Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Our Book! People Talk About it!

You might remember my mentioning Menial: Skilled Labor in SF, the anthology I have been working on with Shay Darrach, due out in January.

Well!  Other people are talking about it as well now.  (Imagine my glee!)

A mention and the ToC at SF Signal.

A link to SF Signal off Tor.com.

And, over here at i09 (one of my favorite sites, so I'm very pleased), a very nice post.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Do Not Open Until Hannukah

My interest is officially piqued -- the Mars Science Laboratory team has found something on Mars.


They're not telling.

Not yet, anyway.  Speculation abounds, but most people are guessing some sign of life (past, probably) or water.

I'm hoping for something cooler -- instructions on how to build a jump drive, maybe, left there by a wandering merchant ship two hundred thousand years ago.

Or keys to a hangar full of working space ships?

But yeah, okay.  A nice aquifer (past or present) would also be cool.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Holidays, holy daze

We had eleven people sit down for dinner today.  This was lovely.  Though tricky, since we only possess nine chairs, and eight knives, and somewhat fewer spoons that that even.  Also only nine dinner plates, and five wine glasses.

But luckily none of our guests are the sort who get twitchy over minor details like being asked to sit on a shoved-up rocking chair or to balance on the arm of an armchair during dinner, or mind drinking their wine from a jelly jar.

And the food was splendid, since Dr. Skull made most of it.  (I made, as my usual contribution, the sweet potato casserole.  Each year I invent a new recipe.  This year's contained a bit of rum and a deal of pineapple juice, and was the best yet I think.  Also Dr. Skull made the marshmallows that went on top himself, from scratch, b/c corn syrup, and they also were the best yet.)

Everyone hung out after, talking movies and politics (we are all liberals except my father who voted libertarian, and we all think Lincoln is an amazing movie, those of us who have seen it do anyway) while we drank the rest of the wine and ate too much pie.

Two kinds of pie, pumpkin and banana cream, plus a chocolate-pumpkin torte.

Now I am drinking ginger ale and rum and watching the cat chase the dog around the living room.  She appears to be enjoying this somewhat more than he is.

Happy post-holiday daze, y'all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Muted Excitement

So I just got an email from one of the jobs I've applied for, asking for more material.

This means I've made a cut -- the committee has chosen my application and probably about fifteen others out of the pool of all the applications to look at more closely.  It's good news, though I am trying not to get too excited.  Because, you know, fifteen others.

Still, it's a great job, in a good place, and I would love to have it.

(And yes, I have spent the last day and a half on the net, checking rents and parks and libraries and public transport and refreshing my research on the university itself -- obsessive?  Me?)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Here Comes The End of The Semester...

...like a freight train.

I'm not opposed to this semester ending -- it's been a rough one, due partly to my hideous schedule, and partly to the fact that someone in this house has been sick (or injured or recovering or about to damage themselves) I think every single day of the semester.

We might have had a few healthy days.  Though I don't at the moment remember them.

Anyway!  The university is closed for the next three days (Thanksgiving), and then when we return, only one week of classes before the exams begin.  I have graded nearly everything (papers!  Papers to read!  Always papers!) and so can spend the TNX holiday writing and maybe cleaning the house a bit.  We're having 12 people for dinner on Thursday.

Dr. Skull will do the cooking, of course.  He's already begun, in fact: spent most of today and part of yesterday prepping and seething turkey parts, for the turkey broth which will be the foundation of both the turkey gravy and the butternut squash soup.  Also he started the sour for the bread.  And the turkey, which he will Green Egg, is thawing away.

Oh!  I will be cooking something: sweet potato casserole, my specialty.

With the little marshmallows on top, of course!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Lincoln: Movie Review

I spent this afternoon watching Lincoln at our local theater, and I'll just say wow.

Beautifully structured, beautifully acted, wonderful sets -- but its strongest point lies in what it accomplished.  I saw Tony Kushner, who wrote the screenplay (he's most famous for Angels in America, but he also wrote Munich) on the Colbert Report show a few days, and one question Colbert asked was how he managed to make the passing of a bit of legislation exciting.

Well, he did.  I was enthralled, and I wasn't the only one.  The theater was filled (a Fort Smith theater!) with with silence (except for frequent laughter, because despite the tension, the movie has some very funny bits).

What makes it work, I think, is that Kushner (basing his work on Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography) shows just how smart, and just how crafty, Lincoln actually was.  Talk about your eleventh-dimensional thinker: Lincoln was it.

And self-taught -- the film gets that too, showing without banging on about it Lincoln's working-class background.  His grammar is frequently flawed, and he kneels down (crawls around, in fact) to build his own fires in the White House, dresses (and shaves) not like a gentleman but like a working man.

There was applause at two points in the movie in my theater (I won't say which two) and afterwards half the theater stayed in their seats, watching the credits through to the end.

The music was great too, I'll add.

Don't miss this one.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Love These Short Hours

...short hours of sleep, I mean.

Nearly two o'clock in the morning, Sunday night/Monday morning, depending on how we count these things, and I am just finishing my weekend's work -- prep, writing, grading, and (of course) laundry, cooking, shopping, cleaning.  (I can't get any of that done during the week, since I'm working from dawn until about midnight most days, so everything gets shoved to the weekend.)

It was a great and greatly satisfying weekend, in that I actually did get everything done -- writing, shopping, editing tasks for Menial -- grading and entering those grades, prepping for the week: I am, in fact, for once, caught up entirely.
Plus!  I made excellent pea soup and popovers for dinner tonight, a lovely meal on a suddenly frosty evening

Also!  I have found a new TV series to follow on Hulu: The Thick of It, a "dark comedy," to quote the website, dealing with the foibles of several characters in the British government.  It's very sweary and tons of fun.  I have to keep myself on a strict ration of 2 per day, or I would get nothing else done.

And! I walked the dog and the kid, so that's exercise for today.

If only I didn't have to get up at six tomorrow (I have to be on campus early for our annual health-screeny thing) I might be feeling very pleased with myself now.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

This Might Be A Sign, Y'all

Here's how I know the Leftist students have been gravitating to my classes: all day long I have basically been unable to teach, since all my students have wanted to talk about nothing except how cool it is that Obama got elected again, and what they were doing when they found out he got elected again, and how this is the first election they ever really cared about, and isn't it cool that the right guy won?

This is excluding one of my first year comp classes, which is packed with conservative 16-18 year olds, who sulked through the entire 33 minutes I kept them today.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Too Good Not To Share

This is by Anderson,  in a comment stream over at Lawyers, Guns, and Money:

Thirteen Ways of Looking at an Electoral College Map

Among twelve swinging states,
The only moving thing
Was the Electoral College map.

I was of three minds,
Like an Electoral College map
In which there are three pollsters.

The Electoral College map whirled in the autumn polls.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and an Electoral College map
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of polling averages
Or the beauty of margins of error,
The Electoral College map on Election Day
Or just after.

Polling averages filled the computer monitor
With particolored glass.
The shadow of the Electoral College map
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the monitor
An indecipherable result.

O thin men of Gallup,
Why do you imagine national averages?
Do you not see how the Electoral College map
Trips up the feet
Of your likely voters?

I know noble models
And lucid, inescapable algorithms;
But I know, too,
That the Electoral College map is involved
In what I know.

When the Electoral College map turned all to tossups,
It marked the edge
Of one of many scenarios.

At the sight of an Electoral College map
Glowing in a purple light,
Even the bawds of punditry
Would cry out sharply.

He rode over Ohio
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of the 47%
For Electoral College maps.

The polls are moving.
The Electoral College map must be shifting.

It was four days till the election.
It was polling
And it was going to poll.
The Electoral College map refreshed
On the smartphone.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Teaching Kids To Write Fiction

I just started teaching young adult creative writing workshop (ages 12-17, though in fact the age range right now is 12-14) via our public library.

I was compelled to take up this task for a couple of reasons -- one, no real resources exist for young writers in our little Arkansas city (about 80,000 people here, the second largest city in Arkansas, but also, sadly, one of the most conservative); second, my kid desperately desired such a workshop, and her sadness and pleading finally got to me; third,the woman who had been teaching writing workshops for adults was retiring, and Dr. Skull was going to take over her work, so why not start one for the kids at the same time? and finally, when I myself was 12 and 13, 14 and 15, I would have killed for a community of writers -- the sad ghost of my writer self, in other words, hung haunting about, gazing at me accusingly.  Could I leave those kids like me out there, abandoned, lonely, untaught?

So I volunteered.  And I am so pleased I did.  I was a bit trepidatious, I'll admit -- I've never taught kids, much less adolescents (I'm not counting the 17-20 year olds I am quite used to facing, as professor who regularly handles First-year Comp: those students are technically kids; but long ago I stopped thinking of them as such).  What if I couldn't do it?  What if there was some...trick, and I didn't know it?

Well, maybe there is.  But no issue.  They might be kids, but they are also writers, and writers trumps kids, clearly.

Plus! Real writers!  All of them!

I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.  As a veteran instructor of several writing workshops now -- many of which have been stocked with, um, how to put this, an unhappy ratio of real writers/faux writers -- it is a sweet pleasure to have a workshop filled solid with real writers, even if they are all under sixteen.  (Two of them are 12, three of them are 14. The youngest 12 is a very young 12, and just as cute as a puppy, sliding down in his seat to sit with his eyes barely visible with the edge of the table, or kneeling in his chair to sprawl halfway across the table while he writes giant letters across his paper -- but he's a writer too.  His stories make me laugh out loud while I'm typing them into the worksheet.)

And!  Not only can they write, they can read.  This was the part I was most worried about -- would they be able to critique one another's work? An essential part of workshop is reading the work on the worksheet and commenting on it, saying what works and what doesn't, helping the writer see how to fix problems, helping each other see the best parts of the writing: developing the critical eye, IOW.  I'm used to having to give a lot of direction to my young writers at first.  But man.  I barely had to say anything to this lot -- well!  I barely could say anything.  They took off and ran.

I'm giving them assignments, and handouts, mini-lectures, and leading short discussions; but it's that part, the workshops, them talking to one another about the stories, about what a story is, what good writing is, that's the best part.  That's the part I'm really liking -- and the part they are too, I think.