Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Grades are IN!

Once I have gone to commencement (tomorrow) I will be done done done until January 5, when I have to return to school (;-<) for some charming sessions on how to be a good teacher. You would think I would know by now, yes.

But! Between now and then! Days and days in which I do nothing but read and write and learn Aikido! And pet the cat!

And Hanukkah! I have actually managed to remember to buy all the kid's Hanukkah presents on time this year. I know, it's amazing. I can't think how I did it.

I have a new idea for a SF story. About a revolutionary virus. No, seriously.

My kid: "Why are all your stories about the revolution?"

Me: "Shut up, that's why."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tidings of Great Joy!

My craptop caught a virus and I did too!

Plus it's finals week here. So as you can imagine it has been much wailing and gnashing around the delagar household. However! Dr. Skull was able to extract my data from the craptop before I surrendered it to our tech support guys (who did, by the way, fix it -- killed the virus, mended the craptop yet again) and while the craptop was in the shop let me use his MacBook -- which I used to finish a draft of Triple Junction. Yay me!

Now it is winter here and I am still sick as shit, though the computer is mended. I am grading papers and drinking NyQuil. The cat is sleeping on my feet. The Hanukkah lights (yes, I am serious -- we found some at the Harps, they are multicolored Stars of David) are shining in the window. I am sipping ginger ale and soon it will be winter break. If I felt better I would be utterly content.

Monday, November 28, 2011


I forgot to tell you about our TNXgiving! I know you want to know.

It was wonderful. Dr. Skull cooked, everything except the sweet potatoes, which I make every year, mystically creating my own recipe anew each time (this year it was vanilla, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and lots of clarified butter, they were perfect); and the stuffing and brussel sprouts, which Uncle Charger's sister made, also wonderful.

Art Boy and Musical Genius Girl also came -- we hadn't seen MGG in some time, since she got a scholarship to faraway U, so that was nice -- along with Uncle Charger's sister's huband, and Uncle Charger's mom. Dr. Skull made turkey and butternut squash soup, his lovely French bread, green bean casserole, two kinds of pie, and ginger ice cream. We drank I forget how many bottles of wine and talked until quite late at night.

We still have leftovers. Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Afternoon

When I was a kid, Saturday afternoon was my favorite time of the week. Nothing to do, and no one leaning on me to do it. I would usually wander around in "the woods," a scrub area out back of our subdivision in Metairie, Lousiana. In the spring, snakes were everywhere out there; in the summer, bugs and rats and nutria; in the winter, just me. Or sometimes my brothers and their friends, notorious for starting fires with stolen gasoline, or shooting at one another with B-B guns. I'd climb trees and poke snakes with sticks, capture bugs and caterpillars, try to figure out what kind of insect made that pod and which that. The "woods" was actually a giant landfill, so anywhere I dug, I'd turn up rusting trash and filth, old shoes, boxes. My first archeological event! Every hole filled with soupy red water, stinking and foul.

I made up epic stories as I wandered around, of course. When I was with my friends, as I occasionally was, these stories were less interesting. Their stories always had current television stars, or worse, local boys in them. Plus, they wanted to direct my plots. No, I would say. No, no, no. That can't happen. Because it doesn't make sense for her to act that way, that's why.

Saturday afternoons are a little less fraught these days.

I spent the morning at Aikido, and all morning I have been working on Triple Junction. Made some turkey soup for dinner, and did some laundry. Now it is back to work on this epic novel. It is raining and raining here, perfect weather for soup and writing.

I need some woods to wander around in. And many, many Saturday afternoons!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Watch This

I watched the video clip at this post last night at two in the morning, with my kid circling me nervously, demanding, "Why do you keep watching these things? Why? You know it's the same thing! You know the police are going to keep hurting them!"

"I know," I said. "I know, I know. But I have to know. They're fighting for us, baby. They're fighting the revolution for us."

And at the end of this clip -- well, you have to watch it. You have to see what happens at the very end of the clip. Feel free to fastfoward through the middle bit (Cut back in around 6.30) though I watched the entire thing, and it's worth watching the entire thing, I have to say.

The end is glorious. I cheered aloud in my living room. I felt like dancing.

Mic Check!

I've been obssessing, just a little, over #OWS.

Well, how could I not? It's the Revolution!

Anyway, here's hoping it is.

This morning, the kid asked me, wistfully, "Has there ever been a revolution that turned out well?" and I listed for her, zealously, all the ones that had, I mean, you know, both of them.

(I keed, I keed.)

Meanwhile, did you see that shit at UC Davis? The students and faculty there are now my heroes.

Though all those involved in Occupy are my heroes, really. They are giving me hope when I thought hope was lost. A different world is possible!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Good Reads GiveAway of My Book!

Free book/My Book! Good Read is giving away Broken Slate.

Let me see if I can get this clicky/Pasty thing right....

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Broken Slate by Kelly Jennings

Broken Slate

by Kelly Jennings

Giveaway ends November 22, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Not Actually a Post

Been working working working here: editing for Crossed Genres, also revising this fucking novel (oh yes, we're at this point in the revision) also it's just past midterm, the time in teh semester when all seems hopeless, so. Also the weather here has just sucked this year and I am tired of of it, tired of heat and wet and heat and rain and heat heat heat.

Also I am tired of being so fucking poor.

But! This morning as I was driving to Aikido, the light was so lovely under the slatey clouds, and all the leaves were blown off the trees, so even though the weather is still warm and damp, I could see that maybe winter might be coming, eventually. It cheered me up a tiny bit.

Maybe I will post something besides whining tomorrow!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Grammar and Aikido

This Saturday morning I was the only uke at Aikido -- just me and three instructors, all black belts.

"You look a little nervous, delagar," said the head sensei cheerfully, as he was strapping on his hakama.

"A bit," I said, doing my stretches. "I was just thinking, all three of you black belts, me over here with my lonely black stripe." (I'm a white belt, one stripe, nearly as low a rank as you can get.)

They all laughed. The lowest rank of them just got his black belt last month. Also, as I think I have mentioned from time to time, I am not an Aikido genius, and all three of these guys are -- the sensei who just got his black belt (we'll call him New Sensi) is one of the most gifted students I've ever seen. (I've been watching Aikido for about eight years now, since the kid started in it at five, so I watched him go from a white belt to a black belt.)

Over the past four months, New Sensei has been struggling to teach me, who is probably the least gifted of all his students. My brain may be very clever, but my body is an idiot. It won't remember how to do anything, and it certainly can't do anything twice in a row, or learn any sequence of events. Worse, when I have learned to do something with my right hand or right foot, frequently then in Aikido we have to do the same thing with the left hand or the left foot. And this is just impossible for me. I can't seem to transfer knowledge from one side of my body to the other.

Well! Especially for New Sensei, who finds learning sequences of events natural, who can do everything the first time he sees it, who can transfer physical sequences not just from one side of his body to the other but backwards and forwards and probably, for all I know, upside down and standing on his head, this was frustrating for him, trying to teach me (and Head Sensei made him spend a lot of time teaching me, Idiot Student, because that is how Aikido works -- my kid is spending a lot of time teaching the five year olds, down in kids' class).

Anyway! Saturday! I could see he had made a breakthrough. He has figured out how to teach me. He broke the steps of each throw and pin and body movement into micro-steps, and fed them to me one tiny bit at a time. Do this. Do this. Now this. He let me practice each one sixty times if I needed to, before we moved on to something else. He gave me a lot of reinforcement at each step. He didn't add anything new before I got that step. He treated me like the Aikido special needs kid I was, in other words, and it absolutely worked.

I recognized this, because this is what I do in grammar classes -- I mean, I have a few students, maybe eight or ten, each time I teach grammar, who are absolutely gifted, who grasp grammar on an instinctual level. But the rest just can't get it, their brains don't see the connections. They're grammar idiots. So I break it down: I go one steps at a time, I break the explanation into microsteps, I give them lots of reinforcement, I explain fifty different ways, I show them, from various angles, why they're having trouble with this point. And I practice, practice, practice with them.

And I don't assume they're idiots, just because they're idiots at this.

We're all idiots at something. That's a fact. You should hear my father the rocket scientist talk about movies.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Correlation is Not Causation

New post over at Science In My Fiction, on a subject I try to hammer into the heads of my 1203-1213 students every year -- the problem of untangling cause and effect.

It's a tricky one, even for those of us who think we're clever educated critical thinkers. Dr. Skull and I, for instance, duking it out with the kid recently. She doesn't want to learn to play a musical instrument; Dr. Skull wants her to learn one. He argues that learning to play an instrument well makes you smarter. She argues (we've made her a little lawyer, this kid) that correlation is not causation -- that maybe it's just that smart people tend to make good musicians. I have to agree with her that this makes sense.

It's something we want, though -- to believe that if we do this, that will follow. If I get my PhD, I'll have a job & finacial security & a happy life. If I wear my seatbelt, I won't die in a crash. If I wish upon a star. If, if, if. We're looking for a way to control what is, essentially, not within our control.

On the other hand, who can blame us? The anxiety that comes when we admit that our fates are outside of our control can be, in fact, a bit unnerving.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Kid's New Favorite Site

Many of these jokes I do not get.

But I'm told they're very funny.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

This Makes Me Sad

So I'm at Aikido last night, talking to another student while we wait for class to start. She's student teaching in a local school, just across the state line in Oklahoma, a first grade class. I was reading my grammar text, prepping the next day's lecture. She starts telling me about teaching grammar to the first graders.

"We're not allowed to call nouns nouns," she informed me. "We have to call them naming words. And get this: adjectives are called sparkle words."

"What?" I said. "Why?"

"Well, I get that nouns are the names of things. But what I don't get is why we can't tell them that they're also called nouns. Like, these are nouns. They name things."

"But," I said, stuck on her last clause, "sparkle words? Really?"

She shrugged.

"But not all adjectives sparkle," I protested. "But -- and what do you call adverbs?"

"Oh, we don't teach adverbs."

And then! Today! I'm teaching my 1203 students! It's grammar week in there too. We're on pronouns, the importance of clear antecedents, and when to use what case. So I give them this sentence:

Dave told Ethan and (I/me) the game was over.

and I asked them which pronoun was right.

Nearly all of them said I was the correct pronoun. So I showed them why me was correct -- that it was the object of the sentence; and that they would never say "Dave told I the game was over" -- and the cries of delight that rose in the room you would not believe.

I did the same thing with these sentences --

Both Sarah and (I/me) had dinner at the mall.

Ethan gave a ride to Sarah and (I/me).

--showing them the right pronouns, and why they were the right pronouns.

"You're the first one to ever explain this," one of the students said.

"That makes so much sense," said another.

"You know what my teacher in high school told me?" said a third. "She said never use me, no matter what. I got counted off every time I did."

I would put down the name of the high school he says he went to, but it is too depressing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oh Look!

The Bloggess and I are cousins!

Except Dr. Skull and I feel the same way about phones. Generally I just leave mine in the car until it runs down and then two or three days later we're like, hmm, wonder why no phone calls for a week now? Oh, yeah...

Hey Look

I posted about class issues in writing over on FanSci!!

You should go read it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Instead of a Post...

...cool news!

I've had the flu all week, and am just beginning to recover. But! Look here!

EoTW is back! Best news in weeks!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

We don't need no liberals and their arts...

Over on LGM, Erik has a post discussing the on-going campaign by the Right to gut higher ed.

Well, it's education in general, of course, but we're focusing on higher ed at the moment.

The present trope is that "We don't need any fancy-pants liberal arts education," that kids should be studying something at college they can get a job with, as if English, history, and anthroplogy did not lead to jobs: when in fact, yes, they do. (More on this in a moment.) As if the liberal arts were a giant waste of money, and only business schools and the hard sciences and tech schools paid off.

Now I have nothing against hard sciences and tech schools, which are excellent fields of study (business school is another fucking matter), but those are not the only fields worth studying, and not everyone is interested in or able to study tech or science. I speak as someone who has run up against the limits of her ability more than once -- most recently this year, when Aikido is teaching me about the different natures of intelligence.

I have excellent linguistic and abstract intelligence. Language is my business and I'm brilliant at it. I might even be a genius. I've certainly never met anyone who is better than me -- not yet, anyway, though granted the competition in Fuck Smith is limited.

What I'm not a genius at is physical skills. When it comes to getting my body to move is certain patterns, and remembering those patterns, I'm an absolute idiot. If you had to judge my intelligence by how clever I am in the dojo, you would think my IQ was about 89. I swear. I can't remember anything from one end of the lesson to the next, I can't do what I'm told two minutes after I have been told it, things that eleven year olds can do, I fail miserably at.

I'm fairly good at math -- and by fairly good, I mean I can get the math if you explain it to me slowly and I pay careful attention. If you evaluated my intelligence via my math skills, you'd think my IQ was about 110, probably. Bright, but not really promising. I would never, this is what I am saying to you, be able to make it as an engineer, or finish a chemistry degree, or -- probably -- a biology or geology degree, though I might have a better shot with those. Math degree? It is to laugh.

(I'm pretty sure I would also crash and burn in a business degree or an education degree, for other reasons.)

Whereas I sailed through the Comp Lit degree. I was the star of that program.

Because, despite what RW likes to argue, there are different kinds of intelligence.

And why does this matter? Why do we even care? Besides the whole a-mind-is-a-terrible-thing-to-waste factor? (Though that is true and we do care?)

Because we need these different sorts of intelligences -- these are all the different tools of the human experience, all the different ways of approaching the world, and they all are, in fact, important, no matter what Rick Scott seems to think. ("Why does the state need to have more anthroplogists" he demands.) When you have a problem, a hammer and a bigger hammer are not, in fact, the only tools you may need to solve that problem. You might, in fact, need an anthropologist. Or an English major.

Which is what major companies (like Wal-Mart) are finding out, as I learned from one of the presentations at the APA this weekend. Hiring business majors often turns out to be the wrong move. As it turns out, business majors aren't taught to reason, or to write, or to think for themselves. They're taught to memorize and to dress properly. It's English majors and other liberal arts majors who learn critical thinking and the other vital skills needed in the business world -- they turn out to be what the corporations need. (Though we may not be that interested in working for them, sadly.) Business schools have, according to the presentation I sat through, started trying to model their programs more on liberal arts programs, trying to mimic our success in turning out students who can think and write and be creative...Why not just let them be liberal arts majors, you wonder?

Yes, well. Different sorts of intelligence, again. If they could be anthropology majors, they wouldn't be business majors, would they?

My point! And I do have one. It's not destroy the business schools. Or the STEM programs, God knows. It's get the idiot politicians out of education.

Because seriously. What's their qualification for even meddling with this? Have they ever taught? Do they have a clue? When was the last time they were near a classroom?

Would you let someone who had never been in a medical school tell you how to run a hospital? Or someone who didn't know the first thing about the theory of flight start fucking about with your jet engine?

Go back to fucking up the country, why don't you, Rick Scott?

Or here's a better idea. I know a Sunday school looking for a pastor. Have at it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Interrogating the Tropes: A Columbus Day Post

Almost all my writing, from my very first scrawl, when I was a tiny little novelist (and yes, the very first writing I ever wrote was a science fiction novel), has been what we call in the field "writing that interrogates," though obviously at eight I didn't know to call it that.

You see, basically, there are two kinds of writing.

(I crack myself up when I say things like this. No, obviously, there are not two kinds of writing. There are a bazillion kinds of writing. What I mean when I say things like this is, Let's pretend for the sake of this discussion that there are two kinds of writing.)

Two kinds of writing: Those that reinforce the standard tropes of the society, and those that interrogate those tropes.

Now what do I mean by tropes?

This is a word that just means turns, figures of speech, dohickeys, gizmos. I'm using it so I won't have to use the more specific words like ethics, mores, standards, ethos, norms, all those words that make me itchy. For tropes here, read things that make society work -- the unwritten rules, the warrants we all accept without (usually) understanding we're accepting them.

For instance: warrants in this society include (among others) that the two-parent family is the best family; that a child growing up and leaving home to start its own life is a good thing; that violence is sometimes necessary to solve problems; that people should work to support themselves; that material wealth is a good thing; that ambition is a good thing; that romantic love is a good thing; that love and loyalty to one's family is a good thing; that women loving their children is a good thing; I could go on.

Fiction can either support these tropes, these warrants, or it can interrogate them.

My argument is that science fiction should always interrogate its society's tropes -- bring them into question, ask why we hold them, and whether they are worth holding.

This is, of course, disturbing, especially when the trope in question is close to our hearts. (It's easy to interrogate a trope we despise. Men should be in charge of the household? Bah! I'll interrogate that one all day long! Romantic love is a good thing? Let me at it!! But women should love their children...well, um...) But as Plato pointed out to us, an unexamined trope is not worth holding.

As I think I have mentioned, I've been reading Sarah Blaffer Hrdy's Mothers and Others, which in fact (among other things) examines the trope of the two parent family, the notion (close to the heart of many) that the best of all families is the married man and woman raising children together. In fact, as Hrdy demonstrates, that is not how most children have been or are being raised in human societies -- ever -- and that is not the best way for children to be raised. The trope of the two parent family is an absolutely myth. Alloparents (a mother, a grandmother, aunts, older siblings, uncles) who raise children together turn out to be the best way, and the most common way, for children to be raised, both in pre-history, in hunter-gather societies, and currently. Children raised this way do better emotionally and nutrionally.

Further, apparently, this need to raise children this way -- with alloparents -- is the basis for all human society. Because raising children is such a pricey enterprise humans needed a giant society around them to do it. Despite what conservatives believe, in other words, it does not take a family to raise a child: it does, in fact, take a village.

My point! And I have one!

The best science fiction and fantasy should not support the warrants and the tropes of the society -- as conservative SF/F tends to do -- but should challange them, interrogate them, question them. The best SF/F should say, well, what if this happened, so that we had to do it this way? What would the world look like then? Or what if a society did it that way? Then what? Would that be better, or worse?

What if Columbus had not destroyed the American peoples? What would the world look like then? What if?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Ain't No Racists Here

Dr. Skull taught Frederick Douglass in his WLIT today, and got into a discussion of racism with his class -- a road, as you know, that I too have gone down, often, in these parts.

His white students, he said, insisted racism was no longer an issue in America today. His black students laughed in disbelief.

Which brings me to this video: Part one, Part two. Required viewing, I think, for every American with his or her white privilege intact.

The best, and worst, moment, I think, is the kid who walked out -- who can't take surrendering her white privilege for two hours on a Saturday morning; and who quotes Martin Luther King Jr. while she does it.

As if.

Monday, October 03, 2011

My First Fan-Fic

Look! My very first Fan-Fic for Broken Slate! (Written by the Kid: she says I should explain to you that it is a My Little Pony crossover, though I told her everyone knows about the MLP: FiM universe.)

Ragnar slammed open the door to Harper's room. He ran up to Harper's worktable, stopping behind his shoulder.

"Harper, why did you insist on putting that cot on the committee? It is an insult to all Lord Holders."Ragnar paused. "What is that you're watching?"

Harper paused his handheld, freezing the strange animate in a blur of pastels. "Well, good morning, Ragnar. Should I fetch you some tea?" Harper said.

"What is that on your worktable?" Ragnar pointed to a purple fluffy thing.

"It's a disguised surveillance camera," Harper said. He stood up to his full height. "If you don't have anything important to say, could you please leave?"

Ragnar scurried out the door.

Harper sat down with an exasperated sigh. He unpaused his handheld, and music drifted from it:

I still wondered what friendship could be

Until you all shared it's magic with me!

Harper patted the Twilight Sparkle plushy sitting on his worktable.

"Twilight Sparkle," He said. "You are the best pony."

Friday, September 30, 2011

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

It's a good year for fiction writers on the market this year. Or maybe just a good year for me!

In any case I am finding many jobs I want to apply and am actually qualified for in places I actually want to live. This is splendid, as you can imagine. I am kept busy applying for jobs, and spend probably too much time researching various universities and university towns, considering which I would chose to live in, if two of them decided to make me offers at once (oh, happy problem! and very unlikely, I admit).

Dr. Skull is also applying for jobs, and there are also many jobs for his two various specialities, film and poetry. We spend a bit of time tormenting ourselves with that possibility, too -- what if he gets a job offer and I get a job offer and both are good job offers and then what?

Yes, I know. We should have these problems

Meanwhile, due the fact that we teach at a university that does not recognize the existence of any religion except far-right Christians, we are celebrating Rosh Hashanah tonight. There will be a nice chicken, challah, apples and honey, and we will go down to the Arkansas river to throw bread in the water and repent our sins.

Happy New Year, y'all.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reading and Writing

I'm having, on the whole, a bad week -- mainly work-related crap I can't blog about, but its very wearing stuff that makes me want to sell all my stock in humanity short. I mean, really. If this is what we're like, why bother? It's just disheartening and exhausting and I hate feeling disgusted by people in this fashion. I'd rather read Chaucer, who demonstrates the other end of the spectrum. (Not his characters, gah, no. Chaucer himself demonstrates it!)

But! For every human character who makes me want to condemn the lot of us to extinction, because really, what is the point if this is what we're like -- there is Chaucer; and there is George Eliot and Eleanor Arnason; and there is Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, who I am reading now, and her latest book, Mothers and Others, is just brilliant.

Of course, Hrdy always is brilliant -- I started reading her with Mother Nature, a look at infanticide, among other things (I'm really selling it short) and have since read everything by her I could get my hands on.

Mothers and Others is an examination of how humans became co-operative -- as Hrdy argues we are (rather than competitive, as most anthropology textbooks claim we are). Hrdy argues that it is the enormous expense of raising (provisioning and protecting) a human child from birth to adulthood that caused humans to evolve into co-operative creatures. We needed alloparents to survive as a species, more or less. (Translation: it did take a village.)

Not only is this an excellent book, well-written, supported, and researched, it explains why what is happening at my university is depressing me so much. Well, rats.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Win Free Book!

Look over here!

Crossed Genres is holding a book giveaway -- you can win a free copy of Subversion: Science Fiction and Fantasy Tales of Challenging the Norm, which -- yes! -- is the anthology my new story, "Cold Against the Bone," appears in.

Details here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Slightly Related Thoughts...

...in lieu of an actual post:

  • Today I applied for two jobs I really want to get and one I sort of would like

  • Applying for jobs takes an astounding length of time

  • Which really annoys me, because I haven't got any spare time these days

  • But I guess it's like that marshmallow thing they do with toddlers

  • By which I mean, if I can delay gratification (WTF that means, in my situation, where I'm not seeming to get much gratification these days) by suffering now...

  • Future happiness!

  • Though when, I would like to know. When? One of my students was exalting about gas prices being "only" $3.31/gallon yesterday. Ai.

  • Protests on Wall Street continue. I try to be cheered by this. Revolution now?

  • 22nd of the month and we are already out of money.

  • But! My novel is going well and besides applying for jobs I have submitted 3 stories this week.

  • So!

  • Upwards and onwards.

  • And!

  • The kid wrote a fan-fic of my novel. My first fan-fic! It is very funny and I will share it with you soon.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fall! Yay!

Woke to cool winds and gray skies this morning. Fall! My favorite season. Next to February, of course.

Last night, the kid and I stopped at the Harps on the way home from school. She's sitting in on my WLIT I night class this semester.

Wednesday is my long day at the university -- I'm there from seven in the morning until 8.30 at night, teaching all day, mostly, although I have a five hour stretch between my last afternoon class and the start of my evening class, which I use for prep and office hours. Yesterday, though, this got taken up by a lengthy and boring, ah, I mean extremely useful meeting. My, do I enjoy academic meetings. So useful. And so many things get done at them which can't be more efficiently done though e-mail!

Where was I?

Oh, yes. After a 14 hour workday, the kid and I stopped at Harps, so that there might be something to eat in the house for once, as well as to get something for dinner.

As we're rounding the dairy aisle, I said, "What about yeggs? Do we have any yeggs?"

"Yes," she said, in her best sarcastic voice, "we have EGGS, MOM."

"Okay," I said. "Don't get EGGS, then."

"Why do you always say that. Yeggs."

"Because it's what your dad always used to say. It's an old joke."

"Well, there's no Y on the word, you know."

"Jeez. Really? Thanks for pointing that out."

We rounded the corner to frozen food, and suddenly she laughed. "Ow!"

"What?" I said.

"Nothing. I just rolled my eyes so hard I think I sprained my eye muscles."

My kid, folks. Thirteen! She'll be here all year.

Friday, September 09, 2011


The kid, cashing in on the zombie craze sweeping the nation, has written a zombie haiku.

Here it is, for your enjoyment:

Zombie Hitler

Evil when he was alive
Now really, really evil 'cause he's a zombie
Where are the zombie hunters?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

My Story! It haz Sold!

I heard from Strange Horizons yesterday: they are taking my short story, "In the Cold." Hurray, hurray!

I must say, of everything I love about being a writer*, the bit where you open the email and it begins, "Dear Kelly, We're pleased to accept your story..." -- that there is one of my favorite bits.

*and I love almost everything about being a writer, the thinking up new plots, the cold mornings and hot coffee, the revising, the editing, the research, the part about how reading other people's stories and novels is reseach

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Doing Too Much

It's barely September here and I'm already worn out.

Too much to do, as usual. (Sad me!) I've missed Aikido twice this week due to too much prep work. I'm teaching four different preps this semester -- WLIT I, English Grammar, Fiction Workshop, and Comp I -- as well as homeschooling the kid and trying to hammer together this novel, edit the magazine, and apply for jobs.

Oh, have I mentioned that? I'm applying for jobs in the slim hope that maybe we can move out of Arkansas. Not that I don't love my work and my students here -- because I do -- but because I have had my bait of Fort Smith, Arkansas, with its two bookstore (well, wait -- one bookstore, and one Bibles-a-Million) and its two decent restaurants and its two movie theaters that show exactly the same six movies on fifteen different screens and they are never the movies I want to see and its tiny little art museum, which I know is doing the best it can with the tiny little funding it gets, but still, and the strictures that are always on me and worse on my kid -- why should she have to grow up somewhere where she is afraid to speak what she feels aloud on the street? Where she is afraid to use a public restroom, because of how she looks and dresses? Where she is afraid to admit her religion to her best friend in case that friend stops liking her? (And no, I am not making any of this up.)

Anyway! I did make it to Aikido tonight -- where I got banged around merrily on the mat. It is strange that this experience should cheer me up, but it did.

Also, I have joined the AWP, so now I can begin assembling a packet and applying to even more jobs.

Meanwhile! All four of my classes this semester are brilliant classes, even if they do take enormous prep work; and my novel is going very well; and don't I love Aikido!
Once more into the breach, dear friends!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Labor Day Weekend Arrives

And I am pleased.

I've been hard at work on the sequel to Broken Slate, which I am currently and I think finally calling Triple Junction (this is I think perhaps the fifth name this novel has been given, but that reflects more its transformations than my indecisions this time): and what I need most now is time to work on it. It's going like a rocket. I just need recording time.

Which I don't have, with four different classes with four different preps.

Good classes, all of them. Just labor intensive.

Elsewhere, this weekend, I will maybe break down and make some bagels. Which I haven't done all summer, because of the oppressive heat, but the weather guy says we'll get highs in the 80s, so maybe.

And I've got Aikido. And Dr. Skull is going to Green Egg an organic chicken. So there's that!

What about y'all? Doing anything cool for the long weekend?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Tomorrow is the first day of September.

According to the forecast, we have YET ANOTHER high of 102 degrees coming straight at us.

I've lost count of how many days of above 100 this has been. Like a gazillion. It hasn't been under 90 here since May, I think.


Yeah, but Rick Perry says the scientists are inventing global warming to pad their funding. So, okay, then.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Crossed Genres Release!

Crossed Genres is releasing a new title -- a very cool one!

I've known about this for a bit; in fact, I submitted to it. How could I not? It's my favorite subgenre! Subversion!

Subversion: Science Fiction and Fantasy Tales of Challenging the Norm.

My story made the cut! It's coming out in December.

(This story isn't a Martin tale, but it's on the same world.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Strange Horizons Needs You!

I've been a fan of Strange Horizons for five or six years now -- they were the first SF/F magazine I found that was publishing the sort of writing drew me into science fiction in the first place: speculation, new worlds, new ideas; as opposed to conservative apologia, retreats into old ideas, or science fascism.

They are also one of the best markets for fiction -- paying professional rates, and buying new writers. (I can tell you this is true, since I am one of the new writers they bought this year.)

Beyond all that, of course, the fiction, reviews, and essays over there are consistently worth reading.

Every year they have a fund raiser. That time is now. Chip in if you can.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Via Crooked Timber, I find this site:

The International Digital Children's Library.

Basically, the site lets you link to online texts of children's books from all over the planet. Seriously, you spin a graphic globe, point and click New Zealand, say, and are presented with dozens of picture books and children's novels from New Zealand which you can read on your PC or your iPad, from all different eras. I'm having so much fun.

Not all of them are in English, but plenty are; and even among those that aren't, many have been translated, and others are picture books.

We're living in the future!

No Grils ALlowed

Over on Fansci, Barbara links us to this charmingly portentuous bit of work, published (oh where else) in the NYTimes.

Robert Lipsyte, who apparently writes books for boys about boy-stuff like football, is of the opinion that literature is being ruined by (you guessed it) the infiltration of girls.

See, back in the good old days, when those rotten girls kept off his lawn, I guess, it was men who wrote the books: men like Hemingway and Steinbeck.

And when YA fiction got invented, well. Men were still writing it: Paul Zindel, Robert Cormier, John Donovan. If an occasional girl did slip it, she had the decency to pretend she was a man: S. E. Hinton, M. E. Kerr. And she wrote about men, and about manly manly things.

Now! All these "young female novelists fresh from MFA programs" are writing books with "overwhelmingly female" imprints! (Whatever that means. Mr. Lipsyte is a writer, but half the time I can't tell what he's talking about, except that he doesn't like girls. That comes across clearly. For instance, he claims all the books he loves from those "good old days" which are entirely about "men," written by "men" about "male" problems are "not gender specific." However, books being written today, by "young female novelists" which contain girl characters -- not even entirely girls, mind you, they just have girls in them -- are "simplistic" girl's books.)

Lipsyte seems to believe it is the fault of the women and the girls that boys do not read; or, more specifically, that girls read more.

He reminds me of the conservative thinkers who are all in a knot because more women are enrolled at and graduating from universities now, and doing better at those universities, than are their male counterparts; and more young women are doing better at academics in high schools as well lately too. This, too, is the fault of women, I will have you know. (Or specifically, feminists!) We have, nefariously, corrupted the academic process...somehow...so that boys can't win anymore.

I suggest to you, rather, the fault lies elsewhere -- perhaps with the culture itself? The culture that tells boys (and girls, but to a lesser extent) that reading is a stupid activity, a sissy activity, not something a Real Man would waste his time on?

A culture that says reading isn't as important as video games and football and American Idol?

A culture that does not, in fact, seek out, pay, and publish decent writers or their books? So that it is only crap writers of either gender who end up in the bookstores? (No, I'm not entirely serious with this last one -- but yes, 98% of what is ending up on the shelves these days, you gotta wonder what they're thinking at the big publishing houses.)

A culture that thinks teaching students to score well on a ridiculous standardized test is much more important than teaching them to love books?

Students reach my freshman classroom never having read an entire book through in their entire academic career: in their entire life. That's got nothing to do with "young female novelists from MFA programs," Mr. Lipsyte. It's got to do with misplaced priorities in American culture.

Or maybe it just is American culture. Sports, guns, God, and NASCAR, yeah? What do books have to do with America, really?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Goodbye, Summer. I said GOODBYE!

I've had enough of this summer. Over a hundred here today all day, plus humid as an armpit, forecast says 102, 103, 104 for the next five or six days, nothing below the high nineties as far as they're bothering to look. If this weather was a dog, I'd take it out and shoot it.

Meanwhile, the semester has begun, so I'm working like a dog. Grammar and comp, WLIT on the side. Haven't met my Fiction Workshop yet -- that's Thursday night -- but the rest have me booked and overbooked, especially since I'm doing Aikido and writing the novel at the same time.

Good thing I don't sleep anymore, I suppose.

Seriously, what is it with the insomnia? Ever since about July, I seem to have lost the ability to sleep. I don't fall asleep anymore, and even when I do get to sleep, I wake up after only about five hours. It's not because I don't need sleep, either -- I'm worn out all the time. I'm blaming the weather, because, you know, everything is the fault of this suck-ass weather.

Meanwhile the kid is having the same insomnia. I blame her adolescence, though. Because everything is the fault of her being 13.

Back to prep work.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ooo Baby!

Mitt needs a tax break so he can make his big house bigger.

Meanwhile, here in Arkansas, I haven't had a raise in five years, my husband has been unemployed since May, we're so broke I can't buy shoes, and most months we have to decide which bill we're going to pay -- the water bill, the power bill, or the phone bill: because if we pay them all, we can't eat the fourth week of the month.

But Mitt?  Well, he needs a bigger house on the beach.

Ooo, baby.  Gimmee some of that sweet, sweet class war now.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My New Favorite Website

Because around here every day around 3:00 Dr. Skull says, "What are we doing for dinner?"

Now I can just hit this.

(Just a bit NSFW.)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Tiny Summer Break

I am in it now.

We get about nine days between the end of Summer II and the beginning of Fall term -- which kicks off with two days of "pre-school training," as the 8-5:00 fun fest is called. Hours of meetings and lectures about subjects as fascinating as what to do about plagiarism to why not to sexually harass your students and colleagues to here are the federal rules about ADA regulations again (we have to get that one every year; I believe it's federal law).

I'm spending the break working feverishly on my novel, while huddled in front of the fan, though actually the weather has become reasonable. (Although, as one of my FB friends remarked yesterday, it's amusing when a high of 99 is reasonable weather -- but yeah, in Arkansas that's the new standard now.) I'm also sending out all the stories I worked on while the Summer sessions were running, when all I really had energy to do was short stories. I've got seven of them up and shiny, so I'll get them all out in circulation, see what comes of it.

This fall I'll have (and this is kind of ironic, I guess) more time to write than I did this Summer, which was a real bitch of a summer, altogether. I'm hoping to get Triple Junction done and in shape to submit somewhere. It's going really well right now.

Meanwhile! The Boston Mountain Writing Group is reviving! We found a new writer to join and maybe two, Zelda is coming back and maybe bringing a fourth writer. All may still be well. This would make me happy. I don't feel right without my writing group.

And, the last two nights, we've had massive thunderstorms here in the Fort. Very exciting.

That is all the good news. As for the bad news, well. I don't have the strength for that today.

Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

School's Out!

And I have figured out how to fix the sequel to Broken Slate.

(Basically I am going to morph Martin's War INTO Triple Junction. This is going to work like you wouldn't believe. It will fix the terrible issue I was having with Efram's character, it will front-load the plot with the Pirians, which was the other vicious issue I was having, it will super-charge the front half and middle of the book -- YO! PROBLEMS SOLVED.)

Now all I have to do is get most of it done over the next 14 days while school is not in session.

No, not really: because this next semester coming up is so sweet: I am teaching four classes, two of which are night classes (Wednesday WLIT, and Thursday Fiction Workshop) which leaves me only 2 day classes, both on MWF (9:00 and 11:00) which means, you guessed it, two whole days with NOTHING to do but write.

Now, if Fort Smith would ever stop being the hottest place in the USA, I would be a happy camper.

112 today.

112 yesterday

110 tomorrow.

No relief in sight.


The Republicans have been shooting for this for 30 years.

Do you think they'll finally be happy that they broke the country?


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

New Issue!

A new issue of Crossed Genres is out.

Some excellent stories this month, I must say.

Go read.

Also, the next month's genre is up -- MONSTERS!! -- so start your engines.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Oh, Come ON Now.

Just checked the weather report.

High of 108 today. High of 108 tomorrow. High of 109 on Wednesday.

Lowest high we'll have -- for as long as the forcast runs -- is 103.

Lowest high we've had, for the past 40 days, was 97. (That was on a day when it rained half the afternoon.)

But you know what? Al Gore is still fat.

Update: But! To cheer you up! The Bloggess!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Sky! It's Falling!

Or about to catch on fire, I am not sure which.

For well over a month now, the highs in Fuck Smith have been over a hundred degrees. No end in sight either. This month, my electric bill was $377.00. Which is more than half my rent, just to give you a yard stick. And that is with the AC turned up to just barely tolerable, and fans buzzing away in every room, and all of us going around in such skimpy clothing that we shock the mailman and even so it takes until about 2:00 a.m. until the house is cool enough to sleep at night.

And then, in DC, apparently the Rethuglicans have decided to destroy the country just to show they can. Because they're thugs, and don't have anything else to do with their giant dicks.

And meanwhile, out here in the real world, none of us have enough money to pay the medical bills and the power bills and the rent and buy groceries. That's those of us with jobs. Because lots of us don't have jobs. Which I guess the Rethugs forgot that bit.

Or maybe they don't think it's true? The way they think Algore made up global warming? Because it's not hot in their chilly little enclave? And they have plenty of money, so obviously poverty's not an issue?

Here. Watch this for me. I'm off to stew in this fucking heat wave some more.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

So I've been doing Aikido for, what, three weeks now? Maybe a bit more.

It's a salutary experience.

Aside from physics, aerobics, and that logic class when I was 20, I don't think I've ever actually done anything I've been bad at. I don't mean a little bad, either: I mean as in astoundingly bad, wincingly bad, OMG worst in the class you gotta be kidding bad. I really suck.

And physics, aerobics, and that logic class I all quit, like, at once. As soon as I realized I was hopeless, I was fucking out of there. Yeah, no, okay, let's not, I said, and that was that.

But aikido, it's kind of like the algebra and finite math classes I took when I was 19. See, I wanted to do those (I also kind of had to, if I was going to get a degree) so I stuck it out; and also I started getting better at them almost at once, which helped a lot.

With aikido, I'm not getting better very much faster. Maybe a little better, which is nice. I mean, I'm not the worst person in the class anymore. (Only because a newer worser student has added. But still!)

The salutary part! For the very first time in my life, I can see what it is like for someone to want to be able to do something, to be actually trying to do something, and to not be able to do it.

Yeah, I know, smack me with a clue stick. And I've got it coming. Especially given I'm a fucking teacher, I should know better. And I have always tried to give my students the benefit of believing they were trying. But that's different, of course, from this: knowing what's like on the other side. I just can't do any better than I am doing.

Well, okay, maybe this is what it is like for my students who write me those sad emails, saying, I don't know what you mean by write an essay explaining how to fix a specific problem in my life -- how do I do that? What problem in my life?

Maybe that's just exactly like me saying to sensei I don't know what you mean by katatori ichio. What do I do with my feet exactly? Where do I grab? Turn which way now? I don't get it...

My friend Zelda used to talk about all kinds of literacy. This is what she meant.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Novel! They reviews it!

Every time I see someone mentioning my novel anywhere I start to giggle.

Because, jeez, wow.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

So Much Coolness!

I'm still chortling with delight every time I run into one of those new film clips you can find, sometimes, on entries on Wikipedia.

(Or this one!)

It's like living in the future!

(I'm such a geek.)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Here's a Shocker

Over in Georgia, a real shocker has developed: schools where administration has been encouraging and even forcing teachers to cheat on those mandatory standardized tests in order to inflate the scores on which the school's funding is based.

Can I get a d'oh?

When you based a school's funding on how well students do on a given assessment, WTF do you think will happen next?

Here in Arkansas, the governor and the legislature has just decided to base 25% of the funding of the higher education on our graduation rates. Yes, that's right. How many students we graduate determines how much money we get from the state.

WTF do you think happens next?

Even if professors have integrity (and I happen to think most do) if they don't have tenure (and these days most of us do not) what happens when the dean calls a professor or an instructor into their office and says something to the effect of, you've been giving too many D's and F's, this kid had some bad breaks, give him another chance. Let him take the final again.

Or: This kid didn't mean to plagiarize. He just didn't understand the rules. Let him write the paper again.

Or: This kid had too much pressure on him, that's why he missed half your classes. Give him a B instead of that F.

Do you think the professor says No, I won't?

And if the professors (or adjunct instructor) does -- what do you think happens next?

Because it would be nice if higher ed (or education) was about learning and the transmission of knowledge and enlightenment.

It would be nice if pigs could fly too.


A review of my novel!

Go here.

(He likes it.)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Book!

Look here! You can buy it!

Or on Kindle!

Or from Smashwords.

(Isn't Martin so hot? I love that cover.)

You can also hear my Outer Alliance Podcast interview about the book.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Twenty Years of Hair!

Bart Leib is donating 20 years of hair if you buy Broken Slate this Friday!

Well, if enough of you do, anyway.

Go here for details.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Party! For My Novel!

Look here! It's a party for Broken Slate!

If you're at ReaderCon, you should go.

Good News, Bad News

I got an excellent rejection today. I guess that's good news AND bad news.

Plus it got to 104 degrees again here today (got to 107 yesterday). I think we're all gonna cook, frankly.

I'm working on my novel and it's going so well nothing can upset me. I love it when the writing is working!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Hey, Coolness

Look! My novel has its own FB page.

(I swear I didn't create it!)

Oh, And While We're ON This Point

God, do I want a job somewhere where half the year it is not so hot your ass blisters when you sit down in your car.

If the universe could arrange to send me that job BEFORE next summer, that would rock.


Friday, July 08, 2011

Living In the Climate Change

So I've started Aikido, as I think I probably mentioned. And I love it to bits, it's probably the most interesting physical activity I have ever done. But (you heard a but coming, didn't you?) my shit is it exhausting.

We meet four times a week for two hours each session. The entire two hours, except for a brief bit at the beginning, where we stretch, is spent either throwing people or being thrown. Once you're thrown -- getting thrown doesn't really hurt much when you're a white belt, which I am -- but once you're thrown, you have to get up from the mat. Now that sounds easy enough, until you have done it like 75 times. I come home from each session so exhausted I am loopy. And my muscles haven't stopped aching yet, though sensei promises me eventually they will. After I'm dead, maybe he means?

Anyway! The point of the post! It's been 100 degree or over that for nearly a month here, and will be a hundred degree or over that for the next ten days at least, and sensei likes to turn off the AC in the dojo after the kid's session is over. Yesterday, Thursday, it was 102 when we set out for Aikido (I always check) and even after the sun set it was still frakking hot. By the time we're done, we're all soaked with sweat. But during the session, interestingly, though you're sweating, of course, you don't notice the heat. Too busy working I guess. "Didn't get above 90 in here," sensei noted, after the session. The giant thermostat on the wall said 89 degrees.

Now this is not true of mental labor, I can assure you. When I'm writing or or editing or reading for class, if the tempature gets above 75, I stop being functional. Which is adding up to some huge electric bills at chez delagar, may I mention. Because this is the hottest June/July I can remember, and no end to it in sight.

I guess this is also living in the future. But not one I like.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

What, Already?

It's the first day of Summer II. I'm only doing one class this semester, but it's WLIT II, so very dense on the reading. Lighter on the essays. Eh, it's a trade-off.

We went up to Fayetteville yesterday and visited my parents. Also saw Uncle Charger and went to the movies (lots and lots and lots of theaters in Fayetteville, including a massive new stadium theater called the Malco Razorback with a giant fountain in its center, like something out of the Roman Empire, which is where we went). We saw Midnight in Paris, in one of those tiny little auditoriums that seat like 75 people, all of them exactly like us -- i.e. liberals and probably English professors or at least Art History majors who wish they could live in Paris. We all laughed in delight as Gil, our hero, met one of our old friends after the next. My kid, who was sitting next to me, kept leaning over to whisper to me, confirming her guesses about who each person was. And, when the movie was over, she said, wistfully, "Let's move to Paris."

I wish, kid.

Then we left the theater to go out into the blistering 101 degree Arkansas July, blasting sunlight, a huge field-sized parking lot filled with SUVs, to drive down College Avenue, a highway filled with car dealerships, liquor stores, fast-food shops, and strip malls. The closest we'll ever come to Paris is Paris, Arkansas.

Which is, among other reasons, why this solemn little apology for our betters and why it isn't right that they pay their share of running this country really got down my neck this morning. Oh, it's so sad that Mr. and Mrs. Jones can barely make ends meet on $250, 000.00/year -- after, you know, socking away $8000.00/per kid in college savings a year, and investing the maximum amount in their 401(k) accounts, mind you -- they're so poor, what with the high cost of living in Manhattan, they can't afford expensive vaccations, it's tragic.

Though of course if they moved to Texas or Alabama (the horror) they'd have plenty of money, the article adds. But who can actually do that, the article hints.

I can't afford a dentist, much less to sock away $8000.00 for college savings for my kids. ($8000.00/year is my rent.) I don't have a house. I don't put any money in my 401(k). If you don't count TIAA-CREF, I don't have a 401(k) -- and my university puts money in that, I can't afford to match it. I haven't gone anywhere on a vacation, if you don't count the odd trip up to Fayetteville to see a movie, in almost three years now. And mind you, I count myself well off enough, because I can look around me and see my students, who are living on, probably, a fourth of what I make. They're the actual poor. I'm doing all right, even if I feel kind of desperate toward the end of the month (okay, by the third week in the month, usually, these days).

But it's Mr. and Mrs. Jones we're supposed to feel sorry for?

Shit. The idiots who write these articles don't have a clue.

And neither, frankly, sad as I am to say it, does Woody Allen. Move to Paris? Like that's a choice most people in America even have.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Oh Boy!

I have finished grading!

Normally this is a big deal, since it signals the start of the between-semester break, or several weeks of pure uninterrupted writing time.

However: in the summer sessions, between-semesters equals three days, so, well, big deal.

In other news! I have started Aikido. My kid, as long term readers know, has been doing Aikido since she was five. Recently she has begun transitioning into the adult class, which seemed a good time for me to join the dojo along with her. (Her in the kid's class and me in the adult class would be impossible, since I'd be going to four adult sessions and driving her to two separate kid sessions, basically ten hours a week on five separate days of the week, impossible in our already over-crowded schedule.)

Anyway! I love Aikido. But man, what a workout. I don't think I've ever done anything, not even during my brief stint of laying roof, that is this physically exhausting. Certainly running the five-K was not this tiring, or riding cross country, thirty miles a day, as I used to do in my prime. That was nothing compared to this.

Sensei Greg says I'll get used to it soon, though. And I believe him.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Ooo! Look at This!

My novel! Let me show it to you!

I just got the actual physical objects, the novel copies themselves, in a package from Bart & Kay, my publishers, in the mail today; but here, you can see what the book looks like on the announcement page over on Crossed Genres.

It's so pretty!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Somebody Stage An Intervention

I'm over there on FB picking fights with strangers again. WTF. Not like I don't know better.

My kid is always coming to me -- she has a Deviant Art account -- saying, Ma, Ma, this idiot says this about Furries, this troll says this about women, Ma, you won't BELIEVE what this ridiculous, he says this about, what should I say back?

And with her, oh, I'm so Socratic, I'm so reasonable. Darlin', I say, someone is wrong on the internet? Really? That's what you want to waste your afternoon on? Please. Read a book. Draw something. Let's make some bagels. Arguing with a troll? Not so much.

But when it's me -- oh, the shoe is on the other keyboard then, I see.

Monday, June 27, 2011


I took Athena's suggestion (from comments, here) and suggested to IT that maybe they could give me a loaner craptop with my data mirror'd up; which they did, over the weekend, and called me this morning, telling me I could come and get it whenever.

Now I am back in business.

Yay me!

(TNX, Athena!)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

On The Other Hand...

One bit of good new: less than a month until the official release of my lovely first novel, Broken Slate, on July 15.

The cover art, I have to tell you, is perfect.  

(Not to mention smoking.  I knew Martin was hot, but my.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Purpose of NCLB

Over on Language Log, Mark Liberman has a post about the latest fuss over Kids Today -- that NYT article which you have probably seen, which claims standardized tests show that 4th graders don't know who Abraham Lincoln is, and high school seniors don't know what Brown v Board of Education did, and so on.  Liberman doubts the veracity of the test, and shows us why.

I doubt the value and benefit of standardized tests and assessment in general, frankly, and always have.  Assessing art or novels or movies doesn't work (this film tests well with teens in Peoria!); you get crap art.  Assessing students -- at least with standardized tests -- does not work either.  (How to assess them, then?  Well, the way we did for centuries.  Put a professional teacher in charge of the classroom and let that teacher say whether the student has learned or not.  Does this always work?  No.  Does it work better than NCLB?  My shit yes.)

But!  Here is why I am posting about this!  A comment, made over at LL:

"The point of the exit exams as they exist in the US today is not to assure that students are emerging with what they need to know in order to take up their next task in life, but to sell tests and programs and charters and other crap to schools which are not being funded for their actual purpose."

And this, I think, is true.  The real aim of Mr. Bush's crap plan is not to hold teachers or schools accountable, and that is not why the Right likes it, either, as you can tell if you hang out on their blogs when they are discussing teachers or public schools for the ten minutes you can stand to do this.  They hate public schools and public school teachers with a passion.  Their aim is to destroy public schools and the teachers who work in them.  NCLB is a tool that will do this.  If we stop viewing it as an assessment tool that, bewilderingly, doesn't seem to be working very well, and start seeing it as a tool to destroy public education in America while making some friends of the Republican very rich along the way, well, everything becomes very much clearer.

It's like the Voter ID bills, and the drug testing for Welfare and Public Worker bills, and the Union busting bills, which all work hand in hand, notice.  The poorer you get, the less likely you are to have the time or energy to be invested in voting, or have the means to vote or the means to be politically involved.  

So it's not that Right is actually worried about voter fraud -- they're fine with that as long as it's fraud that aids them, as the 2000 election showed.  No, they want to disenfranchise certain segments of the population, and if they can make their friends rich while they do that, hey, that's a bonus.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


My craptop broke.  I am sad.

Good news: the machine is the property of the university, not me, so I do not have to pay for its repair.  (Yay!  Because as always, we are broke.)

Bad news: the guy at the Help Desk says it will be either days or weeks before I get it back.  He does not know which.  

Since I do most of my writing and academic work on the craptop these days, due to my busted metatarsal (it's mostly healed, but it still hurts if I don't keep my foot propped up) you can see why I am sad.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

They Get Richer, We Get Poorer

And, as Echidne adds, at her post here, showing how the income share for workers has been steadily declining for workers since 1948, that is probably a feature, not a bug, in the system.

Nor are the rich who own this country now happy with -- what is it? I forget exactly --- earning 250 times as much per hour as the average worker in America. No. They have to buy people like Gov. Walker to break the unions and destroy health care and get rid of minimum wage so that they can be even richer and own even more.

The fact is, the rich in this world will not be happy until we are serfs and they own it all. That's how they thought in Rome, and that's how they think now.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Ignorance, It Burns

This piece, in Slate today, about the misinformation / disinformation propogated by Shelby Foote (well, by Foote and Burns) in Ken Burns' Civil War, made me a little happier -- until I started reading the comments.

Apparently my student from a few semesters back is not the only one eager to erase slaves and PoC from "the late unpleasantness," as well as from history and modern life entirely.

Yeah, honor and glory, that's what everything is about.

Honor and glory and white guys.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


So we're poorer than usual these days.  Everyone is, I know.

It means I'm working two classes in Summer I, Bible as Lit and an intensive (High-school students) 1203 class, because these were the classes I could get, and I have to have this work, or we can't make rent and pay the power bills and pay the other bills.

It's not exactly that I mind the work.  I'm glad to get the work, frankly, because we'd be seriously fucked if I hadn't gotten it, one, and (B) both of these classes are excellent classes.  I'm especially enjoying the Bible class, if you couldn't tell.


Labor intensive?  My Christ.

I'm working from nine in the morning until midnight, or sometimes one a.m., Monday through Thursday, just doing prep work and teaching and grading. (Summer classes meet every day, Monday through Thursday.) This is just on the classes.  Not doing anything else.  I put in four or five hours on Sunday afternoon, too. 

This leaves me, as you will see, two and a half days to write in.  Sometimes I spend part of Thursday writing too.  And sometimes, after I am done prepping (like now) I stay up late and write for a couple hours; except that means I go short of sleep.

WTF, though, right?  We'll sleep when we're dead.

But crap, I keep thinking, when I drag myself out of bed at 8.30, so tired I can barely move, and knowing it's for a paycheck that will just barely cover the bills, and I mean just barely -- there won't be a fucking nickel left over on August 31st: this ain't right.

Something has to change in this country.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Teaching The Bible

Teaching two classes a day in summer session is eating my life.  It's worse than having a toddler.

This is especially true when one of the classes is Bible As Lit, since I am not only assigning massive chunks to be read every night (which I then have to re-read as well), I am having to do mountains of research for every class.  (Yes, if I had been wise I would have done the prep work over the three weeks I had off between classes.  But I was very busy writing short stories then, so.)

I did some of this research the last time I taught the class; except that was five or six years ago, and lots of new research has been done.  I am keeping like a day and a half ahead of the students, if that.

Still, it's a great class, one of my favorites.  We're on the bit of I Samuel with David and Jonathon tomorrow.  That's always a delight to teach.

One of my sources for that one tries to claim that the love between D&J is only a political love.  I suppose I'll pass this theory on to my students.  And then I guess I'll roll my eyes.  Um, yeah.  Okay.

The reason this theory isn't total nonsense is that I Samuel can be read as an apology, or a defense, of David's usurpation of Saul's throne.  In which case all of Jonathon's protestation's of love for David and his you-take-the-throne, I don't want it, are put in there to defend the idea that David doesn't take the inheritance of his own will:  It's Jonathon's idea.  

But that's not incompatible with D&J being lovers, either.  And so many other things indicate that their relationship is more than just buddies: what each of them says about the other's love being better than the love of women; what Saul says to Jonathon, about him "uncovering his mother's nakedness" in his relationship to David; the oath they make to one another at that very odd ceremony during the New Moon (shooting arrows by a sacred stone -- that looks very much like some buried religious thing to me).  

The kid is auditing this class, btw.  Part of home-schooling!  She's doing very well so far.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Well, Rats

Angry Robot Books rejected my novel.

I am sad.

But I finished another short story.  So that's something.

Wikipedia has this cool new feature -- probably all y'all all know about this -- little tiny embedded movies.  So if you should happen to want to know how, say, a hay baler works (my new story has hay baling in it) you can go on over to Wikipedia and look up hay baling and click on the tiny embedded movie and there you are, you are soon informed.

Don't I love living in the future?

There is also, of course, google video.  Even more useful. 

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Sunday, June 05, 2011


We had a big party yesterday, saying goodbye to one of our friends / ex-students who is going off to Minnesota to an MFA program. Now it is raining (again!) and I am working on editing stories.

And my child has an ear infection.

Now you may think this is no big deal. What kid does not have an ear infection from time to time?

Well, mine. That's what kid does not.

She has hardly ever been ill, per se, in her life. Not that she hasn't been sick -- from age seven to about ten she was sickly, as the 19th century used the term. Failure to thrive, as biologists might call it. Once we determined she was allergic to something about corn syrup -- which this is as far as we ever got, thanks to my useless clinic and even more useless health insurance, which did about thirty thousand dollars worth of tests while discovering nothing at all -- but once we, by which I mean I, took her off all foods containing corn syrup* her symptoms disappeared and she began to thrive at last.

Where was I? Sorry. I'm still miffed about the corn syrup issue. They didn't even test for allergies. Gah.

Okay. So except for that, she's hardly ever been sick. Bronchitis when she was two. The flu when she was six. Croup at eight. A stomach virus at eleven. I can literally count the number of times.

The effect of this is, whenever she does get sick, it's full mode panic on her part. A fever, to her, literally means she's going to die. "What's wrong with me?" she cries. "Does any terminal illness start with an ear ache?"

"It's an ear infection," I said. "We'll go to the clinic tomorrow."

"Am I going to die?"

"You're going to take some Tylenol."

"And then I'll die?"

"And then you'll go lie down. Ai."

I'm not even sure it's an ear infection, frankly. I think it might just be the weather. Another big front is coming through, and my bones feel like someone's been hitting me with sticks all night anyway.

Meanwhile! I'm reading a book Dr. Skull brought home, Earth Abides, written in 1947. Sort of a mid-century The Stand. Only without the religious whackatude. A super-measles wipes out 99.99% of the population, and...absolutely nothing happens. At least so far. I'm about halfway through the book. It's very well written. And historically interesting. Not sure it's any good yet. But it is making me feel very feverish.

*It was the blogosphere that helped me diagnosis her! When the useless clinic was doing no good at all, and she had lost 12 pounds (at nine years old) and had chronic stomach pain, and would not eat anything, and could barely move around most of the time -- she spent all day sitting in one chair in our house -- I put out a blag, even before blags existed, and got all sorts of excellent suggestions, and that was one of them, that she might be allergic to corn syrup. We had already taken her off wheat and red dye, so taking her off corn syrup was, frankly, a snap.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Oh God

It's June.

It's summer in Arkansas.

Weather guy says we're heading for 98 degrees this week.

Four more months of this.

Do you see why I want to move to Barrows, Alaska? How would that be worse than this, exactly?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Okay, Maybe It's Just Me...

I've been seeing this study popping up in a lot of blogoports lately: confused Americans, who confusedly thinking that 25% of America is gaygaygay, when the actual percentage of Americans who are gayoramic is 3.5%, or thereabouts.

Explanations for confusions? Maybe people can't count. Maybe people don't know what 25% means. Maybe those gay folk are just so sassy and flamboyant, you know, and in your face, that one of them SEEMS like several of them, and SO... well, we get confused. Whereas nice quiet straight people who don't make a fuss, who notices them?

Whatever. All I know is I started counting gay, lesbian, and bisexuals I am acquainted with, and while it is true it is probably not 25% of everyone I know, it is a pile more than 3.5% of people I know.

And it's not like I live in San Francisco, either.

Is what I'm saying.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

I had a difficult encounter a few semesters ago, which I am not sure I handled well.

My policy for the past few years has been to let -- well, to force -- my students to write on topics which matter to them, which have to do with their majors if possible, and which are small, small topics. You can't write about global warming, I exhort them, because you can't solve global warming. Pick a topic you yourself can do something about. I then tell them the story of my Oklahoma student, an Engineering major, who had an issue with his road and his ditch -- how the road got graded badly by the county, so that it kept washing out the ditch, which made his fence keep falling over, so that his cattle kept getting out on the road. This was a problem he could fix. He wrote about that problem. "You want a problem like that," I tell them. "Find some problem like that to describe for me."

Generally these papers work very well.

However. This student was a History Education major -- going to teach History in the local high schools -- and what he wanted to write about, it developed, though he didn't pitch it to me this way, was how the Civil War was mis-taught in Southern High schools.

What he meant was: he wanted high school history teachers to teach students that the Civil War was not about slavery, but about the right of states to govern themselves. His argument was that by teaching that the Southern States had fought the war in defense of slavery, we were making Southern children feel bad about themselves and their heritage.

Okay, I told him. Except, first, have you done any research? The war was fought over slavery. So if you argue it was not, you're teaching something that isn't true. And second, have you considered that every child you teach is not a white child?

Many people, I told him, fought in that war on the right side -- against slavery, I mean. You're ignoring everything those people did

And for what? So you can argue some false pride for kids today? Why not teach them the truth? Some bad people in the past made bad arguments, which led to some bad decisions on the part of some other people, which nearly destroyed our country?

Which it did, I pointed out to him -- I asked him if he realized how close the Civil War came to destroying our nation. I asked if he had talked to any of our history professors about this theory of his? (Which he had picked up from a local high school professor, of course.) I told him to go talk to some of them, to see what they said.

He asked whether I was going to let my opinion influence the way I graded his paper.

"I just don't want to get an F because you disagree with me," he said.

This is probably the saddest I have ever been after a conference, I have to say.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Thinking About the Revolution

I've read two books in the past two days, Mote in God's Eye, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, and Night Watch, by Terry Pratchett.

Both were cracking good reads, by which I mean they kept me up until late at night, turning pages. Both I had read before -- Mote, not since I was a kid, Night Watch last year sometime, when I first discovered Pratchett. Night Watch is much more to my taste politically. Mote is somewhat to the right of my politics.

But as I lay in bed last night (or rather, very early this morning, given that I am suffering from the worst insomnia in my adult life, and am hitting the pillow somewhere around five a.m. these days) considering the differences between the two texts, and why one of them annoyed me so much, while the other appealed to me so strongly, well, it really was not just that one is more leftist and the other is hard right military POV.

Because it's not -- Pratchett has a bit of the practical military POV mixed in with his populist-Leftism, and I'm not bothered by that.

And clearly I am bothered deeply by Niven & Pournelle's ridiculous ideas of a women's place in the world -- and while what they do with the alien Moties sex-change and so on is interesting, it does nothing to negate their insistence that "real" people (by which they mean European-ancestry White Guys) will keep their women at home after marriage, doing the child-raising.

No, here is what bothers me most about the Niven & Pournelle worldview: its insistence that the correct attitude of the citizen toward his leaders is respectful trust. (I do choose that pronoun carefully. Only men are actually people in N&P's world, despite his tossing in of a token woman character.) It is assumed -- and then demonstrated -- in the N&P world that those in command, those who are born to command, and given command, know what they are doing, and having taken command, will do the right thing.

It is assumed, and then demonstrated in the text, that those who object to the actions of leaders -- rebels, outies -- are bad people, who deserve to die, who deserve whatever punishment, up to having their entire planet reduced to radioactive glass, is visited upon them: they deserve this simply for having questioned authority.

Since the story is told from the point of view of one of those in authority, Rod (yes, this is his name, nothing phallic here, move along) Blaine, who is written as an earnest hero type who works very hard to get everything right and worries about getting everything right, the reader is reassured that those in authority are Really Good Guys who Really Want To DO Right by those in their purview.

We're not meant to look at the way Sally (his wife) is stripped of her power ("Rod won't let me think about the Institute after the wedding.") or how everyone with any power is a European white guy or how the decisions are made by fiat behind the scenes by the few white guys with all the power -- oh yes, benevolently, and we are TOLD these guys know best, and since those guys have been written as so noble and brave and intelligent, not like the wicked outies, well, it must be true, yes?

This is the worldview of the conservative, who believes -- I guess -- that, so long as he is the right man, the big man in charge can be trusted; and that everyone in the empire will be happy serfs who will be happy to serve, so long as the big man tells them what to do, except for a few idiots, who can be happily shot, or shot down with cool logic. (One scene that made me dizzy with disbelief early in the book was when the parliament -- I guess it was parliament -- met on New Scotland, and everyone in the parliament "pledges allegiance" to a hologram of the emperor, and then bows to it. I guess N&P think this is realistic. I guess they think grown-up people would actually do this. And, since I can see Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, and her ilk actually doing it, I suppose they aren't exactly wrong.)

Contrast this with Pratchett's worldview in Night Watch, which strikes me as much more realistic and adult.

For one thing, the leaders are mostly idiots, or crazy. (Which, watching our own Congress, Q.E.D.) The few who actually know what they are doing and actually intend to do what is best for the land under their purview know better than to expect the people to follow them from blind loyalty. Most people, as Pratchett well knows, are mostly interested mainly in their own lives and what is going to affect them. Who has time for more that that, mostly? Maybe five or six percent of us, tops. And even then, only part time.

"Do the job that is put before you," Sam Vimes says in Night Watch: that's what most of us do, and it's what Vimes, who is one of Pratchett's best leaders, and best heroes, mostly does. Vetinari, Pratchett's other best leader, and other best hero, though a more ambiguous one, also appears in this book, at the very beginning of his career. Vetinari is Practchett's demonstration for why we should and should not trust our leaders -- he is a tyrant, the all-powerful, brilliant, wily ruler of Ankh-Morpork, not exactly benevolent, though he may well have, ultimately, benevolent ends.

Still, Sam Vimes does not trust him; Sam Vimes is always wary of him, and always acts to keep him in check. Sam Vimes, at one point, arrests him, because no one should be above the law. In this book, Night Watch, when the leaders of the city are entirely powerful, Sam Vimes (under the name John Keel) leads a revolution: moving the barriacades, bit by bit, so that, daily, more of the city is under control of the law, and less and less is under the control of whim and tyranny.

Niven and Pournelle's worldview, it came to me, as I was lying sleepless last night -- that is exactly what they want. When you want the government to be under the control of some powerful man who you are forced to trust to be benevolent and good, what you are trusting in is whim and tyranny. Sam Vimes/Terry Pratchett's worldview -- where we do not trust, but hedge the rulers around with laws and rules, and then, warily, warily, keep the rulers at heel with those laws and rules -- that worldview puts the government under our control. Perhaps it means the government is less able to act; it also means the government is less able to put its boot on our throats.

I suppose it all depends on what you want from a government: death to the rebels, or people who are free to quarrel in the streets if they damn well feel like it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bang, Crash, Wham! (Again)

Every third night it seems, now, finds me and Dr. Skull, the kid and the two dogs and the cat huddled in our hallway, listening to hail pelt the roof while tornado sirens wail in the distance.

Last night's storm was especially scary. We considered going to the tornado shelter, which is almost a mile away at the elementary school. We used to do this back when tornado warnings happened once a summer, at the most. Now that they're happening every other day, we've given up. Driving through the hail and rain and wind, climbing from the car, and staggering (or in my case crutching) into the shelter to wait, sodden and over-heated, with two hundred other people who live in shacks without basements -- well, it has lost its appeal. Also, the shelter is actually a gymnasium, more or less -- so horrible lighting, nowhere to sit, and kids running yelling and playing kickball, in and out of the crowds.

Although if these scary, scary storms keep happening we may need to rethink our policy. Last night, the wind and rain were fierce. The power went out (again) and stayed out until about seven this morning. Hail and thunder were continuous. When the wind blew especially hard, the frame of the house would creak in a disturbing manner. The cat ran away and hid under the white chair. We were out of candles -- used them all up the last time the power went out -- and I don't like burning candles during such a bad storm anyway. So we were using my iPad as our sole light source. It works very well for that, btw.

Eventually the storm left, and the power stayed off. Everyone went to sleep but me (I'm having bad insomnia these days) and I stayed up reading the iPad until four a.m., when the power came on briefly. No sooner had I shut up windows and shut off lights and reset the alarm clock (I had a medical appointment at 9.00) than the power went off again.

But we didn't get blown away, unlike many people. As I drove to the clinic this morning, trees were down all over town, the roof was blown off the local lumber yard, traffic signs were blown over, and the local sign on the Harp's store had been totally blown out.

Another storm coming tonight, too.