Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Tradition

Dr. Skull came home from work tonight and wandered around awhile. He changed his clothes. He fixed some water.

Then he said, "Hey."

Me: "What?"

Dr. Skull: "You know what today is."

Me: "What?"

Dr. Skull: "It's our anniversary."

Me: (checking the date on my computer) "Oh shit."

This is how we have celebrated (very nearly) every anniversary so far.

My Beloved Dr. Skull

Crabs in a Bucket

This is an idiom that I've had to explain to people more than once. It's like we have a collective insistence on forgetting what it means.

Or maybe you just have to have done some fishing and crabbing at some point in your life, in order to understand it to your bones.

See, you put crabs in a bucket as you trap them. The crabs try to climb out, but you don't  have to worry about that -- the other crabs, the ones still in the bucket, will pull those trying to escape back down into the bucket.

This is America.

You would think those of us who are less well off would try to help each other. We'd celebrate workers who held a successful strike and increased their pay. We'd be pleased at people getting their healthcare and their education paid for by the state -- which is how it ought to be done, obviously.

Nope. Instead, here in America, we want to yank our fellow workers back down in the bucket. How dare you make $15/hour? When I'm only making $20/hour myself?

How dare you get healthcare? How dare you demand to be free from drug testing? How dare you expect to be educated without going into crippling debt?

Here in America, we won't even allow retail workers to sit down during their shifts, even when it makes perfect sense for them to be sitting (those running registers, for instance). How dare they ask to be treated humanely?

I'd say this stems from ignorance, but in fact it stems from the American worship of capitalism. Here in the USA, poverty is not just a crime, it's a sin.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Sockdolager

The Sockdolager is back up!

This is the magazine that published several of my favorite stories (the favorite one I myself wrote, I mean).

Check them out.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Kid Moves

We spent today helping the Kid and his roommate move to a new apartment. The kid's uncle helped. (A friend will help you move. A wonderful friend will help your kid move.)

It was unseasonably cool for Arkansas in May, so our suffering was not great. I did learn that I am not 100% over whatever that disease was that laid me low for four or five months last year. I thought all my strength was back; but apparently it was only day-to-day strength, rather than helping-to-move strength.

The Kid's new place is nice, though -- two bedrooms, big windows, lots of light.

Also it is now de rigueur for apartments to come with a washer and dryer, just as once upon a time they only came with stoves; and then they started coming with stoves and refrigerators. Now it's stoves, refrigerators, washer-and-dryers, a microwaves.

Also built-in wifi.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Neal Schusterman's Unwind Ch 22 -25

Apparently some people like this book enough to have done fan art of it? So it has a target audience out there, who ain't me.

 Here's Connor holding the Storked Baby, which, you know, is interesting, since he holds the baby once in the entire book, when Schusterman wants to write that touching paragraph. Otherwise, it's Risa stuck carting the infant around, and feeding it, and changing it, and dealing with it when it wakes up crying at 1:00 a.m.

But yeah. Connor holds it once. He's a hero.

Chapter 22

Risa's point of view. The Underground Railway has dumped all the AWOL Unwinds in a big warehouse with no bedding, no heat, and only one bathroom (no bathing facilities) for over 40 adolescents. Also nothing to do except some ancient board games (Schusterman doesn't tell us which board games, but I'm guessing not Life, since how would anyone fit 10 kids in one of those little plastic cars?

Fights and friction ensue. Risa cleverly susses out that the bully from their first stop on the Railroad -- Roland -- is trying to take control of all the kids. Why? You got me. They're all going to move on soon, I assume?

Anyway, so we get Risa explaining group dynamics to Connor, who has apparently had social anxiety or maybe a touch of Autism. Risa defines this as him being a hero, since he's willing to fight "for his rights," she says, but actually he just fights when he's over-stimulated by crowds and noise.

The kids are being guarded by seven people in camouflage fatigues, and also armed with rifles. This leads to a surprisingly good passage, when Risa asks one of the guards why they're helping the Unwinds.

“Saving you and others like you is an act of conscience,” the woman had said. “Doing it is its own reward.”  
The Fatigues all talk like that. Big-Picture-speak, Risa calls it. Seeing the whole, and none of the parts. It’s not just in their speech but in their eyes as well. When they look at Risa, she can tell they don’t really see her. 

Chapter 23

Connor's point of view. Nothing happens. Connor feels bad for losing Lev, Conner notices that Risa's analysis of what Roland was doing is correct. Connor is sad.

Chapter 24

Risa again. It's Christmas day. The guards bring their food, and Risa goes to use the bathroom while everyone else is eating, except Roland follows her in and tries to rape her.

Connor interrupts and acts like he doesn't care if Risa gets raped, because, as he says, "We broke up this morning."

It's okay to rape girls in this world so long as their ex-boyfriends don't care about it.

But no worries! Roland was only raping Risa to get Connor to fight with him. (Why, when we've already seen that the guards don't care when the Unwinds fight? I have no idea.) So when he finds out Connor has ditched Risa, he loses interest in raping her and leaves.

Which was Connor's cunning plan all along.

Connor had done the right thing. For once, he had seen the situation more clearly than she—and he had probably ensured that Roland wouldn’t physically threaten her again, at least for a while. And yet there’s a part of her that can’t forgive him for just standing there. After all, heroes are supposed to behave in very specific ways. They’re supposed to fight, even if it means risking their lives. 

Risa is disappointed that he is clever instead of violent. Heroes are supposed to be violent and dumb, I think is the subtext here?

Chapter 25

Connor's point of view. Nothing happens. Connor is sad that Risa is mad at him.

We're 40% through the book. I hope this really dull sidetrack episode ends soon.

Saturday, May 18, 2019


It's been a rough week. Here's some links, most of which will not cheer you up, I'm afraid.

But facts and evidence are better than ignorance and propaganda.

This has happened before

More on that

It's a feature, not a bug

N&M have more links, and ways to take action

This is America

A mother's day post

See also this

I like this AOC. 

Also Warren. If AOC were just a bit older, we could have a Warren/AOC ticket in 2020.

A wonderful short story


I love this comic

Mice in Space!

As I often tell my students, don't let people who hate something define that thing for you:

Also, as I noted above, this has happened before:

"Are you going to be loyal to me or to that f*cking Constitution?"

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Neal Schusterman's Unwind Chapters 20-21

This section contains high-grade weirdness, so just be warned.

Chapter 20

Not too weird. Sonia ships her underground railroad group off to another stop on the railroad, but first the teacher Hannah shows up to take the baby off Risa's hands. She's going to adopt it -- which here in this world just means claiming she was storked.

No checks into Hannah's background, or her husband's background, or how she plans to parents, or where she's living, or if she can afford a child. In Schusterman's world, adopting a child is like adopting a kitten, which is about what babies are worth in this world, apparently.

Also, why did Hannah wait to come get the baby at the very last minute?

You got me.

Risa thinks about the hundreds of babies that Ohio Home Number Four, which it had been her job to help feed and change -- there was no time and no staffing for any real caring.

“In a place like this you have to practice triage,” [Nurse Greta] told Risa, referring to how, in an emergency, a nurse had to choose which patients would get medical attention. “Love the ones you can,” Nurse Greta told her. “Pray for the rest.” 

I hope Schusterman is going to explain at some point why people who get storked can't just ditch the unwanted infant at a home. How are Home infants different from Storked infants?

Part Three of the book starts with an actual 'news' story from 2006, which was in fact published by the BBC, about how parents at a Ukrainian hospital claimed their healthy newborns were being taken from them by the hospital and murdered. The hospital agreed to allow the bodies of  about 30 "foetuses and full-term babies from a cemetery used by the maternity hospital" to be exhumed, and someone sent the BBC footage of bodies that had been dismembered and were missing organs, "including brains."

This news story was picked up by "Pro-Life" propaganda sites, including the always stellar LifeNews, as evidence that "liberals" were murdering their babies for their organs.

That's clearly what Schusterman wants us to believe as well -- that these fetuses and newborns were killed for their organs.

We're reminded of the faked videos put out by David Daleiden claiming Planned Parenthood was selling fetal organs for profit. I see no further mention of these Ukrainian baby-murders anywhere on any reputable site, and suspect this "story" is as much propaganda as Daleiden's was.

Schusterman, however, obviously believes it's the stone truth. So if you thought he had any intellectual credibility....

Chapter 21

We're back with Lev, and this is such a bizarre chapter.

Schusterman tackles not just gay marriage but racism. And it would be hilarious if it wasn't appalling.

Lev has been taken under the wing of a Magical Negro -- wait, I mean a Magical Umber.

Umber because this is how Schusterman solves racism in America. See "this artist" started painting "people of African ancestry in the Deep South," and the paint color he used most was Umber. So everyone started calling black people "Umbers" and presto! That solved racism.

Me: "Oh, my God."

Anyway! This new character is a kid who seems about sixteen named Cyrus Finch, though he calls himself "CyFi."

What's a Magical Negro? It's a black character (occasionally some other minority character, such as an Asian or a disabled person or an immigrant or a "sassy gay friend") who is put in the story to help the real person -- the white main character -- on their spiritual journey.

The Magical Negro speaks in folksy language, using folksy tales to teach the white character the lessons they need to learn. Magical Negros usually come from poverty or some other "inferior" background, which of course is more "real" than the privileged background of our white character. (See, their experience has been "real," whereas the white character is "spoiled" or "soft," coming as they do from a not-real world.)

Magical Negros often have "funny" names, to emphasize the nature of their Otherness. They're so wacky, those people.

Magical Negros exist only to help white people. They have no agency or desires of their own. They're servants -- in fact, the first Magical Negros were often slaves. CF Uncle Remus, or Uncle Tom from Uncle Tom's Cabin. 

Eva with her Magical Negro Uncle Tom 

CyFi speaks in a faux-black dialect.

Schusterman lampshades this by having CyFi admit he doesn't speak AAVE naturally.

[Lev says]"You’re speaking wrong on purpose.” 
“Wrong? What makes it wrong? ... I ain’t appreciating you disrespecting my patois. 

But he's careful to make it clear that one sort of English dialect (American Broadcast Standard) is "right" while other kinds (such as AAVE) are "wrong."

“Sure, I can talk like you," [CyFi says], "but I choose not to. It’s like art, you know? Picasso had to prove to the world he can paint the right way, before he goes putting both eyes on one side of a face, and noses stickin’ outta kneecaps and stuff. See, if you paint wrong because that’s the best you can do, you just a chump. But you do it because you want to? Then you’re an artist.”

See, AAVE is just "wrong" English. Not a dialect with its own grammar, wordstock, and rules for pronunciation. Nah. Just "bad" English.

This is how people who think they know something about how language works describe non-standard dialects -- just in case you thought Schusterman knew anymore about linguistics than he did about evaluating sources. (See also Dunning-Kruger Syndrome.)

Back to the plot!

CyFi is teaching Lev how to live off the land, more or less, which means charming people into giving them food (Magical Negros are always wily and charming) and breaking into abandoned houses and other buildings to find shelter for the night.

As is always the case with the Magical Negro trope, the student becomes the master -- Lev is soon better at finding food and shelter for them than Cyfi was, even though he's two or three years younger and ignorant as dirt. Because white genes are superior, obviously.

Magical Negros also often have supernatural powers, and CyFi has something like that -- he had a bad bike wreck and since kids in the Unwind world don't wear helmets, he damaged his brain.

But his two dads bought him a new temporal lobe from an Unwind to replace the damaged part.

(Wait, two dads? Yeah, gimme a minute.)

This new temporal lobe takes control of CyFi's will and body, making him do things, like shoplift, and walk to Joplin, Missouri. That's what Lev and CyFi are doing in this chapter -- walking to Joplin, because the kid who used to own the temporal lobe wants CyFi to go there.

Lev knows all about brain tissue grafts, by the way:

Lev knows about that. His sister Cara has epilepsy, so they replaced a small part of her brain with a hundred tiny brain bits. It took care of the problem, and she didn’t seem any worse for it. It had never occurred to Lev where those tiny pieces of brain tissue might have come from. 

(A) I am pretty sure that's not a viable therapy, anymore than getting someone's temporal lobe transplanted in would be a viable therapy for a traumatic brain injury; and

(2) Schusterman knows no more about how brains work than he does about linguistics or how to evaluate sources. In this section, he also makes it clear that schools do "brain scans" to determine what a person's IQ is, which, yeah, no. That's just goofy.

And speaking of goofy! Marriage Equality also doesn't exist in Schusterman's world, so while CyFi has two dads, they aren't married. But after CyFi was storked on their doorstep, they got "mmarried."

What's "mmarried"?

Apparently it's when two gay people marry. The extra M stands for Men, see, because Lesbians and bisexuals and transpeople don't exist in this world either.

Schusterman is careful to let us know, however, that both CyFi and Lev are one hundred percent heterosexual males. No icky gay people in this book.

CyFi has an episode, and self-harms, and Lev promises to take care of him. Isn't that sweet, the white kid won't let anything happen to his Magical Negro sidekick.

Sweet Jesus.

No Classes This Summer

Our university changed its policy for how it runs and pays for summer classes, which means -- as it develops -- that I won't have any classes this summer.

The bad news: This means I don't get summer pay, which we pretty much need to keep out of debt.

The good news: I get the summer off, for the first time since the kid was four years old.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Absolute Idiocy Corrupts Absolutely

Apropos the previous post, I spent way too long yesterday trying to reason with such a reactionary ignoramus on Twitter. It was an utter waste of time, for the reasons I mentioned.


Then I had a delightful Twitter argument with my kid, in which he was using reason and I was playing the part of a reactionary ignoramus.

It started when he wondered what he could eat. Like his father, he requires a heavy meat diet to stay on an emotional even keel, but we had no meat in the house.

Me: What about eggs, you could have eggs, we have eggs*

Him: Eggs aren't meat

Me: Of course eggs are meat. They're animal protein, that's meat

Him: My mom, who has a PhD: Eggs are meat

Me: My kid calls me out, ONE DAY AFTER MOTHER'S DAY





Him: No they are not, vegetarians can eat eggs, vegans can't, that's one of the differences, eggs aren't meat!

Me: Vegetarians eat fish, are you telling me fish aren't meat? I mean, I know the Catholic church says so, but

R: (another twitter friend): Fish are animals, eggs aren't animals

Me: They're potential animals, like babies are potential toddlers. Are you going to tell me babies aren't meat?

R: ...oh my God, dr delagar

Me: Admit it! Babies are little meat dumplings!

R: Yes, babies, I just can't

The Kid: Babies are creatures unto themselves while eggs are only potential creatures and milk is no creature at all

Me: They're just little creatures

Him: If you're going to reference peepee the term is creacher

Me: Milk makes muscles, muscles are meat, checkmate, creacher

Him: in which case, peanuts are meat?

Me: Don't be silly. Peanuts come from dirt, milk comes from people. If something COMES from something, it's obviously made of that something. So peanuts are dirt and milk is meat.

Him: (catching on) You have learned a lot from the whackos you argue with on twitter

Me: :D

Me: So do you want some eggs or not?

(Narrator: The kid ate eggs for dinner)

*This argument was conducted almost entirely over Twitter, even though we were literally about ten feet apart in the house, him in his room and me in the living room.

The Right-Wing Noise Machine

It's sad watching people who used to be fairly rational creatures having their judgment and their ability to reason destroyed as they get sucked into the toxic swamp of Fox News, the National Review, and all the other reactionary media sources.

It's telling, also, just who gets sucked in like this -- it's almost always those whose critical skills are under-developed and those who lack empathy.

They can't tell fact from fantasy because they've never tried to do that, for whatever reason; and they feel that lack of empathy like a wound, so that they'll do anything to justify it. Reactionary media lets them do this. It gives them an excuse to hate, and an excuse to stay ignorant.

I know I should feel sorry for such people, but as long as their ignorance and bizarre fantasies create danger for so many truly innocent people -- including my kid -- I just can't find it in me.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Schusterman's Unwind Ch 17 -19

Something I didn't mention in reviewing the last few chapters -- when Lev pulled the fire alarm, everyone thought it was a bomb scare. Apparently, in this world without contraception or birth control, people called "clappers" blow up schools for fun. (They do this by making their blood explosive, so that when they clap, they become tiny nuclear weapons, I guess. How do you make blood explosive? What an excellent question.)

I assume this impulse to blow up schools full of kids is because Unwinding is supposed to cause people to devalue life. That's a claim that's often made about contraception and birth control -- I've heard Evangelicals claim, for instance, that abortion leads to school shootings, because hey, if it's okay to kill a zygote, why isn't it okay to kill a 14 year old?

What really devalued life was women not being able to control their fertility. That's when we had slavery. That's when we had baby farms. That's when we had people leaving their excess children to die in jars, or dumping them en mass at foundling homes (where 90% of them died). That's when we had capital punishment for crimes as minor as theft or loitering.

I guess we could read Schusterman's book as saying that -- women unable to control their fertility leads to too many babies leads to contempt for all life.

I'm dubious, though.

Chapter 17

We're back in Risa point of view. The teacher is still helping them escape the school. She takes the baby, because obviously the police are looking for two kids with a baby. (What? Since when? Oh, since Lev betrayed them -- but how the fuck does the teacher know this? She doesn't even KNOW about Lev.)

Then Risa and Connor almost escape the two police officers who are scanning the crowd, looking for two kids with a baby -- since now Hannah has the baby (all of a sudden the teacher has a name, and it's Hannah, which we never actually learned, but okay).

They almost get away, but then Lev yells their names. In front of the police. Because he wants them to wait for him.

(1) Apparently Lev is an idiot, which I guess we knew, since he believed the whole it's-holy-to-be-tithed thing
(2) I thought the police didn't know Connor and Risa had run away? Wasn't that the whole point of the previous several chapters? Can we get a ruling on this plot point please?

Anyway, the police zero in on Risa and Connor, but not to worry, the jig is not up. Risa and Connor begin clapping wildly, because apparently that's what people who are blowing up schools full of children do, and everyone begins to run in circles, screaming and waving their arms.

Hannah catches up with them, dumps the baby on Risa again, and sends them to this antique shop, apparently a stop on the Unwind Underground Railroad.

Chapter 18

Lev's point of view. He's sad because Risa and Connor don't like him. Also, if he's not a Holy Tithe to God, then who is he?

Poor Lev is having an existential crisis. But he doesn't recognize that. He should have read fewer bible verses and more actual books.

Chapter 19

This is a long chapter. Brace yourselves.

Risa and Connor find the antique shop, but not before Connor gets annoyed at the constant crying of the baby. We get this charming sentence:

The baby is inconsolable, and Connor wants to complain to Risa about it, but knows that he can’t.

And that's how it will be from this point on, by the way. The baby is Risa's responsibility. She has to feed it and take care of it and it's her fault when it cries. I mean, we can't expect Connor to do anything to take care of a baby.

The antique shop / Underground Railroad is run by a grumpy old woman named Sonia who are first pretends not to know why Connor and Risa are there, though later she admits that Hannah called to say they were coming.

Why would Sonia do this? I think Shusterman is trying to create tension, at the expense of credibility.

Sonia advises Risa to let Connor get her pregnant "again." Apparently pregnant children aren't Unwound, so that would buy her 9 months. But apparently children can be Unwound once they give birth. Which makes very little sense. What happens to their children? State Homes? What?

Anyway, Sonia sends them to the room she lives in, behind the store, where Risa feeds the baby cow's milk straight from the fridge with a spoon.

This tells you how much time Schusterman has spent with day-old infants.

Then Sonia stows Risa and Connor and the baby down in the cellar with three other Unwind AWOLS. One is a juvenile offender, one is a rich boy with braces on his teeth, and one is an Asian girl.

We hear all their stories.

Hayden, the rich kid, has parents who are going through a messy divorce. Neither will surrender custody of him. Both agree to have him Unwound instead.

I don't need to say that makes no sense at all, right? As much sense as paying for braces for a kid you're planning to Unwind.

The juvenile offender, Roland, beat up his stepfather for hitting his mom. Mom sided with the stepfather, so Roland was sentenced to be Unwound. Apparently Unwinding is also a judicial punishment. But why only use it for 13-18 year olds? If you're going to harvest criminals for their organs, what sense does it make to stop when they turn 18?

The Asian girl, Mai, is a racist cliche. Her parents wanted a son, and kept having babies -- and unwinding the girls -- until they got one. Mai says this is "normal," and that in China "back in the day" girl babies were killed right and left.

Two chapters ago we were told Unwinding was different from killing. But now it's not again. Which is it, Schusterman?

Anyway, they squabble like adolescents down in this cellar. Risa takes care of the baby, who somehow acquired the name Didi. Connor and Hayden bond.  Hayden tells us the story of Humphrey Dunfree, who were heard about some chapters back.

See, Humphrey's parents sent him to be Unwound. But later they were sorry. So his dad hacked into the Unwind Database and found out who had gotten all of Humphrey's organs and skin and all his bits. Then the parents murdered all those kids and stitched Humphrey back together again.

I'll give it to Schusterman, this is a pretty good urban legend. It fits the worldbuilding he'd done pretty well.

Sonia takes everyone upstairs one at a time and has them write a letter to whoever they loved most in the world. (This is Connor's parents, which is a little surprising.) She says if they survive to 18, they should come back for the letter. If not, she'll mail it to their loved ones.

Again, nice touch.

The chapter ends with Connor holding the baby -- the one he's left Risa to care for non-stop since they acquired the kid -- so that Schusterman can give us a touching paragraph:

It’s asleep, and right now, in this place and at this moment, there’s something so comforting about holding it in his arms, he’s thankful he saved it. And he thinks that if his soul had a form, this is what it would be. A baby sleeping in his arms. 

Connor 'saved' it. But caring for it 24/7 is Risa's job. I don't know if Schusterman thinks this makes sense, or if we're supposed to see Connor as kind of a dick.

Maybe both.

According to my Kindle, we're only 30% through the book. I hope something interesting happens soon.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all y'all who celebrate such things.

We don't, usually, but Dr. Skull hasn't cooked a splendid meal (one of his favorite things to do) in a long time, so we're celebrating this year.

The menu:

  • Champagne Salmon 
  • Potatoes Dauphinoise
  • Broccoli some fancy way
  • Sourdough bread (from his own sour, of course)
  • Lime ice cream

The lime ice cream has been a sore trial. Dr. Skull made it for my very first mother's day, when the Kid was like six days old, and never again since. (It requires juicing tons of limes, which without a juicer is a struggle.) Also, this is Oh My God There Are Ants Everywhere! season in Arkansas, so when he poured the sugar into the measuring cup it was mostly ants. Also he had to make an emergency four a.m. run for cream, since the sort we had on hand was deeply inferior.

Dinner is at five, however, and everything is currently under control.

Friday, May 10, 2019

New Chapter of Triple Junction

A new chapter of Triple Junction* is available over on my Patreon.

Also! You can read the first five chapters, plus several reviews of SF works, over there for free.

And for as little as $3/month, you can read a new chapter of Triple Junction every Friday.

What a deal!

*Triple Junction is the long-awaited sequel to Broken Slate.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Schusterman's Unwind: Chapter 11-16

Y'all, they're apparently making a movie out of this book. What the hell.

It looks really terrible. But I do note in this movie, it's not parents selling their kids to be Unwound. It's the "government" coming to confiscate the kids.

I wonder if the part about no abortion/contraception will be in the movie.

Chapter 11

Connor finds a newspaper in some bushes. It was "misthrown" by a paperboy.

In the future, we have paperboys and newspapers printed on actual paper. Good to know.

The three felons read the newspaper eagerly, looking for a story about their escape. Nothing.

“That can’t be right,” says Lev, “I was kidnapped, or . . . uh . . . at least they think I was. That should be in the news.” 
“Lev’s right,” says Risa. “They always have incidents with Unwinds in the news. If we’re not in there, there’s a reason.” 
Connor, who we have already noticed is terrible at thinking ahead, claims it's good news. No pictures in the paper, no way to find them.

Risa claims the lack of story means Lev's family (who are rich, apparently, although I don't see how, what with 10 kids, unless they've been scamming their church, never mind, okay, I get it now) want him back, and are covering up the story to keep his felonious behavior out of the news. Also to shoot Connor and Risa, because...I don't know, just because. Why not just knock them out with the stun gun and then proceed with the unwinding?

Also in this section, both Connor and Risa seem to think that being "murdered" is worse than being Unwound. It's not what they thought before, but okay.

While everyone is arguing, a police car cruises past, as does a school bus, and also Connor hears a baby crying. It's teh Storked kid!

Connor thinks uneasily about the two Storked babies who showed up on his doorstep. Apparently some Dark Secret here, since Connor has only one younger sibling.

In any case, he approaches the Storked infant (which is still crying) and Risa tries to get him to leave. She demands to know if he's crazy.

Then the door to the house open, and the six-year-old who opens it wails, "Oh no! Mom! We've been Storked again!"

 Most people have two emergency modes. Fight and Flight. But Connor always knew he had three: Fight, Flight, and Screw Up Royally. 
It was a dangerous mental short circuit. The same short circuit that made him race back toward armed Juvey-cops to rescue Lev instead of just saving himself. He could feel it kicking in again right now. He could feel his brain starting to fry. “We’ve been storked again,” the fat kid had said. Why did he have to say “again”? Connor might have been all right if he hadn’t said “again.” 
Don’t do it! Connor tells himself. This is not the same baby! But to some deep, unreasoning part of his brain, they’re all the same baby. 

Connor's just a hero, y'all. Trying to save all the babies. (Fat shaming? What fat-shaming?)

The kid's mom shows up, and she's angry and disgusted. As you would be, if you were forced to have kids you didn't want, couldn't afford, and had no time for.

Mom accuses Connor of having left the baby on her doorstep, and threatens to call the police (the cruiser is still there, stopped by the school bus, which is taking forever to load, I guess because we have so many kids in this Future) over to deal with him. At that point, Risa steps up and claims she left the baby there.

Bear in mind Risa is 13. Apparently that's a common thing in this world without contraception or abortion -- 13 year old children having babies.

Mom says to come get the kid, then. (Storking is only legal if you don't get caught.) She also advises Risa that men are no good, and you should never trust them.

Chapter 12

They take the baby and get on the school bus, so that the police officer won't notice them.

The bus is packed full, and other students are carrying babies too. So yeah, apparently in this future children get pregnant and have babies all the time. It's NBD.

(I mean, this is accurate. Here in Arkansas, where our schools don't teach sex ed; where our Evangelical parents tell their kids that abstaining is the only legitimate form of birth control; where access to condoms, never mind other forms of birth control, is limited at best -- well, we have the highest rate of pregnancy among of 12-17 year olds in the nation: 39.5 per a thousand. In Colorado, where sex education and contraception are readily available, it's 7.9 per thousand.)

Luckily, as one of these children tells Risa, the school has a "great daycare."

Chapter 13

Back in Lev's point of view. He's on the bus, trying to understand why he didn't run to the police when he had the chance. He thinks Risa is probably right, and that the police have orders to shoot Risa and Connor, with actual bullets.

Again, this makes no sense. I suppose Lev's Evil Family (he tells us they're influential, and not to be "trifled with") could want to keep Lev's escape, as they see it, quiet. But it's not like Unwound kids at the Harvest Factory have access to the media. I mean, I wouldn't expect they do.

Lev doesn't want Risa and Connor shot. But he does think they should be Unwound:

These two Unwinds are out of control. He no longer fears that they’ll kill him, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous. They need to be protected from themselves. They need . . . they need . . . they need to be unwound. Yes. That’s the best solution for these two. They’re of no use to anyone in their current state, least of all themselves. It would probably be a relief for them, for now they’re all broken up on the inside. Better to be broken up on the outside instead. 

"Broken on the inside" reminds me of the way Arkansas Evangelicals talk about progressives. We're "dirty on the inside," as one of my kid's classmates told her.

It's a way of dehumanizing people, and thus very accurate here.

Anyway, he decides to enlist the help of the boy sitting next to him, telling him he's being held hostage by the AWOL kids sitting behind them.

The boy could not care less, which is kind of funny.

Chapter 14

The bus arrives at school. Connor, Lev, and Risa (still toting the baby) go to hide in the girl's bathroom until lunch time. Schusterman seems to think this would work, that no one would notice three kids and a baby going into a girl's bathroom and hiding out all morning. Connor says he used to hide in bathrooms all the time, to get out of going to class.

Did Schusterman go to high school? That's really not how it works. I mean, these kids aren't students, so no one will be looking for them. But Connor was a student at his school. The minute he didn't show up for class, his teacher would be issuing a report to the office, where someone would call his parents to ask where he was. Even when I was in school, back in the dark ages, that was how it worked. And I know it's how it works now, since I got more than one of those phone calls (always clerical errors, since my kid is an inveterate rule-follower).

Anyway, they hide in the bathroom. And we hear Connor's story about the storked baby that showed up on his doorstep.

His parents didn't want a baby, so they storked it to another house in the neighborhood. Who also storked it. Who also storked it. Eventually it showed up at Connor's house again, but by then it was dying of neglect.

That's Connor's trauma.

Except this story doesn't make sense in the world as it has been given to us -- apparently if you get a Storked Baby, and you don't want it, you're allowed to send it to one of the State Homes. That's what happened with Risa, remember.

Lev tells us that storking is perfectly moral, and no big deal. Doesn't his family have three storked kids? Also storking is in the Bible. Wasn't Moses storked? Checkmate, pagans.

Classes change. A flood of students. When the bathroom is empty again -- Connor and Risa notice Lev has run away.

How? He's a boy in the girl's bathroom. No one noticed as he left with them? No one said a thing? I mean, okay, maybe in the Future adolescents are more accepting of trans kids, but (a) Lev isn't trans and (b) this world doesn't seem like that world. So far we haven't even seen any LGB kids, much less trans kids.

Also, the baby starts crying.

Chapter 15

Ah. Now we get an explanation. As Lev was leaving the bathroom, the girls did notice him. But they just made fun of him.

Lev finds his way to the office and turns himself in, telling them he's been kidnapped by AWOL Unwinds.

Everyone is horrified and very sympathetic. The police are called. Lev is puzzled by their assumption that he's going home -- I guess he didn't notice that he didn't tell them he was an Unwind as well. To be fair, Lev doesn't consider himself an Unwind. He's a Tithe, which is...somehow better?

He calls home, and his pastor answers the phone, and is horrified to find Lev is trying to be unwound. He tells Lev that he convinced Lev's parents not to call the police, that Lev's escape was "God's Will."

And he tells Lev he should run for it. Lev is stunned.

And all at once the truth comes to Lev. Pastor Dan wasn’t telling him to run away from the kidnapper that day—he was telling Lev to run away from him. From his parents. From his tithing. After all of his sermons and lectures, after all that talk year after year about Lev’s holy duty, it’s all been a sham. Lev was born to be tithed—and the man who convinced him this was a glorious and honorable fate doesn’t believe it. 

So apparently in Schusterman's world the religious leaders know murdering kids for their organs is wrong, but...for some reason they don't stand up and say so?

Lev slips out of the office and pulls the fire alarm.

Why? I guess so he can escape in the hoo-rah, but that's not really clear.

Chapter 16

Now we're in the point of view of a teacher. She's mad that there's a fire alarm during her planning period, and also she thinks it's a fake alarm, like always. She thinks about staying in her room.

(Hey, Schusterman: Teachers are told when there's going to be a fire alarm test, and for just this reason -- you don't want them deciding to stay in their rooms during a real emergency.)

But she decides to evacuate with all the students, because she wants to be a good example.

As she's herding students from the building she hears -- a baby crying!

Following the sound, she finds Connor and Risa hiding in a chemistry lab with the storked baby. She realizes they're Unwinds (why? how? This is two kids with a baby, why does she think they're Unwinds?) and decides to help them escape.


I think we're supposed to understand that no one in this world thinks the Unwind program is a good idea. (Except maybe Connor's parents.) And yet they do nothing useful about it. I hope we find out why later.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Exam Time

We're done with classes and into exams and grading.

In other words: my least favorite time of the year.

See you on the other side.