Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall/Not Whining

It's fall here, or trying to be.  Cooler weather, trees that have a small edge of red leaves along one border.  I'm trying to work on my lizard story (I write SF about lizards and frogs these days, it's very odd) and not sink into a slough of despond about why should I write anyway.  The weather is helping.

Also!  We are up to N on the shelves.  Though it is obvious our weeding out and boxing up of books has not been thorough enough.  Or else we need more shelves.  A bigger house?  To move to the practice of using Kindle instead?

I am tired of cooking, and Herr Dr. Delagar is too busy.  So we are living on Nutella with a spoon from a jar and apples, also diet Coke black with rum mixed in.  This cannot be such a good thing, I am fairly certain.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Book Re-Ordering

In a fit of pique over being rejected one more time, I decided the the time had finally come to put the books in the house in order. (They had been stacked all over the place, on top of other bookshelves, in front of books on the bookshelves, along walls, piled on windowsills, in baskets in corners, heaped up in boxes, anywhere that was level and many places that were not.) So: Saturday afternoon we bought a new bookshelf and six storage boxes and all weekend long we have been weeding and sorting and reshelving books.

(Any book we are not going to read or consult in the next year or two, we are committed to putting in a box and storing in the back closet. It is the only way to live in thise house. We have decided! Unfortunately so far Herr Dr. Delagar only wants to store my books and I only want to store his. Sigh.)

We are up to the H's. This is going to take awhile.

I am hoping, though, that eventually we will have a house we can vaccuum and dust and mop, and one where we can find books again. Wouldn't that be splendid?

Saturday, September 26, 2009


I got a story rejected.

So sad.

It's part of the life of being a writer, I know, but I'm gloomy anyway.

I'm working on my lizard story, hoping the act of writing itself will cheer me up.

Fuckity fucking fuck, BTW.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

No Real Shock Here

But states that are more religious are states that end up with more pregnant teens.

How come? Well, maybe because, like the religious kids at my kid's school, they don't get taught anything about birth control or even basic sex education at all? Ya think? Just say no, that's what they get taught. Don't do it until you get married, that's all you need to know, that's what they get told.

Because, yes, that works really well. On MARS.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How To Talk To Your Kid About Gay Sex

(Or anything else, really, but let's stick to gay sex.)

  • First, wait until she asks.  The kid knows when the kid is ready to talk about the issue.  So don't cleverly bring up the point -- "Sweetie, see those two guys over there?  Guess what they do when they're alone?"  No, no, no.  A time will come, probably when you're watching Dr. Who or Will & Grace together, when she will say, "What?  What did he just say? What did that mean?"  Right then.  Now she wants to know.
  • Tell her only as much as she actually asks about.  No, really, don't get into issues of position and tools and I will not go on.  My kid was, I think, five, when she first asked. I believe her first question was something on the order of, "What is a lesbian, exactly?"  (This had to do with the fact that at her charming public school kindergarten the five year old girls were calling each other lesbians at the drop of a hat -- like if one little girl held hands with another, ooo, LESBIAN!) I said, very easily, that, well, you know how mama loves daddy?  Well, some women love men and some women love women, and that some men love men.  Lesbians love women, and gay men love men.  That was all I told her then.
  • When she asks for more, tell her more.  Tell her where she can get more information if she needs it.  Provide links and books and warnings.  (I tell the kid not to open any link that says over 18; I tell her why, too -- here's what might be beyond those links, here's what could happen if you do.  Don't be mysterious.  Give them the facts.  Bear in mind they'll be on their own a lot, and linked up a lot, too, when you aren't there.)
  • Tell her what her friends get taught, and why.  This is where I haul out my patriarchy lectures.  Why are her friends using gay as a bad word?  Why aren't her Pentecostal friends being taught anything about sex at all?  (They can't even use the word!) Why doesn't anyone in her class know anything about birth control yet?  (Most of them aren't even really certain where babies come from, or how it happens -- or at least they weren't, until my kid led a seminar behind the oak trees one recess.)
  • Wait until more questions come up, and answer those too.  Act calm, even if you're panicked inside.  The way you treat sex is the way she'll treat sex.  Everything you say she takes to heart.  
Update: Oh, wait, I forgot one really important bit: actual examples.  As when my kid said to me, how come we don't know any gay people?  And I said, well, yes, sweetie, we do. (Here I gave examples.) It's only that gay people are not really very different from straight people, so you haven't thought of them any differently. 

Then I'm afraid I taught her the term gaydar (because she asked, how, if straight people and gay people weren't very different, one could tell them apart), which cracked her up.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

mr. delagar writes me a poem

Since herr dr. delagar has taken to teaching the modern poetry class at our university as well as teaching poetry workshop in our creative writing minor, he is having a poetic outbreak -- writing sonnets and villanelles and and every sort of poem non-stop.  Here is a poem he wrote for me this past weekend.  Since it has music in it I am at a loss (I am a musical idiot) to help with the explication, but I like it a great deal:


Snake of asphalt black through crackle
leave you stop on precipice hanging
watching slow cars five fathoms down

Trees cluster chord Ligeti shades
pass under play out sky in harmonic
dissonance hear the grating tonality

heights magnet you to perch on stones
crush layers assonant chords basal
limestone reddish up I trudge a tuba

hoping for a solo deep amid strings
treetops shudder wind takes your hair too
follow I always will writing chordal thumps

you edge junkie I can bear war and SFZ anti-music
but high up five full fathoms snake road cars
I follow and sure it music be music love.

The Kid and I read Books

I've been reading to the kid since she was two days old; once she got old enough to read, we started fighting about who would do the bedtime reading, since we both love to read aloud, especially poetry ("Can't I read it to you?" she demands about Lewis Carroll or Hopkins. "Can't I?  Can't I?  Isn't it MY turn?").

Lately, though, we've been reading a set of books, beginning with The Lightning Thief, which her grandmother bought her while she was on her great cross-country tour this summer, which I find I must recommend to you -- they're just so good: by Rick Riordin, who, frankly, puts Rowling and her Harry Potter to shame. (Reviewed here on Crossed Genres.)

They're about, hey, a half-blood, Percy Jackson, only he's half-god and half human (what do you think that makes you, he gets asked, some kind of hero, in one of the touches that makes me giggle uncontrollably), the son of Poseidon by a human mother, which causes him all sorts of troubles in the mortal world.  Among other things I like about this series in Annabeth, Percy's comrade in arms, another half-blood, who, unlike girls in certain other series which will remain nameless, is not overwhelmed by a whole herd of boy characters, but is central to the plot/s, and a strong character in her own right.  Nor is her intelligence (or anyone's intelligence) demeaned in these texts.  Being smart, reading books, thinking ahead -- these are good things. Strong women characters in general, also.  Percy's mom, for instance! Protects her son!  Saves herself! Goes back to school!

Plus, really well written.  We're reading them a chapter at a time, and I'm enjoying the writing as much as the plot, and plot twists are really plot twists -- I keep saying, hey, woh.  Didn't see that coming.  

Highly recommended.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rosh Hashanah

The days of awe are on us.

On Friday we ate challah and roast chicken and apples and honey and discussed things we might do differently come the new year, and on Saturday we threw our bread in the water (the Arkansas River, our usual venue -- a lovely evening, this year, not as blisteringly hot as usual, but my heavens were the mosquitoes vicious) and named our sins and regrets, things we'll change, things we're sorry we did over this past year, things we'll try to stop doing.

Then the kid and I did the winter dance at the top of the hill, by the scrappy remains of old Fort Smith, and we ran for the car before the mosquitoes could eat us to pieces, and went to the bookstore, and bought far too many books.

A good year to you!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Also Via Language Log

Alan Turing

here's a toast to Alan Turing
born in harsher, darker times
who thought outside the container
and loved outside the lines
and so the code-breaker was broken
and we're sorry
yes now the s-word has been spoken
the official conscience woken—
very carefully scripted
but at least it's not encrypted
—and the story does suggest
a part 2 to the Turing Test:
1. can machines behave like humans?
2. can we?

(by Matt Harvey, published here)

Why I Love Science


Via Language Log: ...[scan shows that]certain areas in the brain of mature Atlantic Salmon "light up" when the animal is asked to categorize the emotions expressed by a set of (human) faces...

What's Wrong With Our Press?

It's on a leash, that's what.

Exhibit One: Glenn Beck. Way too many people in this country are starting to think this whackjob makes sense, and articles like the recent loony bit in Times explain why.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Turing, Science Fiction, Science Fascism

As my students and my poor suffering mr. delagar and the kid will tell you, I feel strongly about many, many things.  I remember a professor in my second year of graduate school patting my hand at a party: "It's not that important, delagar."  Except, you know, it was!

This is.

Alan Turing was born in 1912: it’s possible he could be alive today, aged 97. In 1953 he was writing what biographer Alan Hodges describes as a “sudden explosion of ideas about the fundamental physics of quantum mechanics and relativity”. But he’d lost so much: he’d lost what Orson Scott Card proposed a man like Alan Turing should lose – the right to be regarded as an acceptable, equal citizen. His friends at Cambridge spoke for him in court and stood by him until death: but he lost his job, he was subjected to routine harassment by the police, and – a known side-effect of the hormones used to castrate him – he had grown breasts. On 7th June 1954, he ate a cyanide-laced apple, and he died.

When I was a kid, like every other kid in fifth grade, we threw the "Don't be queer!" and "That's so gay!" at each other, too.  (It was Louisiana, and it was lower-middle-class Louisiana.)  Then I got older, and I read books, and I looked around and started thinking.

Orson Scott Card calls himself a liberal.  He claims he is a moral human being, who wants a good world.  He needs to rethink his position on his fellow human beings who are gay.

Why does it matter what he does, what he thinks, given that he's just one man?  Well, he's not just one man, as he well knows.  He's the fella who wrote Ender's Game, which makes him someone of influence in the SF world.  What he says gets listened to.  His current position is doing damage.

We win -- nearly always win -- we progressives, we people who speak for equal rights, for the ideas of freedom and justice, we nearly always gain our ground; each year we get a little further ahead, nearly always; except when we give way to the wheedling that gets used by rhetorics and demagogues: but it's not fair, but you're not tolerating my intolerance!  See, those who want us to return gays and PoC and women to the ghetto are telling us they have the right to discriminate, because their religion and their way of life requires that sort of belief; and if we don't tolerate that belief system, why, then we're the hateful ones, clearly.

Sorry.  No belief system which is built on oppression is acceptable, and that includes religious belief systems.  I don't know, maybe that especially includes religious belief systems.  If people want to have religions, I have no objection, but they should practice them in private, and wash their hands afterwards.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

SF & Feminism Again

Another fine essay, with Illustrations!

(Via Strange Horizons, where the review for Mindblowing SF had a comment with a link.)

Another Edition of

They're not racist...

That 9/12, it just keeps on giving.

I remember watching an episode of NYPD Blue about ten years ago where this white kid, poor little white kid from the burbs, gets arrested for some status crime like vagrancy, and his rich stepdaddy won't come get him, wanting to teach the kid a lesson, some plot point like that, so they're going to have to hold the poor little rich white kid in juvie with the evil criminal trash kids, and Sipowitiz takes him in and, ooo, lingering shot of the scary bad kids...

I'm like, what? What?

Because what was scary about these bad kids?

You've guessed it. It's that they were all brown. Brown and black. Ooo, poor white kid has to be locked up with black guys. Not black adults, mind you -- black teenagers, what looked like 13-17 years old. Oh, my, how eeeevil.

That's what we have in this little story. The adults from South Dakota and the "mid-western" state, who have been talking trash about Obama, they're fine. They're not an issue. No threat possible, though there are lots of them too, and they're sitting in a huge group, and I have no doubt laughing and saying some scary things, and possibly some of them are large. But -- they're white! So!

Nine to ten (young) black males? Eeeevil!

Yeah, Riehl's not racist.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

They're Not Racist

Check out the signs from that 2 million* teabagger march on DC.

People on the Right, as well as those who are opposed to Obama, keep trying to tell me it's nothing to do with him being black.  It's the deficit, they claim, or his policies.  It's because they pay their way and they think everyone else should too.  "My dad works hard," one of Zelda's students told her, "so why should these bums get a free ride?"

I might believe these arguments if their signs didn't show that they believed the bums were brown, or spoke with accents that did not match their own; or, of course, if they had ever once attended any sort of march like this when George W. Bush was destroying our economy.

(Pictures via Majikthise)

*That's in wingnut math.  It was closer to 70,000 the way the rest of us count. (See Nate at 538 for a thorough examination of the subject.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Not Enough Time!

The Kid: Today I was going to explain existentialism to Emily, but it would have taken all recess, and we only had fifteen minutes.

And There Was Much Rejoicing!

You will be glad to hear that mr. delagar is now dr. delagar.

Yes, indeed. Yesterday he passed his defense. His dissertation is signed off on and accepted.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ow! Ow!

What is happening to my beautiful genre?

Science Fiction ain't Science Fiction no more.  It's Science Fascism*, thanks to tools like this.

*turn of phrase stolen from mr. delagar

Just a Theory

I suppose everyone has heard about Joe Wilson calling President Obama a liar while he was addressing the house last night.  I suppose Joe thought he was back in his Hummer, listening to Rush -- sort of thing that can happen to anyone, especially anyone who has been fed a steady diet of lies, obfuscations, smears, and hate radio.

In any case, I don't have much to say about this particular incident, except, as we say here in the south, well bless his heart; no, what I want to comment on is his apology.  In case you didn't see that, here it is:

This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President’s remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the President’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility.”

He disagrees with what, exactly?  As others have noticed, the plan Obama is discussing does not, in fact, cover illegal immigrants.  (See here for an extensive coverage of that issue; it's very thoroughly covered in the comments section.)  So he's not disagreeing on the facts.  On what basis is he disagreeing with the President's statement?  

Well, due to my extensive sojourn here in the Redstates, and my lengthy discussions with Red-State thinkers, I believe I can shed some light.

Bear in mind these are all conjectures, since I have never spoken to Rep. Wilson, as delightful as this incident makes him seem.

However: frequently when I am teaching History of the English Language (HEL, as we call it) or Chaucer or the first half of World Lit, it will become necessary, while I am discussing historical events that shape the language or the literature, to discuss certain events related to the church.

Specifically, I'll have to mention that the Catholic church was once the only church, that until the Protestant Reformation, no other sort of church existed -- every Christian was Catholic. "Though of course," I always add, "they just called it Christian then."

I wouldn't say this irks my Pentecostal and Evangelical students, of which Pork Smith is, well, let's say, 60%? I don't know the exact percentage.  Always more than I am hoping for.  We have many, many Catholics here, though, and the Pentecostals and Evangelicals know for a fact those Catholics are not really Christians -- like Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses, those are just cults, see, that split off from the one true church, which is their church.  Theirs is the real church which always existed.

This is what some of them will come and tell me, after class.  Gently.  Correcting me.  I'm wrong about this Catholic church and Reformation thing, they say.  Brother Rob told them --

"Well, no," I tell them.  "I'm not wrong.  You can look it up."

They smile.  "You're entitled to your opinion, but I disagree."

Thus also when anyone gives them evidence that Benjamin Franklin was a Deist (as I do when I teach American Literature and we read his autobiography) and that indeed the country was not created as a Christian Nation, but far otherwise (That's one theory, a student told me), or when you show them how Tennyson, in writing, In Memoriam, was affected by how science as well as textual research at the time was exploding his culture's certainties in the 6000 year old world and the certain Christianity of his childhood or you talk about what Chaucer might really be doing with religion in the Canterbury Tales.

Apparently in the Christian Schools round about, when they teach Chaucer at all, they claim that he's praising the church in CT -- and, of course, it's the one true Church i.e. not the Catholic one.  

"Um," I say.  "It's 1380?  The only church around is the Catholic church?"

Sweet smiles.  (No one calls anyone a liar round here, not openly.)  "That's not what we learned."

By which they mean: you can say what you want, but we know The Truth.

See, this is why wingnuts can believe that Obama was not born in the US, and that his healthcare plan will cover illegal aliens, and that he's a Socialist overlord AND a fascist, at the same time, and that he's going to kill grandma, too.  Since they were two years old, their entire culture has been grooming them in just this behavior.  Cultural dissonance is no deal at all for them.  An omnibenevolent God who nevertheless condemns billions of people to endless fire for telling a single lie or simply not saying the magic words?  A world created 6000 years ago which has pottery older than that?  A central text telling you not to do certain things (lie, steal, murder, disrespect your parents) that is nonetheless full of tales about people doing just those things and being rewarded for doing so?

Not to mention how they have to go out and interact in a world that shows them, every single day, that the central tenents of their worldview are bankrupt: obviously feminists aren't evil manhater,  (here's their Chaucer professor, she seems sort of nice), obviously the world acts like it's older than 6000 years old (these scientists keep talking about cities from 8000 bce, stars from 15 million years ago...), obviously people from other religions think their religions are just as sane....

So either they learn to shut their heads to reality -- learn to deny truth, to call truth a lie -- or they stop being one of the Elect.  Some do stop, by the way.  I have many, many students in my classes who, after reading enough books, and listening to enough people talk about pottery that is ten thousand years old and how the Spanish Inquisition did this and the Black Plague did that eventually throw their hands up and say, okay, I'll stop denying and start thinking.

But the others?  They end up like Rep. Wilson.  He doesn't disagree with Obama's statement; he disagrees with Obama's existence

Saturday, September 05, 2009


What is wrong with our government?  Why can't anything we need done get done?

Well, idiots like this have been voted into power, that's what.

Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen sits on the state’s Education Accountability and Reform Committee as well as the Natural Resources Committee. So, it was a bit scary to hear Allen display her knowledge of science and geology recently during her call for uranium mining. In [this clip], Allen casually explains that the Earth is 6000 years old and that it has done just fine without environmental laws of any kind for most of that time. 

Friday, September 04, 2009

Suck Suck Suck-a-Loooo

Things suck so bad here.

But!  The first real workshop went so zazz!  Yay!

No, Not Racist

Really, it's all they have left.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Astrological Cold Spot

mr. delagar and I are in what we call, in our personal idiolect, an astrological cold spot -- one of those long stretches where one bad thing after the next keeps happening.  Eventually it begins to get almost funny, in a very grim sort of way.

First, the job we were expecting/hoping would come through for him at my university was cut, so, well, so much for attaining middle class this year; then he broke a tooth; then one car broke down; then the other did (six hundred and some dollars for the tooth, just our share after insurance; almost nine hundred to repair one car; we still don't know for the other car, we'll find that out on Friday); then his dissertation director forgot to send his files to the committee, so his defense has been delayed; then the kid's BFF has quit her school...

Those are just the big hits.  Lots of little hits mixed in.  Dishwashers breaking down, the kid needing a hundred dollar check for school here, a fifty dollar check there, me needing new glasses which insurance does not cover at all in the middle of this...

mr. delagar did get a partial gig at the school, which is bringing in some money, though no benefits, and will cover us for this semester.  That's helping some.  And his doctor gave him some Xanax.  And there's always Black Strap Rum.

But man.  Is it time for a change in our luck.