Crossword puzzle.

9:00 until about 2:00: I write. Just now I am working on a vampire novella (which is SO not my lane) and finishing the revisions of the Velocity Sequel.

2:00: Eat lunch while reading something.

2:30: Consider the housework. Usually laundry needs doing, or the floor has to be swept. Today I made a grocery run. Yesterday I picked up books at the library and did laundry.

4:00-8:00: I read.

8:00 If it's not too hot, I take the dog for a walk. Lately it is far too hot. And next week the highs are going to be in the 100s, with 70-80% humidity.

9:00-Midnight: More reading, though occasionally I watch a movie.

Midnight or so: Bed

These days I remember my Catullus:

Ōtium, Catulle, tibī molestum est: ōtiō exsultās nimiumque gestīs. Ōtium et rēgēs prius et beātās perdidit urbēs.

Leisure, Catullus, it destroys you; with leisure, you're just too hyper..

In the fall, once things cool down, I can take more and longer walks. That will help.


Little Catulli

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

When the Light at the End of the Tunnel


Image may contain: one or more people, text that says "Look, a shooting star Iwish 2020 would get a little better wait, that's not a shooting star"

The GOP Solution


The Gop solution to the collapsing economy is exactly what it always is: give more money to rich people.

Here at my university, we're collecting groceries to feed our students. The GOP proposes to give a $4000 tax credit to any American who takes a vacation.

That's $4000 per person. So $8000 for a couple. Plus $500 each for their kids.

Notice it's a tax credit.

So who does this benefit? Well, it benefits those who have $8000 to spend on a goddamn vacation. As for the rest of us, hey, the lines at the food pantries are down to a couple miles each, I hear.



Charlie Middleton - Accidental Whistleblower - Various Companies ...

Monday, June 29, 2020

Update on the Virus in Arkansas


Covid-19 is spiking in my state, though we're still doing better than many places. We have over 20,000 confirmed cases now. Our governor, who is a Republican*, cautions that that number is probably low, since we haven't done that much testing. Nationwide, over 126,000 people have died. So far**.

I, for instance, did not get tested. This is only partly because I'm afraid of how horrible the test sounds. Ever since I had a "esophageal manometry" test done before my stomach surgery, I have a literal phobia about things being stuck up my nose.

But mainly I avoided it because I'd heard horror stories about how much people were being charged for the tests. I'm already paying 20% of my income for medical costs every month, so miss me on that.

Despite the increasing number of people infected, and hospitalized, most people in my town are still not wearing masks. When we make a grocery run, I'd say about 20% of the people in the store are masked. And I had someone inform me on FB today that the "Kung Flu" was not a big deal, and the "Democrats" were exaggerating the effects of the virus in order to "start a race war."

Which, okay, Karen.

I blocked her. That's my new policy -- one strike, and fuck you.

Meanwhile, our university has formulated the beginning of a plan for how we might resume classes in August -- split classes in half, and teaching half the class on, say, Tuesday, and half on Thursday. Public schools might well be doing a version of this. That will leave half the students at home on any given day, and I have no idea how parents are going to manage that.

How are things where you are?



Political Cartoon on 'COVID-19 Cases Jump' by Steve Sack ...



*I mention that he's a Republican because apparently simple data is now a political issue, just like wearing masks.

**This is almost certainly not an accurate count. The real number is almost certainly much higher, despite what MAGA Americans keep claiming. (They think the number is much lower. Or, you know, they pretend to think that. Since everything they say is a lie, this probably is too.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Links


What happens when you try to have a rational discussion with a conservative

Covid-19 cases probably 10X higher than the numbers reported (Jenny F. Scientist called this some time ago)

Black residents of Chicago make up 70% of deaths from Covid-19, though they're less then 30% of the population. 

Fox News and Covid-19 infection rates

An accurate description of how history is taught in US Public schools (Louisiana schools are a bit worse than this)

A whole rotten orchard




If "Ignorance is bliss" Why are Fox News viewers so angry ...

Thursday, June 25, 2020

What I'm Reading Now

THE ANGEL OF THE CROWS
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Katherine Addison, The Angel of the Crows

I loved Addison's first book, The Goblin Emperor, and I like the books she wrote under her own name well enough. So this one was an automatic read.

It's not the book I was expecting, but I loved it. The main character, a doctor wounded in Afghanistan in the 1880s, is wounded by a supernatural monster, who turns out to be a Fallen Angel. And when the doctor returns to England, badly injured, he finds himself in need of a roommate. His new roommate? A non-fallen Angel named Crow.

Who is a consulting detective for Scotland Yard. And lives at 221 Baker Street.

Oh my God.

This is a Sherlock Holmes retelling like you've never seen more -- the hellhound in The Hound of the Baskervilles is an actual hellhound, for instance -- and so much fun.

Written in Addison's compellingly readable prose. I gulped in down in one day. It's not as great as The Goblin Emperor, but it's more accessible and just a delight.


Christina Clancy, The Second Home

I didn't dislike this one, and it was engrossing enough. It's the story of three siblings, one of them adopted, and how one summer in their late adolescence shapes the rest of their lives.

I like the characters, especially Michael. I like all the details about surfing. I can't say why this one left me so meh. Maybe the plot? It's well-structured enough, but I found it hard to care about Ann, who I think is supposed to be the main character. She was so deeply unlikable that I wasn't moved by her trauma, which is the main engine of the book. I also really disliked the family she is supposed to have fallen in love with -- which leads to her downfall -- and had a hard time believing she was so entranced with them. (They are obvious assholes and creeps.)

The details about Cape Cod are great, and Michael and his story line are good. If you like family dramas, maybe this is for you.


Laurie King, Riviera Gold

This is another addition to King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. I liked it better than the last one, and Zelda Fitzgerald (and her husband, some sort of writer) show up as minor characters, which was fun. The mystery wasn't all that interesting, and the relationship between Russell and Holmes has sadly stopped developing.

So readable, but not one of the best books in the series.


Add caption
Susan Scarf Merrill, Shirley

I love Shirley Jackson, so I was interested in this one. It's from the point of view of  Rose, a young professor's wife. She and her husband are hired to teach at Bennington with Stan, Shirley Jackson's husband, and also to move in and live at the Hyman/Jackson household.

The wife is pregnant, and forms a case of hero worship for Shirley -- which who could blame her -- and Fred, the husband, gets mentored by Stan.

So far so good, and the bits with Shirley being a writer and being witchy are all pretty well done. I also like Rose's background story. 

But mostly it's just a mean-spirited book -- I can't count the number of times that Merrill makes the point that Shirley Jackson is fat and ugly, she's a slob, she's vicious, blah blah blah. 

Worse, the story goes nowhere. I think we're meant to assume that Jackson murdered this student who went missing ten years before, because she was angry about the student sleeping with Stan, but none of that really makes sense. And the parts about Jackson's house being like Hill House are just unconvincing.

The writing is good. If you're interested in life among writers in the 1960s, you might like this one.


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Won't Someone Think of the Poor STATUES?!?


Seriously, it's been interesting to watch the martyred outrage from Conservatives over the fate of the poor statues.

And by "interesting," I mean completely predictable.

Oh, being killed by police is a major cause of death for black men between the ages of 25 and 35? Well, shit happens, what can you do?

A statue was pulled down? CANCEL AMERICA!

Meanwhile, just a fair warning, this monument to conservative politics is coming down next:

Angry Baby: Sinnataggen i Vigelandsanlegget. Oslo, Norway | Norway


See also this:

Image

And meanwhile, more than 120,000 Americans dead of Covid-19 so far. But yeah, let's have tantrums over statues.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Launching the Inland Seas!


The moment you've been waiting for!

Retellings of the Inland Seas is available today!



This is the anthology my new story appears in.

TOC:


Distant Campfires, Eternal Beacons – Athena Andreadis (introduction)
The Wine-Dark Sea — A. M. Tuomala
Sirens — Melissa Scott
Hide and Seek — Shariann Lewitt
The Sea of Stars — Genevieve Williams
Between the Rivers — Judith Tarr
Calando — James L. Cambias
One Box too Many — Christine Lucas
The Fury of Mars — F. J. Doucet
Out of Tauris — Alexander Jablokov
Little Bird — Kelly Jennings
Wings — Elana Gomel
The Crack at the Border — Dimitra Nikolaidou
Unearthing Uncle Bud — Athena Andreadis

More here!

Monday, June 22, 2020

My Kid Does Fan Art


See it here.


The Final Bill (Maybe)


So I was sick in December, as all y'all who read regularly know. It was a kidney stone, or actually several kidney stones. This is not an unusual medical event. Most of us can count on having some minor medical emergency like this at some point in our lives.

I have insurance. I get it through my university, and along with the extra fee for dental insurance, it costs me about $600/month. That's a little over $7000/year, or about ten percent of my pre-tax income.

I had to be hospitalized twice, and I had four separate "procedures," as they're called. Twice the stones were pulverized with sonic rays (or however they did it) and twice I had stents put in, and during the last procedure, the stent was removed. Multiple X-Rays, a CT-Scan, drugs.

After a $1200/deductible, the insurance covered 80% of the costs. Since part of the treatment happened in 2019 and part in 2020, I paid the deductible twice.

I made payments going into the hospital, and some coming out -- these were small payments, maybe $300 total.

Today I just finished setting up all the payment plans to pay off the rest of what I owe.

The hospital: I will pay $137/month over the next 18 months.
The urologist: I will pay $75/month over the next 18 months.
Anesthesiologists, etc: I will pay $50/month for the next 18 months.

Also, I had an abscessed tooth a few months ago. I am paying $100/month for the next 12 months on that.

This means, for the next year, I will be paying $362/month in medical payments, plus the $600/insurance. (For six months after that, I will be paying $262/month.)

That's almost 20 percent of my income in medical payments.

Good thing we don't have single-payer health care. Think how poor I would be then!


Poverty News


(Oh -- and here's a twist. In Arkansas, it's illegal for healthcare providers to charge interest on the debt you owe them. In the past, that meant someone like me could pay off the debt at a relatively reasonable rate -- I could pay maybe $50/month to the hospital, and $50 to the urologist, and so on. But now if you can't pay the debt off in under 18 months, hospitals and doctors just sell your debt to collection agencies, who sue you, and charge you high interest rates, plus "fees" -- or else garnish your wages. USA! We're NUmber One!)



Friday, June 19, 2020

117,000 Dead


In case you thought the pandemic was over, nah.

A hundred and seventeen thousand dead so far. 754 dead yesterday.

Trump's solution? He's going to hold a rally. But don't worry! He's making his slavering fans sign a waiver promising not to sue when they get sick.

As for me, it's been almost a month since I got sick, and I am still not well. At this point, all I want is to feel relatively normal again. (Whine, whine.)


Image

Political Cartoon on 'Covid-19 Cases Rising' by Matt Davies ...

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Aftershocks


I am fairly certain I am not sick anymore -- I haven't had a fever in days, and I don't have any symptoms except an on-going lack of appetite.

But almost every day, around two or three o'clock, I get overwhelmingly tired.  I lie down to rest for a minute, and literally cannot stay awake. I fall sleep and sleep for three or four hours.

Today I fell asleep at three-thirty and woke up at 8:00.

Argh.

On the other hand, our yard is filled with fireflies this evening.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

What I'm Reading Now




Susan Palwick, Shelter

Shelter by Susan PalwickI read The Necessary Beggar by Palwick, after it was recommend on some SF site, and then I ordered this one (the only other book by Palwick which our library has) but that was right before the Pandemic hit, and it was checked out. With the pandemic, no one had to return books, and so whoever had this one didn't, until last week.

Worth the wait, though! I liked this a lot. It's a big fat novel about the intertwining lives of half a dozen characters. (This is my jam, you might have noticed.) Set in the near future, it starts during a pandemic, interestingly enough, and then continues on into the lives of those effected by the pandemic and social changes related to AI. These are related, more or less, because the father of one of the main characters dies in the pandemic and is "translated," or uploaded into the net as an AI.

This isn't exactly a cheery or comforting book, since lots of grim things happen. But I really like how Palwick gives depth to the characters, and the social changes wrought by scientific changes were very well done.

If you can find this one, it's very much worth reading.


REVIEW: Keum Suk Gendry-Kim's GRASS sheds a humbling light on ...Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, Grass

Also more than a little grim, this is a graphic non-fiction novel about a young Korean girl who ends up enslaved as a "comfort woman" during World War II.

The story is framed by snippets of the author interviewing Lee Ok-Sun (the young woman) in her last years, but most of it concerns her early years, the poverty that compelled her parents to sell her into bond-slavery, and how she ended up kidnapped and exploited by the Japanese military.

The art is as grim as the story. Only read this one if you're feeling brave.


Patricia Wrede, Snow White and Rose Red

This is one of the fairy tale series edited by Terry Windling. My favorite in this series is Pamela Dean's Tam Lin; I was glad to find a few others (this one, and Charles de Lint's Jack the Giant Killer available.

Snow White and Rose Red isn't as compelling as Tam Lin, but it was readable, and I liked the characters, especially Robin, very much. The loyalty and friendship between the sisters and between the mother and her best friend was also lovely to read.


Joe Haldeman, Camouflage; Tool of the Trade; The Old Twentieth

These are all re-reads, slender SF novels that are immensely readable, though far from perfectly done. Haldeman is famous for writing The Forever War, which is also far from perfect. What can I say, sometimes I just want to read some bog-standard SF.


Connie Willis, The Doomsday Book, Black Out, All Clear, To Say Nothing of the Dog

Also re-reads. The Doomsday Book, which concerns the Black Death and a flu pandemic (yes, both!) is probably Willis's best book. Black Out /All Clear are probably her weakest -- loose and baggy monsters in which Willis's trademark oh-no-people-miscommunicate-with-one-another gets entirely out of hand.

But even at her worst, Willis is very readable. Also these are big fat books, my favorite sort. Warning: Black Out and All Clear are really two halves of one book, but they're sold separately. Luckily my library has them, so I don't need to buy them.

To Say Nothing of the Dog is pure romp. It's Romance/Comedy, with an entirely low-stakes mystery to give it spine. Highly recommended if you like books in which nothing bad happens.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Not a Surprise


I'm so far Left I'm almost off the chart:

Image may contain: text that says "Authoritarian Left Right Libertarian"

The two axes, by the way, are political and economic. (X axis is economic, Y is social/political.) I'm a little surprised to find myself so far left on the X-axis. I thought my ethos on that one would be more moderate. But apparently not!

Take the survey here: https://www.politicalcompass.org/

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Summer in Arkansas


Now that I'm well enough to resume walks over by the river, the weather has turned murderously hot -- heat warnings yesterday and today, and probably tomorrow. Yesterday it was 98 degrees, with a heat index of 104; today looks similar.

The heavy humidity is the worst part. I step outside and want to die.

Also bats.

We've got bats. They're coming down through a hole in the porch roof at night (where a light fixture used to be) and getting trapped, because the porch is screened, of course.

This is a delight for the cats, and maddening for me. I have taken to leaving the porch door open, so they can escape. Later today I plan to attempt to patch the hole in the roof. (The bats will be fine -- there are other ways out of the attic.)