Thursday, May 06, 2021

You Can See the Light from Here

 I am almost done grading -- half of both Comp II classes remains to do. Also I have to go to commencement on Sunday. Once those are done, I am done. ALMOST THERE.

It's beautiful weather here today, especially given that it's May 6: cool and sunny, with a racket of birds.

May 6th is also the kid's birthday. Right now 23 years ago, I was in a hospital in Pocatello, ID, and the kid was not...quite...born. There was a thunderstorm booming outside the window, and my mother had just arrived from New Orleans to be with me during the birth. (Dr. Skull was there too, but I wanted my mother.)

It's funny how clearly I can remember that day. The kid was born at 6:20 p.m. and they left him with me for a couple of hours. Around ten p.m. they took him to put him in the nursery, except I could hear him crying -- already I knew his cry from all the other babies -- so I walked down there and made them give him back.

He was ten days early, and so little, but so alert. His cry was like a little mouse squeak. In fact, we called him "Mouse" for the first month.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

May in Arkansas

 Big storm last night -- a tornado hit Roland, OK, which is over near where I used to live. Here, we just got wind and rain and very impressive thunder. A big branch came down from one of the trees, and lots of little branches and leaves.

Plus the power was out from about ten p.m. to two a.m. We have two emergency lanterns, both battery powered. One of these worked, but not the other. Worse, the battery on Dr. Skull's CPAP failed. He tried sleeping sitting up in the big white chair for awhile, but that was impossible, and finally he went back to bed and slept (or tried to sleep) without the CPAP.

I was on the couch, trying to sleep without the AC. This was after the storm had passed through. While it was still going on, there was too much thunder and sturm to sleep.

Power is back now. A front is going through as we speak, and this evening is supposed to be in the 50s. That's May in Arkansas!

Monday, May 03, 2021

May in Arkansas

 It's nearly 90 here today and very humid. 

Plus the local water company has been doing SOMETHING all week on our street -- I don't know what. Not laying new pipe, I know what that looks like. Maybe cleaning out the old pipes?

Whatever it is, it's very noisy and requires immense trucks to block the street from about six a.m. to five p.m. The little dog wakes me up barking wildly every morning, because GUYS are in his YARD.

I've been grading all day today. My least favorite part of the job.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Academic Papers

 XKCD did a thing, and now Twitter is running with it.

Economics Papers:

Sociology Papers:

Archeology Papers:

More here: Types Paper

Even more here!

Friday, April 30, 2021

All over but the Grading

I taught my last classes yesterday; today I spent writing and grading portfolios submitted by various students. About 1/3 of my students stopped coming or doing any work sometime in March. (I haven't done an actual count.) This will give me less to grade, clearly, but I'm still bummed about it.

I reached out, repeatedly, to students who weren't coming to class or doing the work. Those who responded told me about their workloads, or illnesses in their family (sometimes Covid, sometimes other illnesses), or problems with lost jobs which made it difficult for them to drive to campus/keep their laptops and internets working. Several are also suffering from depression, which, no shock there.

I'm not sure what the solution is. I offered to work with them, showed them the work they needed to do to at least pass the class, and sent follow-ups. Only a few of them got back on track. 

We're going back to f2f in the fall. Here's hoping that will help.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021


 I have suffered from insomnia all my life -- one of my earliest memories is wandering around my house at well past midnight, getting snacks from the refrigerator in the dark kitchen and playing with my toys in the light from the streetlight, as it shone through the living room window. 

I couldn't read yet, so I was probably four years old. One reason I'm a writer, I suspect, is because I got through those long nights by making up stories to tell to myself.

Anyway. For awhile I managed to control the insomnia with melatonin. But now it's ba-a-ck, but in a weird new form: I fall asleep, usually before one a.m., but then I just skim the surface of sleep, waking every ten or twenty minutes, never falling into deep sleep.

A benefit (I guess) of sleeping this way is I can remember all my dreams. How useful that would be if I were in therapy now!

My dreams are very bloody, but also very cheerful. Make of that what you will.

I plan to call my physician and see if she will give me some sleep drugs.

Monday, April 26, 2021

One More Week

 We're in the last week of classes now. 

It was a long semester. I can honestly say that I hate teaching online -- although one benefit was the discovery that doing "conferences" via Google Classroom was much more effective.

I used to hold one-on-one conferences with the students over every paper. This took about two weeks, and was exhausting, but was fairly effective in improving their papers. It also let me teach them how revision* works. 

This semester, since I couldn't meet with students one-on-one, I had them submit their papers to Google Classroom, and then I read them and sent feedback. Then they resubmitted. Then I sent feedback again. And so on.

This took much less time, and also seems to have been more effective at getting students to take direction. I suspect that some of them had trouble hearing what they were being told in person. Also, I can go into more detail on GC, because of its comment functions.

Anyway, that was useful information. 

I also taught Intro to Creative Writing for the first time in about a decade. It was more fun than I expected. I enjoyed teaching poetry writing, which -- as it turns out -- I know more about that I suspected.

Still, I am glad this semester is ending, and glad (if a little worried) to not have summer classes. I need a break.

*Some people will tell you they don't need to revise their writing, and some percentage of those people are actually correct. But those people I would excuse from conferences, and the rest were very much helped by having feedback and close-readings of their texts.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Sunny Sunday

 Cat on the porch:

It's been rainy and cold here all week, but today we have sunshine. The cats are pleased.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

A Tale of Two Bretts


Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect...

ETA AGAIN: And this:

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Review of The Relentless Moon

 My review of The Relentless Moon, by Mary Robinette Kowal, is live at Strange Horizons.

Spoilers: I liked it, with some quibbles.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021


 Now I have a swarm of bees in my yard (hanging in the tree-that-might-be-a-Japanese-Cherry-tree). 

That's plague, screeching owls, and now swarms of bees. Hail and cattle disease, coming right up.

I asked the internet, which gives me conflicting advice. Most say to leave the bees alone for a little while and see if they leave -- they're looking for a new home, and will probably go find one if I don't bother them.

Others say they will die if it freezes, which...the low tonight is supposed to be 30 degrees. (In April! In Arkansas!)

There's a hive in one of the other trees, and I suspect this swarm came from there. I'm going to call the county extension office if the swarm is still there when I get home today. (That's the advice most of the internet gave me.)

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Screeching Owl

 A barn owl is living in one of the trees in my yard -- or maybe two owls.

Their screams are pretty terrifying. The first time one screamed, I thought, holy shit, is that an alien being tortured?

Like that, only really fucking LOUD.

April in Arkansas

 It's winter here again -- a frost warning for tomorrow night. (I am worried about my tomato plants.)

Mind you, I am enjoying the unseasonably cool weather. Usually by this time we are hard into summer and I am spending $$$ on air conditioning. Yesterday I had to put on the heat.

We filed our taxes. Only owed the state $58 dollars, and might get something back from the Feds -- which is better than a few years ago, when we owed them money.

Meanwhile our Biden buck finally arrived. I am saving them up against this summer, when I have no classes and also the new system used by the university is apparently going to fuck up my pay. 

They "can't" do a 12-month pay schedule anymore. So either I'm not getting paid this summer at all, or I'm getting 3 paychecks in June and then nothing until a half-check in August. Then next year, it's a 9-month pay schedule, though apparently they're going to set up some scheme by which we can "opt" to save 25% of each paycheck, and then...get all of that in June?

Also they'll be taking our part of the health insurance costs out in 9 lumps into of in 12 lumps.

Theoretically, it will be the same amount of money, just distributed weirdly. I am waiting to see what happens de facto. And hoarding cash, just in case.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

My Father

 It's been nearly three months since my mother died, back at the end of January. 

In the weeks after her death, my brothers and SILs (who since I live six hundred miles away had to deal with everything) learned just how serious my father's memory problems had become. Apparently my mother had been covering for him for years.

Though in fairness, I think he has deteriorated a lot in the past year. It was during this past year that my mother began mentioning to me how much trouble he was having, and asking me -- after they visited -- if I noticed how different he was. (I did.)

In any case, my SIL and nephew took him to a neurologist, and he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. We've got him in an assisted living facility now, which luckily his combined pensions and Social Security will pay for. He's physically very healthy, but he can't remember things -- he still has trouble remembering that my mother is dead.

This is all very depressing, I have to say. My father was a brilliant man -- his intelligence, his mind, was his strength. Now he can't remember how to charge his phone.


Marie Howe


We stop at the dry cleaners and the grocery store   
and the gas station and the green market and   
Hurry up honey, I say, hurry,   
as she runs along two or three steps behind me   
her blue jacket unzipped and her socks rolled down.   

Where do I want her to hurry to? To her grave?   
To mine? Where one day she might stand all grown?   

Today, when all the errands are finally done, I say to her,   
Honey I'm sorry I keep saying Hurry—   
you walk ahead of me. You be the mother.   

And, Hurry up, she says, over her shoulder, looking    
back at me, laughing. Hurry up now darling, she says,   
hurry, hurry, taking the house keys from my hands.


Cold Spring

 We're having an abnormally cool spring here this year, which I am all in favor of -- usually by this time, we're seeing temperatures in the 80s and 90s. And we did hit 80 here last week. But mostly we're having mid-sixties, and lows in the 40s and 50s at night.

It's very nice. More of this, please!