Monday, December 31, 2018

Best Posts of 2018

So the best things that happened in 2018 -- we took the House back, my book was published, and I got the perfect schedule for Spring 2019. Also, I got a lot written. Everything is better when I'm writing well.

My top posts of the year:

January: Ursula Le Guin

February: The Kid Does Art

March: Soul of a Nation

April: Language and Change

May: Booklist on my Book

June: My book appears on Scalzi's Big Idea

July: Best books

August: The Kid's Apartment and Georgia O'Keefe

September: Performative Reading

October: I Give Advice

November: Unicorns

December: My Kid Does Art

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Louis CK

Here's the thing about conservatives -- they're not smart, they're not cute, they're not funny.

All they have going for them is how mean they are.

That and a lot of whining.

(As someone noted over on Twitter, this 'humor' is exactly what we see in the comments section to any third-rate Right-Wing blog. "Ooo, I identify as an attack helicopter, LOLOL.")

Best-Selling Books

I wrote about book lists for 2018 here; but here's yet another. This one is for the books that sold the most copies in 2018.

You won't be surprised to find that a hefty number have to do with how to lose weight or how to eat some specific sort of food which will magically make you a better person. I think many people are replacing religion with food cults. Which, okay, I guess. Better an obsession with your diet than an obsession with heresy.

I've read only a few of these books, so I can't speak to whether this list has anything to do with quality.  I'm dubious that we can use capitalism to decide what a good book is, however. And I will say that the books I've read from the list weren't anything special.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

What's this? A PATREON?

I'm starting a Patreon. You can find it here!

For as little as $3.00/month, you can read chapters to Triple Junction (sequel to Broken Slate) as I post them, as well as reading my essays on science fiction and writing science fiction.

For $10/month, you can suggest books for me to review, or essay topics for me to write about.

All this AND you get to support a working writer.

What I'm Reading Over the Break

Mostly I am writing over the break. But in the evenings I read.

Here's a couple good books I've read lately:

Sherry Thomas, The Hollow of Fear

This is the third book in the Lady Sherlock series, which I am liking quite a bit. Sherry Thomas is apparently better known for her romance novels, so maybe I will try those next. In any case, in the Lady Sherlock series, Thomas has gender-flipped Sherlock Holmes, and in an interesting way -- Charlotte Holmes, unable to find a way to make a living as a (fallen) Victorian woman, creates a fictional persona, her brother Sherlock, a recluse. She acts as his Archie Goodwin, more or less. The mysteries in these are fine, and there's an over-arching mystery that will apparently encompass most of the books; but the real treat here is Thomas's writing and the interplay of the main characters.

Dorothy Canfield Fisher, The Bent Twig

If you've heard of Canfield Fisher at all, it's because of Understood Betsy, a kid's book that was popular back in the early-to-mid years of the 20th century. If you haven't read Understood Betsy, and you like children's fiction, I highly recommend it.

Canfield Fisher also wrote books for adults, however, and I've been reading those that are available for free online (attempting to keep my book expenditures down). This one is the story of a family and specifically of one of their children, Sylvia. The family is a big part of the story -- the father, who comes from the East Coast upper class, married a farmer's daughter, and they moved to the Midwest (This is all set sometime in the 19th century) where he works as a professor at the local state college and she runs their tiny farm.

Class issues are a big part of the story, as are racial issues and sexism. Like Middlemarch, this is the story of a specific place at a specific time, and the small group of people who live there. I enjoyed it very much. It's available free through Gutenberg.

Rex Stout, The Mother Hunt, The Rubber Band, The Black Mountain, The Father Hunt, Where There's a Will

More Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe books. If you like mysteries set in the 1930s and 1950s (Stout mostly didn't write during WWII, because he was doing war work), you'll like these.

They're very relaxing, which is probably why I'm reading so many of them over this break.

I also watched the new Watership Down on Netflix, as well as Bird Box and the third season of Travellers. These are all watchable, though the new Watership Down isn't nearly as good as the book, or the 1970s movie. Read the book, that's my advice.

Friday, December 28, 2018

About That Wall...

In case you're wondering why the wall is a terrible idea

(Note that this doesn't address the immense amount of money a wall would cost, money which will add to the deficit, since there's no way Trump is going to cancel that tax scam for the wealthy any time soon.)

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Curious Cat

I have no idea what this is, but I have it now: Curious Cat

Why I'm Poor

UPDATE: In case I didn't make it clear, but this isn't just why I'm poor. It's why most of America is poor -- medical costs are too high, public transportation (realistically) doesn't exist, and wages are far too low. I don't even have childcare costs to worry about, which adds to the problem for many workers.


Even with insurance, Dr. Skull's root canal was $300.

Plus I'm supposed to have these medical tests next month. Did I mention our $5000/deductible? (That's for the entire family. My personal deductible is somewhere around $1200.)

Plus the car, which cost us upwards of $3000 on repairs this year alone.

Plus everyone in this family needs glasses. I do have vision insurance, but it covers almost nothing.

Plus I looked at my end of the year paycheck stubs. Holy hell, do I pay a ton in taxes and social security.

But yeah, tell me how if I just quit buying lattes* and eating at fancy restaurants, we'd be fine.

*I do buy more books that I should, I'll admit that. But I'm a junkie and our local library is grotesquely underfunded, so that I can't feed my habit that way. :(

Best Books of 2018

Lots of publications are putting out Best Books of 2018 lists.

Here's the NYTimes, for instance. I read several of these books, and while they were readable, they not only wouldn't make my list, they didn't make my list. That is, I read them, and decided not to write mini-reviews of them on my blog. For instance, The Perfect Nanny and Educated -- I read both of those. The Perfect Nanny struck me as yet another tool of the mommy wars, designed as it is to terrify mothers. And Educated, while it probably was eye-opening for some people, just seems like old news to those of us who live in Red States.

Likewise, Small Fry, also on the NYTimes list, while readable, hardly reaches 'best books' category. It's basically a tell-all about what a terrible parent Steve Jobs was. Which, wow, who would have guessed?

Frankly, after a couple of years of reading books that make the NYTimes recommended list, I'm starting to think whoever writes these lists doesn't actually like to read.

NPR's list is better, both because it allows you to sort for interest, and also because it actually has some good books on it. For instance, N. K. Jemisin's collection of short stories, How Long Til Black Future Month, and also Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver.

I've read almost nothing from this list, but I might now.

Anyway! My very own best of 2018 list. Mind you, these are just books I read (for the first time) in 2018. No doubt lots of better books are out there. And not all of these were actually published in 2018.

Helen DeWitt, The Last Samari: This is probably the best book I read this year. Highly recommended.

Laurie King, Califia's Daughters. Not published in 2018, but excellent. The dogs in this are great, if you like books with dogs in them.

Holly Black, The Cruel Prince. A portal fantasy, more or less, but really good. The sequel comes out in a few days, and I can't wait.

Charlotte Gordon, Romantic Outlaws. This looks at the life of Mary Wollstoncraft and Mary Shelley, kind of in tandem. Excellent read and an excellent book.

Carrie Vaughn, Bannerless. Y'all are going to start think I love post-apocalyptic books. Which, yeah.

Georgette Heyer, The Grand Sophy. Apparently this is the year I discovered Georgette Heyer. If you have always wished for more Jane Austen, Heyer is the writer for you.

John M. Barry, The Great Influenza. Goes into great and fascinating detail about the pandemic that killed so many people (a third of the world's population, by some estimates) in 1918.

Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Jinni. Fantasy, but the best sort of fantasy.

The Odyssey, trans. by Emily Wilson. You haven't read the Odyssey until you've read this translation.

Meg Elison, The Book of Etta. I love, love, love Meg Elison. Another post-apocalyptic book, by the way.

Helen McDonald, H is for Hawk. A memoir about the author's life with hawks. A wonderful book.

Those are my best reads. What about all y'all? Have you read anything good?

Oh! And don't forget that this book came out in 2018!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018


We don't really celebrated Christmas here at chez delagar, but I did make pancakes for the Kid, so that was a kind of festive occasion.

"Thanks for making pancakes," the Kid told me.

"Pancakes and latkes," I said. "I make them once a year."

"Pancakes and latkes," the Kid said: "The dualities of life."

My pancake recipe


Saturday, December 22, 2018

Holiday Message

Our current chancellor made a YouTube video:

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Links for your Thursday

I'm writing and writing right now, so light posting ahead.

Have some links!

I'm considering a new page for my bibliography -- what do all y'all think about this one?

In case you missed this: A Poem for academics

And in case you missed this, an amazing short story from Naomi Kritzer

Where your taxes go

I'd love this even if I didn't love bagels

Science says this

From Daniel Ortberg, who is a national treasure

A follow up to the previous, due to all the online harassment Ortberg got for his essay

Women in science

The quintiles, in case anyone is confused about the state of American wealth and poverty

What the above translates into

On the other hand...

This one is just funny

Also funny

Image result for comic about trump

Sunday, December 16, 2018

My Kid Does Art

We're doing Hanukkah late because the kid was still up at the U during Actual Hanukkah.

Anyway, one of their presents was a new Koi watercolor set, and this is the first thing they painted with it:

This is something they drew for their final portfolio in their Fall art class:

And finally! A self-portrait:

Friday, December 14, 2018

Winter Break

I finished my grading early (go me!), so now I have nothing to do for almost four weeks but write, read, and catch up on Netflix. (Winter break is my favorite, because it's cold and dark and I can write for hours.)

Here's my reccs for those of you trying to decide what to Binge Watch over the break:

The Good Place: I assume all y'all have all already found this wonderful show, but if you haven't, now's the time -- we're halfway through Season 3 and it's just getting better. Premise: Four people wake up dead in the Good Place, none of whom are actually supposed to be there. They have to fool everyone if they're not going to be sent to the Bad Place. Since one of them is a professor of Ethics and Philosophy, he agrees to teach the other three how to be good people. It's a mix of SF, philosophy, and wonderful characters and writing. First two seasons for free on Netflix.

Travellers: Time travel! Need I say more? Okay, I'll say more. In the future, earth is a wreck. A band of survivors from a scientific bunker build first an AI and then a time-traveling gizmo, which lets them 'travel' back into the bodies of those who would have died, otherwise. Their mission is to avert the catastrophe/s which left the planet wrecked. Season 3 just dropped. Available on Netflix.

Dr. Who Season 11: Jodi Whittaker as the Doctor! Who could ask for more? But there are also wonderful British accents and typical Dr. Who plots. You gotta buy this one, sadly.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: This is a deeply entertaining comedy set in the 1950s in New York City. A young Jewish mother sort of stumbles into the desire to be a comedian. As with Mad Men, much of the charm comes from sets and other period details, but the characters and the comedy also work to make this fun. Free on Amazon Prime.

Brooklyn 99: Just renewed for another season, this is an adorable show about police officers in Brooklyn. Every character is wonderful, and Andre Braugher plays Captain Holt, which was enough to sell me on the show right there. You gotta buy this one too, but it's available on Amazon Streaming.

Steven Universe: Best cartoon ever. Excellent LGBT characters, and a wonderful attitude toward life. Available on Amazon Streaming.

What are your suggestions?

Sunday, December 09, 2018

More Trouble

The tire on our car blew out this morning. We picked up a piece of what looks like shrapnel somewhere, and it slammed into the wheel rim itself and totaled it.

This is the third repair work I've had to do on this car this year. Two last year, and three the year before that.

There is only one possible conclusion. Our car is possessed. Obviously I should perform an exorcism.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Vague Posting

Did you ever spend literally months trying to figure out just what was wrong with someone, to make them continually say such odd and ignorant things, and then have a sudden realization that this person just... isn't very bright?

I mean, here I was blaming Fox News and maybe some lack of experience ("Could it be that they just don't understand irony?" "Is it really that they aren't able to tell propaganda from facts?"), but nah.

Just your standard bone-headed ignorance, which they lack the intellectual facility to correct.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

What I'm Reading Now

Tana French, The Witch Elm

I'll pretty much read anything Tana French writes. Among other things, I love her use of Irish dialect. This one has an unreliable narrator, and also a fairly unlikable narrator. It's a mystery novel, more or less, as French's novels always are.

Early on in the novel, the main character, Toby, is badly injured. The injury leaves him unable to trust his own memory. He ends up at The Ivy House, his family house, where he and his cousins spent their summers and holidays growing up. Then a body is found out in the Witch Elm in the house's garden -- a boy who was murdered ten years before.

Because Toby can't trust his mind, or his memory, he can't be sure what is true. He doesn't know to believe about how the body got in the garden. This is where French's first-person point of view really pays off. Because Toby doesn't know, we don't know either.

As with all of French's novels, this one is page-turner, filled with great characters and a twisty little mystery.

Johanna Sinisalo, The Core of the Sun 

I read this one for the science fiction class I'm teaching next semester. It's a feminist dystopian work, set in a mythic near-future, grown out of an alternate past in which Finland began practicing 'domestication' of women around 1870. Women were bred like foxes or dogs, so that the adult traits were bred out of their species, and the juvenile traits reinforces (a process called neoteny, which I'm pretty sure you can't actually sex-select, but let's go with it).

By 2016, which is more or less the year the novel is set in, women are either elois or morlocks -- elois being slender childlike blonde creatures, stupid and obedient; morlocks being dark-haired and stolid, built for labor. Morlocks are sterilized at puberty; elois are married young, and often beaten to death by their owner-husbands, or remanded into state custody when their owner-hsubands grow tired of them.

The novel is told from the point of view of Vera, a morlock born into the body of an eloi, who is planning an escape from Finland, but who wants to find her missing sister (an actual eloi) first. As with most dystopian novels, it spends a great deal of time taking us through the culture.

Vera is also a junkie -- addicted to chili peppers, which are illegal in this dystopia. I'm still trying to work out what this might mean. I have a feeling there's some obvious metaphor I am missing.

I like the structure of this novel a lot: diary entries, snippets from history texts, school essays, newspaper articles. It reminds me of Dracula, a bit.

Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South

I read this one mainly because I'm reading Ursula Le Guin in order to review her for Strange Horizons, and she mentions Gaskell's works. It's one of the Industrial Novels, written about the problems of industrial England -- in this case Manchester. Gaskell did her time in Manchester, living with her minister husband there, so she knew the lives of the mill workers. The book is worth reading for those details alone.

On the other hand, it's very clear that Gaskell is on the side of the mill owners in this book. She thinks the workers who join unions and go on strike for higher pay are fools -- she honestly believes that the mill owners are paying workers as much as they can, and to ask for more pay is not just unreasonable, it is entirely unrealistic. (We're still seeing this notion with people today, who claim raising the minimum wage will destroy American business.)

In contrast, Gaskell presents the mill owners as God-like heroes, creating the economy England ex nihilo -- and certainly creating it without any help from the mill workers they hold in such contempt.

The two classes, those who own the mills and other property, and those who work for the owners, are two different sorts of beings. Both are human: Gaskell is clear about that. But one, the workers, should be submissive. Like a child, these workers should do as they are told. They should ask for anything they want, and obey the owners. The other, the owner and creator, gives orders and can expect obedience. He is wise, knows best, and never need explain anything to anyone. The workers must trust him to do what is best, as children trust their father.

Margaret Hale is our main character. She comes from the rural South into the industrial North, and briefly wavers between the two classes -- worker and owner. She is, for a few months, not quite sure which class is justified in the strike, or to which class she belongs. But never fear! It is the owner class. Soon she sets the workers straight in their mistaken belief that they have a right to strike, or demand fair working conditions, and all rights itself in the end.

This is a very readable book, but the classicism might make you queasy.

Barbara Kingsolver, Unsheltered

I'm just not sure how I feel about Barbara Kingsolver. I liked her first three books a lot, and then didn't much like her next few books. This one is readable, but odd.

It's certainly a book for our times: the premise is a family -- an immigrant grandparent, parents, 20-something child, and infant grandchild -- are, like many of us, broke. They inherit a house which has been in the family for generations, and all of them move into it together. The father had a (terrible) job at a local university; the mother is a freelance writer; the daughter works various minimum wage jobs; the grandfather is dying.

Once they have moved in, they find the house is not built to code, and is, in fact, falling to pieces around them. Also the dying grandfather's health insurance sucks. Also, he's rabidly far-right, and because of his dementia says appalling things, most of them in Greek, luckily. (Everyone in the family at least understands Greek, though only the grandfather and the husband, his son, speak it.)

Meanwhile, interspersed with the story of this family, we have flashbacks to the story of another family, about a century earlier, who lived (as we think) in the same house. (It is also not to code, it is also falling down. We wonder through much of the book how, if the house is in such bad shape, it can still be standing a century later -- but as it develops, the houses are not the same. Oops, spoilers.)

All of this is obviously heavily freighted with anvilicious metaphorical meaning, as Kingsolver's books tend to be. It is readable and engaging, and I stuck with it to the end, but I don't know that I would read it twice.

Carrie Vaughn, Martians Abroad

A lot of YA books are actually being written for adults these days, but this one is definitely aimed at kids, and younger teens at that. It's a ripping yarn of the sort we saw during the 1950s and 1960s -- it's been compared to Heinlein's Red Planet, not without cause.

Here, a pair of siblings from the management class of the fledgling colony on Mars are sent to an upper-class boarding school on Earth. Their mother, who runs the colony, sends them, without giving them a sensible explanation, so that from the start we suspect something is up. Polly, our point of view character, is something like Podkayne, from another of Heinlein's books, Podkayne of Mars; Charles, her twin brother, is a bit like Clark from that novel, except older and not nearly so sociopathic. (He's a bit of a sociopath.)

So we have a fish-out-of-water story; and a boarding school story; and a travelogue, since the boarding school takes its very wealthy students on field trips around Earth and to its moon; and a mystery. What is up with Polly and Charles' mother?

It's a lot of fun, in other words, even if it isn't exactly original. Also, Polly and Charles are a lot more likable than Podkayne and Clark.

Rex Stout, Fer-de-Lance, League of Frightened Men, Too Many Cooks, Some Buried Caesar

Rex Stout wrote mystery novels, among other things, from the early years of the 20th century until the 1960s. His Nero Wolfe novels, which all of these are, are his most famous. Some Buried Caesar was a novel assigned to me in my American Lit II class, back when I was an undergrad, and it was my first introduction to Rex Stout. What I remember most about the class is how the other students whine and moaned about having to read a mystery novel. "This isn't literature," one of them complained to the professor. "What are we supposed to do with this?"

I read Some Buried Caesar for that class, and then a ton of other novels by Rex Stout -- this was back in the days when we were limited to the books we could find in local libraries and bookstores. Previous to the internet, there was no other way to get books (or rather no way that I knew about -- I could have ordered books via the bookstores, if I had known that, but I didn't).

Anyway! When I put my books in order last summer, I found the two Rex Stout novels I had bought, way back then -- Fer-de-Lance and Some Buried Caesar.  And when I was sick, I re-read them, and then read the Nero Wolfe books our local library has, and then bought a few (Too Many Cooks, League of Frightened Men) from Thrift Books, which I highly recommend, by the way.

These are all early Nero Wolfe novels, written in the 1930s, and I'll admit I am reading them more for the pleasure of visiting that era and Nero Wolfe's house and life in that era, than for the actual mysteries. Though the mysteries are just fine.

In Too Many Cooks, for instance, Wolfe travels by train to West Virginia to attend a kind of convention -- he's a gourmand, and this is a meeting of the 15 best chefs in the world. There is of course a murder and subsequent mystery attached to it, but most of the pleasure of the book comes from traveling by train in the 1930s, and visiting a West Virginia resort, and watching Stout write about racism* in the 1930s, since the West Virginia resort is staffed almost entirely by local black men, who are being set up for the murder.

Stout is a bit of a jingoistic patriot, and definitely a conservative, but this was before conservatives turned bat-shit crazy. He's an old-style conservative, in other words, which makes him (by current standards) very nearly a progressive.

The books are all told through the point of view of Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's secretary and go-fer, who in these earliest books is written as a bit of a dope. (He gets smarter later.) The later books are not as good as those written in the 1930s and 1940s, but all of them are readable.

*When people lecture me about "presentism," and tell me that people back then didn't have the same attitudes "we" have today, so we can't judge them by our standards, fap fap fap, Rex Stout is one of the writers I think about. Sinclair Lewis is another.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Lessons at the Border

Lobbing tear gas at refugees -- including infants and children -- besides being technically a war crime is not just a bad idea. It's a sure-fire way to be certain the young adults in our nation lose what little faith they have left in our government and its ability to do the right thing.

That's the progressive kids.

Worse, almost certainly, is what lobbing tear gas at infants and children does for conservative young adults among us. They too see us attacking children with chemical weapons, but they hear from all those around them -- their parents, their preachers, Fox News, their coaches, their friends and neighbors -- that this attack is the correct action. These young people are told, with great earnestness, that immigrants are dangerous invaders, that they are rapists and terrorists and gang members, and thus that any action our country takes against them is justified.

Which group of kids is being damaged the most? It's hard to say.

UPDATE: Don't miss Nicole & Maggie's comment -- take action!

Friday, November 23, 2018

The GOP and Reality

The GOP has literally lost touch with reality.

According to the GOP, "middle class" means someone who makes between $70,000 and $125,000/year. That's (1).

(2) is that -- according to the GOP -- people making this amount of money are "working class."

I mean, who doesn't make that, am I right?

And anyone who makes less than $35,000 a year? Those people just don't exist, apparently.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving on the Rise

It's a chilly sunny day here in Arkansas. Sweet potatoes are roasting the oven. That's the only part of the feast I'm responsible for -- the sweet potato casserole. This year I will make it with ginger, cinnamon, maple syrup, brown sugar, butter, and bit of orange juice and orange zest, with lots of home-made marshmallows on top.

Other items on the menu:

  • Roast turkey
  • potatoes dauphinoise
  • green bean casserole
  • sourdough bread
  • fresh cranberry sauce
  • turkey gravy
  • a cheese, fig, olive, and grape plate
  • Pumpkin pie
  • babka
Wine or ginger ale, depending on preference

Uncle Charger and the kid's bff and new roommate Clover will be attending. We'll be dining around five. Aside from making the sweet potato casserole, my main charge is vacuuming and setting the table.

Hope all y'all have a splendid day!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

This is What I'm Talking About

I don't know if UBI is the solution.

But we do need some solution. The current economy is broken.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Every 30 Year Old Should Have A Unicorn and a Magic Ring...

This sort of delusion bullshit just goes to show that "financial planners" and "experts" have no idea how most of the USA actually lives.

In fact, less than 60% of our country now earns enough to live a secure middle-class existence. Almost no one can afford to save any money, much less a "three to six months of living expenses." Almost everyone is in debt -- almost always due to living expenses, including medical expenses. Only 40% of the country can handle a $400 emergency.

This is America right now.

Frankly, I am impressed that Ocasio-Cortez had $7000 in the bank, and I promise you she only had that much because she had no children, and has had no medical emergencies. Before I was married and before I had cancer, I had a big chunk of money saved too.

"Plan to save 15%" is charming advice. Plan all you like. Life has other plans.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Oh Look

Trump's favorite philosopher:

Scamming People for Jesus

Over at Patheos some time back, Libby Anne wrote about a tactic young Evangelicals use -- are taught to use -- which is quite similar to one con men use, not surprisingly.

They find an "in," some area of commonality between them and the 'target,' as Evangelicals call it (or 'mark,' to be more honest about what they're looking for).

In other words, they're looking for common human ground between them and their mark, something they can play on. Once they find this common human ground, they exploit it.

This has happened to my kid, up in Fayetteville, more than once now. My kid is very sweet, with a lot of empathy. They also look gay -- so gay. (Dyed bright purple hair, plaid denim jacket, no makeup.) Invariably a pretty little Evangelical Christian child will sit down next to them and say, in friendly voice, "I like your hair!"

Among the LGBT kids, this is code for, I'm queer, are you queer too?

So my kid responds with a friendly, "Thank you!"

And the Evangelical Christian does some friendly chat, just as if she actually likes the kid, and actually wants to be friends with the kid. And the kid is thinking, aw, I've found a friend, a queer friend, this is nice.

And then the Evangelical asks if the kid wants to come learn about Jesus.

And now my Kid feels stupid, like they're an idiot for thinking anyone would actually want to talk to them, or be friends with them. This Evangelical has made it very clear that the only reason anyone would sit down next to them is in order to run a scam on them -- to lie to them, to cheat them, to con them.

Because they're broken, obviously.

Because they're something that needs to be fixed.

Is this what Evangelicals think their God wants them to do to people? That's what Jesus commands them to do?  Lie to people? Treat them like marks to be cheated and conned into their churches? Make them feel like fools and idiots for trusting people?

I hope one day these people grow up and never stop cringing at how they treated their fellow human beings.

UPDATE: Just to make it clear, I don't blame this little Evangelical child. She's been sent out by someone -- likely someone as brainwashed as herself -- and told to do this horrible thing to her fellow human beings. She's been given a script to follow. She's been told she has to do this, or these poor LGBT sinners will burn in hell. So no. I don't blame her. It is still an evil thing to do, and it is an evil thing to teach her to do. There is a reason bearing false witness is a sin.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday Links

Have some links!

Anne Theriault makes a connection


Why Trump (and his base) want to repeal the 14th Amendment (Spoilers: it's because they're racists)

This YouTube series on Mad Max: Fury Road is really good. Kind of long, but it's broken into 8 or 9 minute segments, so you can pace yourself.

Doggo has a COMPLAINT:

Saturday, November 17, 2018

My Kid Does Comics

You should be reading my Kid's comic!

You can find it here or here!

We'll Get the Rest in 2020

Some Good News

Update on Rod Dreher's Exorcism

This is my surprised face:

I mean, really, this isn't even remotely funny. This poor woman and her terrible husband are deeply disturbed, and since he probably has her convinced that she's possessed by demons, she's in deep trouble.

Religion can do a lot of good in the world. I've seen that happen. But it can also do horrible, ugly, evil things like this. This is the main reason I'm so wary of it. I've seen it destroy too many people and their families. Once you start believing in one impossible thing, it's very easy for a charismatic leader to make you believe in other impossible things.

Once you lose your ability to determine what is factually true, to tell what is real from what someone is making up -- once you can no longer evaluate evidence, in other words, and determine what is real and what is fantasy or myth or propaganda or just something someone else made up, for whatever reason -- you are lost.

Anyone can tell you anything, and make you believe it. How will you know? This demon is why your tooth hurts. That chemical is why your child can't read. This crystal will cure your backache. Those people are possessed by witches, they are the enemy of the people. Any of those could be true, or all of them. You have no way to tell. You'll just believe whatever the 'right' people tell you, and disbelieve whatever the 'wrong' people tell you.

And then you'll end up drinking Kool-Aid in a jungle somewhere, or voting for Donald Trump, or having your husband hold you down while a priest performs an exorcism on you, grimly insisting that the reason you hate him is that you're infested by a demon.

Yeah, that's the ticket.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Two Posts

Yesterday Rod Dreher tweeted this:

(This seems to be the 'friend' he is talking about. Notice how earnestly he insists these people must be believed because they travel in Europe.)

Today, he posted this charming item, in which he detailed, scathingly, a young trans man's interview about his journey through an adolescence marked with anxiety and depression, among other things. As someone who has dealt with the psychiatric community, I know how much a 'diagnosis' is worth. And I know why Scout calls himself crazy -- it's a way of reclaiming the word.

Rod uses inaccurate and frankly vicious language about Scout, misgenders him, and finally claims that he's an "abomination." This is typical of Rod, of course. I don't know what his issue is with queer people in general, and trans people in specific, but boy does it run deep. It's not just hatred: He's obsessed.

Anyway! My point, and I do have one: Who do you think needs more time in a therapist's chair at this point, Scout or Rod?

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Review of my Novel at Analog

This is nice -- my novel Fault Lines got a lovely review in Analog:

Fans of fun space opera are a sure audience for this book, but you might also consider giving it to anyone who likes stories of families, either biological or chosen. Those who fancy historical tales about mercantile dynasties would also enjoy it.

New Review up at Strange Horizons

My review of Virginia Bergin's Who Runs the World is up at Strange Horizons.

Go here to read it!

Moving to the Left

Camestros makes an interesting argument here.

I may just like it because I have thought for years that we should move further to the Left as a country, mind you. What we call 'Left' in the USA is laughably conservative.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Doing Without

So it's been almost two weeks now without gluten, and I'm feeling much better.

Sadly, this makes me conclude that gluten is probably the culprit.

Sadly, because that means I've gotta continue to give up gluten. I've been living on fruit, eggs, nuts, rice, and cheese, potatoes, coffee and cream for the past 13 days. I am here to tell you it is a diet that can get old.

On the other hand, doing with stomach cramps, nausea and exhaustion is quite nice.

I guess I'ma have to start reading some of those gluten-free cookbooks.


Saturday, November 10, 2018

Shared Mythos on the Right

For my sins, I read more RW blogs than are probably good for me, and I can attest that the common myths Camestros discusses here are right on.

One of them, the Islamic takeover of Europe, featured on Rod* Dreher's blog just today. And of course, there is the ever popular notion that at universities we do nothing but brainwash students and shriek about gender issues and racism sexism trans people. One blog I visit which makes these claims is run by someone who works at a university, so it's not that this person doesn't know better.

Of course I know why conservative bloggers push these lies and nonsense -- it gets eyes on their pages. Anything for money, I suppose, here in America, where the One True God is Capitalism.

*To be fair, I think Rod Dreher might actually believe these conservative myths. He really is that gullible, after all -- he's always running stories on his blog about how some ghost or the other spoke to someone's dying cousin, or a statue bled ichor that cured some orphan in some mountains somewhere. If he had lived in the Middle Ages, he'd have a house full of One True Crosses and finger bones from Saint Peter.

Thursday, November 08, 2018


Yeah, here's a shock.

The White House has shared [doctored] footage posted by an editor of [the] conspiracy theory website [Infowars] showing Jim Acosta making contact with a Trump aide, in a bid to justify its suspension of the CNN reporter’s press pass.
Mr Acosta “placed his hands on” a female aide trying to retrieve a microphone as the journalist repeatedly questioned the president, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed in a statement posted to Twitter.
Apparently the whole "Acosta assaulted that poor girl" started on the White Nationalist Twitter feed, and -- of course -- the Trump White House picked it up and made it part of their narrative.

And the mainstream Conservatives seized on it, because White Nationalist narratives are their brand.

This is America.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Who You Gonna Believe?

This thing with Acosta is amazing.

We have it on video. We can all watch the video -- over and over if we want to. We can all see that Jim Acosta did not, in fact, "lay hands" on the White House aide.

And yet, Trump supporters are coming out with escalating stories, ramping up their versions. I just saw one who claimed that Acosta "threw her aside like a rag doll."

I suppose that once you start down that road, leaving facts and evidence aside for lies and propaganda, once you start making up the world, reality soon becomes entirely irrelevant.

ETA: Yes, this:

ETA #2:

NOW someone on Twitter is claiming that in the video Acosta "clearly" grabs her breast. And therefore it is sexual assault. OMG.

Rod Dreher claimed on his blog that if Democrats didn't take the House back liberals would "lose their minds." I guess as usual he was projecting, since we see what's happening to conservatives now that Democrats did take the House.



Okay Then

This was not the victory of my dreams -- in that victory, we took both the House and the Senate, and also McCaskill won in Missouri, and Beto won in Texas, and this stupid, stupid voter ID law lost here in Arkansas.

But I'll take what we got. Winning the House, and defeating that smug fuck Walker in Wisconsin ain't nothing. Also, all the LGBT candidates who won, and the women, and the people of color -- that cuts some of the sting.

Also the passing of Amendment 4 in Florida. That really gives me hope for our country.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Did You Vote?

We drove up last weekend and got the kid, and then voted Saturday morning.

No line at all. But there never is. IDK if that's because of where we vote -- downtown at the courthouse -- or because no one is voting early here.

If you haven't voted, vote. And get your friends to vote. This one matters, y'all!

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Exploring a Possibility

As readers of the blog know, I've been sick for about six months now. My PCP has no real idea what's wrong -- she thinks maybe a parasite, though two long courses of antibiotics have not really cleared up the issue. Her next move is to send me for (expensive) tests.

These tests will mean $$$, and that will be $$$ out of my pocket, obviously, since my health insurance has a huge deductible. (It's something like $5000, though I'll admit I haven't checked the exact number yet. I don't even want to know at this point.)

So before I agree to the expensive tests, I'm think I'll try other things. According to Doctor Google, one other thing that might be wrong is a gluten allergy. I know going gluten-free is very woo, but I'm trying it. It's better than putting a couple thousand dollars on the credit cards.

On the other hand, my current diet is very gluten-heavy.

So! Recommendations for gluten-free foods?

Cheap gluten free foods, if possible. (Currently I am living on oatmeal, oranges, and potatoes. I can see that this diet will get old fast, however.)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Once Upon a Time 2016, before the election, some my students asked me what I thought of Donald Trump.

This was in the dream-like days when I still believed Americans could not be hateful and stupid enough to elect this conman president, so I laughed.

"'Make America Great Again,'" I said. "What a joke. Make America White Again, more like."

To my surprise, half the class nodded seriously. I saw they liked the idea of that. I saw, in fact, that this was why they were voting for him. The inside of my stomach went a little cold at that moment.

I will never forget the way my brown students and my Latino/a students look at me, the mix of pity and amusement in their eyes. What world have you been living in, tonto? they were thinking.

Not this one. Not this one.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Rough Days

Y'all, I am having rough days.

Partly it is because the country is having rough days. I don't have to outline these for you -- terrorists shooting Jews and black people, lunatics sending bombs, Trump drumming up hate against immigrants.

Partly it is because I've been non-stop ill, and can't seem to recover.

Partly it is because, despite what Trump claims, the economy is not recovering. Oh, it is recovering if you are in the top quintile of income levels. And especially for those at the very top -- for the top 10%, their income is booming. But for the rest of us, our income is flat, which means (since prices of many things, like healthcare, fuel, and college degrees are rising) that our wages are actually falling.

It's getting harder and harder these days, I guess is what I'm saying.

If I weren't so sick, it would be less hard. As it is, ai.

On the other hand, this happened:

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Trans People and Civil Rights

An actual argument I have seen persist among Evangelicals and Trump supporters is this one: Trans people are only .01% of the population (or .03% or whatever number they've been given by Fox News that morning), so why should the rest of us have to accommodate them?

It's an argument I can't believe anyone thinks is legitimate, but let's say you do.

What percentage of the population does a given group have to reach before you'll agree they should have civil rights? The deaf are only .38% of the population. Jews are less than 1%. Filipinos are less than 2%. Do we strip away their civil rights as well?

The USA doesn't base civil rights on how big a group is. Or at least we didn't used to do so.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


The kid came home for fall break this past weekend, and we bought him new pants.

We bought them from the men's department (we've always bought girl pants before).

The kid just DM'd me: "The pockets in these new pants are SO BIG!"

Me: "Because they're men's pants. Men get pockets. It is misogyny."

The Kid: "I didn't know how good men's pockets were. I always thought I had an adequate amount of pockets!"


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Another One

This one has a cat in it. :D

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Not Exactly Food Porn

I can't stop watching these:

They're from China, so I have no idea what's happening most of the time, but they're just so beautiful.

What I'm Reading

Image result for Atkinson TranscriptionKate Atkinson, Transcription

All y'all know I love Kate Atkinson, who wrote one of my top-ten favorite books of all time, Life After Life. So I was very eager to read her new novel, which is another novel that looks at WWII and its effect on people in England. This one is about a woman who works for British intelligence during the war, helping to run a kind of a sting operation in which Nazi sympathizers and pro-Nationalist people are suckered into meeting with intelligence officer -- they think the officers are working for the Gestapo. It's not a bad novel, mind you. It has some nice moments, and it's well enough written. But it's just an okay book, not the brilliant book I have come to expect from Atkinson.

Image result for Bergin Who Runs the WorldVirginia Bergin, Who Runs the World

This book won the Tiptree Award in 2017, so of course I'm interested. It's a post-plague novel, which I'm always up for. In this one, a virus killed off most of the men about sixty years before the story opens. The surviving men live in preserves, sanctuaries; the population has plummeted; women are working to save what remains of civilization.

The book is told mainly from the point of view of River, a fifteen year old girl who wants to be an aeronautics engineer, working with planes and (she hopes, someday) space flight. Traveling home with a load of apples, River finds an injured boy on the road. Any boy outside of a sanctuary dies of the virus. But this boy doesn't. What now?

The best part of this is the world-building -- what might a world made by women and run by grandmothers look like?

Colson Whitehead, Sag Harbor

Colson Whitehead is one of the best writers working America today. If you haven't read his Underground Railroad, what are you waiting for?

As opposed to other books I've read by Whitehead, this one is neither speculative fiction nor magical realism. It's the story of one summer in the life of a young man and his friends in the Hamptons. The little town of Sag Harbor is summer colony built by upper-middle class black families, who have been coming to Sag Harbor for generations. Benji -- or Ben, as he wants to be called -- is the child of one such family.

If I was going to put this into any category, I'd call it a coming-of-age novel. But really it is more like a memoir. Told in a series of chapters that read more like interlinked short stories, the novel explores Benji's memories of an experiences in his community. Most of the novel deals with life on the island, though we do get brief references to Benji's life back in the city.

The strength of this novel is Whitehead's writing. Nothing much ever really happens, except Benji and his brother and his friends moving from childhood to adulthood, over this one summer; but Whitehead's writing keeps us engaged.

Image result for an absolutely remarkable thingHank Green, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

Hank Green in one-half of the Green brothers. He and John Green are famous for their YouTube channels, and John Green, of course, is famous for his YA novels. This is Hank Green's first novel.

It's science fiction, sort of, in that it's about an extraterrestrial multidimensional robot who is sent to Earth in order to see if humans are ready for galactic civilization (more or less). But it is mainly about social media and the power of social media to create and to destroy, to shape the world, in good ways and terrible ways.

It's told from the POV of April May, a young graphic artist whose spur-of-the-moment YouTube post happens to go viral. April and her best friend Andy, who films the YouTube post, are dumped into a maelstrom of fame and fortune, which only becomes worse as April discovered (through crowd-sourcing, mostly) that the subject of her video is an alien artifact.

Hank Green knows all about being media famous, and about the power of social media to help as well as to harm. So that part of this book is really good. He also knows how social media, fame, and fortune work. That part of the book is also really good. The plot, however, is a bit weak. The alien artifact robot is an obvious MacGuffin to hang this story about social media/fame on, is what I'm saying. If you don't mind that, you'll like this book.

Emily Griffin, All We Ever Wanted

This one is also about the power of social media to destroy. Our narrator, Nina, is a member of the "obscenely rich," married to a tech millionaire. She and her son and husband live in that level of society where wealth isn't even an issue -- they have so much money that they can't spend it. Her son, at one point in the story, spends a thousand dollars on something, without even letting his parents know, much less asking their permission. Nina barely registers this act.

The plot concerns the son post a picture of a younger girl (he's 17, she's 15) on social media, a picture taken while the girl was passed out at a party. The son denies posting the picture -- he says another girl did it. Now the son is at risk of being expelled from his tony academy and perhaps losing his place at Princeton.

I would have liked this book better if (a) I had cared about any of the characters and (B) if Griffin hadn't written it like a romance novel. I mean, WTF.

Pamela Dean, The Secret Country

I love Pamela Dean, yet somehow I had never read this book -- the first in a series, apparently. It's about four young cousins who inhabit an imagined world (a la the Brontes). One day two of them find magic swords, and they end up in this imagined world. To their chagrin, they now have to deal with the plot they invented. Killing kings is fine in fiction, but when you have to be the prince, it's much more horrific.

I don't like this one as much as Tam Lin, which is one of my favorite books, but it's very readable.

Dorothy Canfield Fisher, The Homemaker

Canfield Fisher is best known for writing Understood Betsy, which is one of my favorite children's books. I'd never read anything else by her, or even known that she had written anything else. This is an interesting novel about a man and a woman who are not suited for traditional gender roles. They are both miserable -- he working at his clerk's job, she being a homemaker -- until he is injured, and she has to earn a living, while he stays home with the kids.

And voila! She loves being a clerk, and is wonderful at it. Everything that made her a terrible homemoker and stay-at-home mom makes her an excellent clerk and later store manager. Everything that made him a terrible clerk makes him a wonderful stay-at-home dad.

This was published in 1924. What I can't believe is that we're STILL fighting these battles.

Nancy Springer, The Case of the Missing Marquis

This is a "chapter book," if you know that genre -- books aimed at beginning readers. It's one of series about the younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, who runs away and works as a detective after Sherlock and Mycroft decide to send her to a boarding school so that she can be turned into a decent young lady.

Each Enola Holmes book concerns a mystery, which Enola solves; there is also a great deal of social commentary, both about poverty in London and women's rights in the 19th century.

These are well-written, and if you like kids books you'll like them. If you know a kid who likes mystery novels, or Sherlock Holmes, they'll like these.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

I'm in Love

Watch this. Now.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

These Hard Times

Did we feel worse when Trump was elected, or do we feel worse now? Tough call.

There are things we can do. First, GOTV. And get your friends and neighbors out to vote, too.

Second, continue to resist. See Camestros Felapton on this point here.

Third, donate if you can -- the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Emily's List, to Democratic candidates running in contested seats. And if you can't donate (or even if you can) volunteer, speak out, make some noise.

Fourth, if you're a writer, or a musician, or a poet, or any sort of artist: keep doing your art. Poets, as Shelley told us, are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. Trump and his snarling rabble seem important; but artists change the world in ways those filthy greedy assfaced motherfuckers never will.

Finally, don't despair, though despair seems a natural reaction. Trump isn't winning, no matter what his supporters believe. He's destroying, and that shit never lasts.

Rise up. Resist. Persevere.

Image result for kavanaugh cartoon

Friday, October 05, 2018

My Cat (and my Book)

Both my cat Jasper and my book appear on today's File770!

Go here to see the post.

Jasper has a party to celebrate her fame

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Kavanaugh and the Corruption of the GOP

Read this post at Nicole & Maggie's place, and call your reps.

Act like your rights depend upon it. Because they do.

Monday, October 01, 2018

So Attacked

I feel so attacked right now

Best Books of the 21st Century

This is an interesting list -- a lot of excellent books, and some really overrated ones. (Just FYI, I think anyone who thinks Cormac McCarthy's The Road is a good book should have their library card confiscated.)

When Did This Happen?

My kid is in a relationship, and I've been giving advice, sort of. Like, here's how relationships work, here's what you should do, here's what to expect.

This has made me think about how relationships work. Here's my list of the stages of relationships.

(1) You meet your prospective sweetie. At this stage, there is chatting and observation. We are feeling each other out. We are looking for information -- is this person decent? Do they have a bad temper? Do they like the sorts of things I like?

(2) You start doing things together -- eating meals together, going to movies and bookstores, taking hikes or whatever else you like to do. These are still "date-like" activities. They have definite boundaries, is what I'm saying.

(3) You begin hanging out for indefinite periods -- like all afternoon, or all day Saturday. You meet for lunch and then just keep hanging out together.

(4) You go grocery shopping together. You do laundry together. (These are BIG STEPS.)

(5) You spend entire weekends together -- either you stay at their place, or they stay at yours. Sex might start happening at this point, or maybe it was earlier, or maybe it's later. (Sex is important, but I don't think it's a major stage.)

(6) You move in together.

(7) You have a major fight, and figure out that your relationship can survive major fights. (This might happen before you move in together.)

(8) You meet one another's families. You figure out that you can stand their family, and they can stand yours. (It's better if you actively like one another's families, but meh, let's not count on this one.)

(9) You learn that you can put up with your sweetie's terrible habits. Like maybe they always leave their socks on the floor, instead of putting them in the laundry basket. Or maybe they never put away the milk. Or maybe they expect you to make all the medical appointments for both of you. Or maybe they expect you to kill the bugs that show up in the bathroom at midnight. In a perfect partner, you admit, these things could be changed. But in a real relationship, we cut each other slack.

Optional steps:

(10) You start talking about marriage, if you're the marrying sort.

(11) You start talking about kids, if you're the sort who wants kids.

(12) You have fights about money, if you're not wealthy.

(13) You buy each other personal items, like underwear or sanitary products.

(14) You realize you've been in a relationship with this person for over a decade

(15) Or two decades

(16) or LONGER

(17) You're an adult in a relationship. What the hell.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sunday Links

Like many people with any sort of empathy or any sense of justice, I'm having a rough week. Some of my students have asked me how we can vote the GOP out of the Senate and the House. Sadly, in Arkansas our options are limited -- we don't have a senator up for election, and only one of our House Reps is up for re-election. Still, we do what we can.

Meanwhile, have some links:

If you need to know more about your own elections, this is a useful site.

"I wondered why, if what girls had between their legs needed to be so closely guarded, we were the ones to wear skirts."

Art for our time

#11 is my fav

The future of space travel

Men fear witches and burn women

My hero

This is accurate:

I'm liking Matt Baume a lot these days:

And this is nice

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Endless Burning Anger

So, like many of you, I've been dealing with the GOP and their fawning worship of Kavanaugh.

A black man who gets angry when he is accused and shouts or screams? And so the police shoot him down? Why, what else did he expect?

A woman who dares -- ever -- to shout and scream and cry when accused? Or, hey, when she's being examined as a witness? Hysterical bitch who can't be trusted in power.

Children who cry or scream? They need a beating, obviously. They need to be put in their place.

But a white privileged straight guy who screams and threatens and cries in rage? Hey, that guy is amazing. That guy deserves a seat on the court that will decide the fate of every woman and child in the nation. That guy is a hero.

Why are conservatives -- especially religious conservatives -- reacting this way? It seems pretty clear to me. They love angry daddys who will punish bad children and keep those bad children in their place. They worship hierarchy, that Great Chain of Being, and they want Angry Daddy to keep everyone -- especially those brown and LGBT and girly people -- in their places.

This mystifies those of us who are interested in equality and justice. We don't want a country where one set of people (rich white straight men and their near kin) are treated with respect and given rights, while everyone else is abused and mistreated. We want what we were promised -- a more equal country, liberty and justice for all.

And so when we see the conservatives fawning and squeeing over someone who opposes all of that, especially when they're doing so because he pitched a tantrum, well, yes, we find those conservatives pretty deplorable.

What can you do? Nicole & Maggie have some suggestions.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Performative Reading

Ho, this is legit.

-- If you are a humanities professor, you say something that is clearly pleasure-reading, but at least vaguely cerebral. Witty mysteries about British academics are good, or the sort of science fiction that doesn't have aliens on the cover.

-- If you are a university administrator, you say that you are reading the university Common Reading book, or something by one of the writers who will be visiting for the Writers' Symposium in October. Either way, it is very interesting and you are enjoying it very much. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Here's a Mystery

What is up with reliable scholars and otherwise intelligent people who cite The Daily Mail like it's a reliable source?

I mean, I don't expect everyone to understand how to evaluate evidence. But clearly someone who is educated should be able to do so. Surely someone who makes their living as a scholar should be able to do so.

Is this ignorance, or is it malicious? (Why not both!)

Friday, September 14, 2018

World Science Fiction

So I'm teaching a course in World Science Fiction next semester.

These are the books I'm making them buy:

Joanna Sinisalo, The Core of the Sun 
ISBN-13: 978-0802124647
Grove Press

Jo Walton, Thessaly (or The Just City) 
ISBN-13: 978-0765332660
Tor Books

Octavia Butler, Bloodchild 
Seven Stories Press

N.K. Jemisin, The Stone Sky 
ISBN-13: 978-0316229296

In Other Lands, Sarah Rees Brennan
ISBN-13: 978-1618731203
Big Mouth House

The Other Half of the Sky, ed Athena Andreadis
ISBN-13: 978-1936460441
Candlemark & Gleam

I'm also having them read a couple of online manga/webcomics (not the entire series, just chapters) and showing them a couple of movies. The movies aren't decided yet, but I'm thinking Snowpiercer and Train to Busan might be among them.

Thoughts? I'm especially up for short story and movie reccs.