Monday, July 13, 2020

Cat Picture

This is Jasper in her new toy house:


She and Junti will not share the toy house. It's plenty big enough for two cats, too.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Language, as a Concept

My kid, who is just finishing an 8-week intensive Latin class (they learn two semesters of Latin in eight weeks), taught entirely online, has something to share:

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Back into the Past

This is my great-great grandmother, Etta Hawkins.

Rosetta Rose “Etta” <I>Hawkins</I> Dewitt

And this is my great-grandmother, Bertha Skaggs:

Bertha <I>Bell</I> Skaggs

That's a picture of my grandmother, Mae Skaggs, on her knee. Bertha died at 32, when my grandmother was twelve. Mae was sent to Indiana to live with a relative. Family history says the relative owned a "roadhouse," which is local parlance meant a whorehouse. I don't know how much of that is true.

The husband there, Ditchler Skaggs, looks quite a bit like my father and my second brother. Mae looks a bit like me when I was young, especially the white-blond hair and the suspicious glare.

What happened was, I couldn't remember my grandmother's name. So I hunted for her husband's obituary, and fell into the internet.

The trail ends with Ella -- or at least that's as far back as I can discover.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Tucker Carlson 14

If you hang around the wrong corners of the internet (sometimes I can't stop myself) you may have seen people with "1488" or just "14" in their usernames.

What's this refer to, maybe you wondered.

"88" is used for "HH," since H is the 8th letter in the alphabet. It's a cutesy way of saying Heil Hitler.

"14" means the fourteen words of the white nationalist slogan: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."

And this, well


If you want to know why certain conservatives are now stanning Tucker, there you are.

Monday, July 06, 2020

What I'm Reading Now

Janice Hadlow, The Other Bennett Sister

The Other Bennet Sister
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I'm a sucker for books that are basically Jane Austen fan-fiction. That's what this one is -- Hadlow gives us the life of Mary Bennett, the least attractive of the five Bennett daughters. Jane Austen meant us to view Mary with contempt: she read books, but didn't understand them; her sententious comments are both grating and laughable. She's the female version of Mr. Collins, and I can't be the only reader to think that she is who Mr. Collins should have courted.
But of course he never would, because besides being smarmy, she's ugly. An ugly and stupid man (Mr. Collins) can still gain himself a wife, though Austen lets us know what a bad bargain this is for the wife; an ugly, smarmy woman is desired by no one.

Hadlow sets about revising this view of Mary. She's still unattractive and foolish as a young woman, but as her life progresses, and she gains experience, she also gains wisdom. All in all, I enjoyed this one. Hadlow writes a very Austen-ite prose, and visiting the familiar landscapes and characters was a lot of fun.

Georgette Heyer, The Foundling

This is an uneven work, at best. But interesting in what it's trying to do! We've got a very odd hero, Gilly Lord Sale, who gets migraines and is short and mild -- he spends the first quarter of the book letting everyone push him around, because he doesn't want to start arguments. The book is more or less about him learning to assert himself, which, okay. 

The book also has two wonderful teenagers, one a fifteen year old boy with no brakes and one a fifteen year old girl (the foundling of the title) who is delightfully stupid. (Hen-witted, another character calls her.) Usually I hate stories about stupid people doing stupid things, but Heyer makes this one work.

On the other hand -- we have kidnappings and blackmail and murder plots and other melodramatic plot elements, which Heyer doesn't (quite) manage to pull off.

It's got some nice bits, but read only if you're a Heyer completest.

Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

This is a re-read, but it's such a good book. A scientist talks about her life and how she became a scientist, with a lot of detail about plants, and especially trees, and doing science with plants and trees. Extremely readable, brilliant writing.

Stephen King, The Stand

Also a re-read. It's a pandemic book, and one I hadn't read it in years -- maybe 20 years? Maybe longer.

Some parts are interesting, but argh, the sexism and the (unconscious) racism and the fat-phobia and the anti-intellectualism and

It has all the faults of a book written in the 1970s by someone who has never thought deeply about his own writing or anything else much.

Very readable, and as I said, some parts -- especially the bits during the plague and after Our Heroes set out for Vegas -- are still pretty good.

Some parts are really disgusting, however. King loves to gross people out. I skimmed past those.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Anxiety Dreams

I had that dream again -- it's always a different dream, but the basic conceit is the same. I need to get somewhere, urgently, but when I open a door to get there, there's another door behind the door (like in that cartoon) and another behind that one, and so on.

Or I'm climbing stairs, except they keep running out before I reach the place I'm trying to get to.

Or (last night) I have to take elevators, but they won't stop on my floor; or they don't go to the floor I need to reach; or the elevator doors open, but there's no elevator, or it's stalled halfway between floors. Or I finally reach the right floor, but the person who needs to sign off on my paperwork is gone, and no one know when he'll be back.

I mean, the symbolism is obvious; but they're still stressful dreams.

Friday, July 03, 2020


Two lovely reviews of Retellings of the Inland Seas have just come out.

Paul Weimer at Nerds of a Feather

Nancy Jane Moore at Treehouse Feathers

The anthology is available now!

Thursday, July 02, 2020


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


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

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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.

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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:


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.


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!