Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving 2019

It is cold here in Arkansas and also raining ferociously. Uncle Charger won't be with us this holiday because his older sister had a heart attack two weeks ago (he saved her life -- learn CPR, people!). The kid's roommate will drive down from Fayetteville after her shift at the Dollar General, because of course the Dollar General is open on Thanksgiving Day, because Capitalism.

For our first Thanksgiving in the new house, this will be our menu:

  • Turkey
  • Potatoes Dauphinoise
  • Squash soup
  • broccoli casserole
  • grilled asparugus
  • Crudities
  • Dr. Skull's sourdough bread
  • my sweet potatoes with Dr. Skull's home-made marshmallows
  • pumpkin pie with whipped cream
  • Wine or ginger ale, as preferred
Meanwhile, have a Thanksgiving quiz! (I scored 13 out of 15).

Monday, November 25, 2019

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Because Sometimes People Need Pictures

Image may contain: 2 people

Also, notice -- as Sonderland testified today -- Trump did not actually want an investigation of Biden, or Burisma.  He only needed Zelensky to go on Fox News and say he was investigating Biden for corruption. Just as with Hilary's emails, he didn't need actual corruption or an actual crime. He just needed enough to get his Fox-News fan base howling.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

What I'm Reading Now

Bernadine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other 

This one won the Booker Prize this year, so when I saw it on my library's new books shelf, I picked it up. An excellent decision! This is one of the best books I've read in quite some time, although very different from the books I usually read.

The writing style is non-traditional, for one thing, which is not a thing I usually go for. Incomplete sentences stacked like poetry on the page, wandering about in demi-paragraphs, with unmarked dialogue -- this usually makes me slam a book shut and return it to the shelf posthaste. But Evaristo makes it work, I suppose because her control of the language is so effortless and complete.

It's also a non-traditional narrative, in that we don't have a plot. Instead, we have the interwoven, or maybe intertangled would be a better word, lives of twelve British women, ranging from Yazz, who is just finishing up at university, to Hatty, an octogenerian on a north country farm. They are all women of color, many of them immigrants, and are related by blood or circumstance.

The language here, as I've said, is wonderful; but Evaristo also, by showing us life from these twelve different points of view, creates an impressive depth of field. This works especially well because of the range of age and class of her characters, and because Evaristo herself clearly knows her stuff.

This is highly, highly recommended.

Emma Donoghue, Akin

You might remember Donoghue from another book she wrote, Room, which was made into a movie. That's the one where the woman was kidnapped and kept in a room for years, giving birth to a little boy there, and finally escaped?

This one is far less sensationalist, and a much better book. In this book, Noah Selvaggio, who is about to leave on a long-planned trip to Nice, in France, gets a phone call from DHS. His grand-nephew has been left homeless by the death of his grandmother. (His mother is in prison.) Noah is the only available relative who can house the child.

This set-up is somewhat unbelievable, as is the social worker's insistance that Noah take the nephew, Michael, to Nice with him. But once you get past all that, this is a very likable book, and very readable. Both Michael and Noah are well done as characters, and the stuff about Nice is interesting, as is the social commentary on the drug wars and America's prison system. Also, Noah has gone to Nice to investigate what his mother did during WWII, so there's a kind of mystery operating as a plot, and that works okay.

Plus a happy ending, so don't worry about that.

Cathleen Schine, The Grammarians

I'm just not sure what I think about this book. I mean, I liked it. It's about twins who grow up speaking a secret language and who are also obsessed with words and English grammar, and it's also very well written -- what's not to like?

But the pacing is so strange. We hop and skip through time, speeding up and slowing down, jumping past all the parts that seem really interesting and then -- right when the book seems to be reaching its climax -- zip off into fast forward and get the rest of the story in a brief summary.

I mean what the hell.

I still enjoyed it, and you might too, especially if you like books about the East Coast and books in which people take grammar seriously. (One of the twins is a prescriptivist grammarian and the other is a descriptivist. Feuds ensue!)

W. Somerset Maugham, Cakes and Ale

This book, a Modern Library edition, has been on our shelves forever -- it's one of the books Dr. Skull brought into our marriage -- but this is the first time I've read it. It's an interesting and odd little book. I see from reading reviews that it's apparently filled with inside-baseball jokes. The main character is Maugham himself, and the writer he's riffing on is probably Thomas Hardy, and so on. I don't know that we need to know that to follow the main point of the novel, which is a take down of conservative British culture before the war (before WWI, that is) with its stiff-neck class issues and prudish notions about what was and wasn't "done."

The book was published in 1930, and is from the point of view of an old(ish) man looking back on his youth, so it's a picture both of the 1920s and the 1880s in Britain. Maugham writes a lovely crisp prose, bringing these worlds to life at the same time he ripostes them.

Recommended if you like this sort of thing.

George Takei, They Called Us Enemy

This is a graphic novel about George Takei's childhood in the internment camps during World War II. It pairs well with Warren's Enemy Child (see the next book in this list) which gives a much more benign view of the internment camps. Takei grew up to play one of the crew in the original Star Trek series, and is now an activist, semi-famous on social media. This is a good introduction to the story of the Japanese camps, with beautiful drawings by Harmony Becker.

Andrea Warren, Enemy Child

While this is also a good and thorough introduction to what was done to our Japanese citizens during World War II, and also has wonderful pictures, it works a little too hard to justify the actions of the U.S. Government. To be fair, it is told from the position of Norman Mineta, the "enemy child" in question, and that seems to be his position as well: that the U.S. Government was justified in doing what they did to him and to his family and to the other Japanese citizens of the time. But I would definitely have my child read this book in conjunction with George Takei's book, since Takei gives information that Warren's book elides or leaves out entirely.

Sunday, November 17, 2019


And they're also the same exact arguments that were made about black people, and immigrants from the "wrong" parts of Europe, and Jews, and

I mean, let's face it: bigotry is bigotry. Their playbook ain't change.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Evidence? You want Evidence?

The thing is, we don't need evidence. Trump has admitted what he did, multiple times, on camera.

 ....the story behind the impeachment case is relatively simple: Congress approved military aid for Ukraine, but Trump withheld it as part of a sustained campaign to pressure Ukraine into launching an investigation of his political rival Joe Biden’s family. There’s a record of him doing it. There are multiple credible witnesses to the phone call and larger campaign. Several Trump allies and administration officials have admitted to it on camera. Trump himself admitted to it on the White House lawn. (Source)

Why would he do this?

Because he thinks he's above the law. Like the spoiled child he has always been, he believes there is one law for him, and another for all "those people." He sincerely believes he can do whatever he wants.

It doesn't help, of course, that Fox News, his main source of information these days, confirms this worldview 24/7.

These impeachment hearings are about whether he's right. Do we have a country that is based on laws, or do we have a country where men like Trump, and Kavanaugh, and Epstein, Jeff Bezos and Clint Lorance, can do whatever they want, and get away with it?

I know the world Fox News wants. What world do the rest of us want?

Summary of the Impeachment Hearings So Far

Everyone who has testified: Trump committed crimes

Everyone who is hiding out and refusing to testify: crickets

Trump: Everyone who is testifying is a a TRAITOR

Members of the GOP: Why are you here testifying against our Great President?

Members of the Democratic Party: Tell us more about these crimes, please.

Everyone who testifies: Here is more about the crimes.

Members of the GOP: Are you being funded by the DEEP STATE?

Trump: (on the White House lawn, to reporters): I did the crimes!

Members of the Democratic Party: (In the hearings) Tell us more about these crimes, please.

Everyone who testifies: Here is more about the crimes.

Members of the GOP: Maybe you just got your fee-fees hurt by our Great

Members of the Democratic Party: Tell us more about these crimes, please.

Everyone who testifies: Here is more about the crimes.

Trump: I did these crimes too! And they were PERFECT! But it's okay, because when you're the President, they let you do crimes!

Members of the GOP: Nothing to see here! Let's move along!

Image result for impeachment cartoon"

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Look! Squirrel!

All of a sudden, now that the impeachment hearings have begun, Conservatives suddenly care about Epstein.

It's like when trans people began getting rights, all of a sudden Conservatives were so concerned about women and girls being assaulted.

Not when Kavanaugh was being confirmed to the highest court in the land; not when Brock Turner was being let off with a slap on the wrist; not when we were being told that women lie about being raped all the time, or that rape statistics are inflated, or that women bring rape upon themselves -- nah, Conservatives were fine with that.

But let someone who should have been hiding in a closet cowering with shame act like they were a human being with human rights? Here come Conservatives, brandishing "their" women and "their" girls like a club.

As if we're expected to believe that suddenly they give a shit about women or women's rights or women being assaulted or raped.

They're not fooling anybody.

Sabbatical Update

I ran into the dean yesterday and he told me he was approving my sabbatical request and sending it onto the Board.

That's the last step -- the Board has to approve it now. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Kid... working on his anthropology paper:

(It's on detritivores during the Permian Mass Extinction)

The New House in Winter

Like most of middle America, we're having a cold spell -- it was 22 degrees here last night. And we've discovered the downside to all the big windows in our wonderful house, which is that they leak heat non-stop. It's nearly impossible to keep the house warm, even with the furnace running non-stop. And we're too poor to run the furnace non-stop.

Back when I lived in my uninsulated shack in Fayetteville, when I was a graduate student, I used to shrink-wrap my windows. (Indoor window insulation is the proper name for it, I find.) We're off to the hardware store this evening to look for the kits. As I recall, they helped a lot.

Meanwhile, the cats have been very disapproving. This is no way to run a household, they sulk at me. Both of them and the dog have taken to piling up on me when I sit reading in my chair at night, under my down-filled duvet, with my scarf on and my hat pulled down around my ears. They do add body-heat, so I don't complain.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Transphobic Mob

Rod Dreher, among others on the Right, helped this abusive man attack his ex-wife and their children. They'll use their hatred of trans people to excuse anything, apparently.

Saturday, November 09, 2019


Image may contain: 1 person, text

The Real Attack on Free Speech?

Fox News does a lot of shrieking, but the real oppression -- as all of us who work on campuses know -- lands on the usual suspects: the poor, the brown, women, and the powerless.

The Right -- or rather, certain members of the Right, those with a lot of power -- are just good at playing the Refs; and at getting attention from the media.

For more see here.

You should especially notice this:

....four Republican-controlled state governments have set up new rules for political speech in public universities in response to concerns about free speech. At least seven other state legislatures are considering doing the same, efforts that the New York Times reports are “funded in part by big-money Republican donors” in a “growing and well-organized campaign that has put academia squarely in the crosshairs of the American right.”

Our state is one of those considering such a law. They have already disposed of our ability to create a designated a free speech forum -- we can no longer restrict the area of campus where people can make speeches.

Why would we want to restrict free speech to a specific area?

Well, imagine trying to teach grammar when some angry incel is standing outside your classroom with a megaphone shouting about how feminism is cancer and all these girls in short skirts are agents of Satan, and yes, this actually happened to me.

The thing is, when state legislatures start interfering with the governing of university campuses, they usually have no idea how campuses work or how they should be run. They have no idea why we want a designated free speech forum area, for instance; or why we don't want guns in our classroom. (They know quite well why they don't want guns in their workplace, but that is somehow different.) They make rules without understanding the situation, in other words.

So they will almost certainly make rules that don't work well for our campuses.

There is a reason university campuses have traditionally been self-governing. You need to leave the running of universities to those who know how universities work. And that's not some guy who hasn't been on one since he was twenty-two  years old and who wasn't really paying attention even then.


Thread starts here:

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

This is Why the Internet Was Invented

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Sunday, November 03, 2019


As usual, the big outrageous story about those kids today being outrageous snowflakes turns out to be absolute bullshit

What Trump taught us about "Christians"

Speaking of which -- medical care should be based on science, not on whatever religious text a given doctor might be following, or how they choose to interpret that text this week

But here's some good news

When your child is a possession

Who do you write like? (According to this app, I write like William Gibson.)

Some good advice about writing the other

Trump continues to destroy America

Here's the world he's bringing us

And to cheer you up a little

Also this, which I already shared, but it's great:

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Things We Did Not Carry

As all y'all know, we had to move out of our old house rapidly (in less than two weeks) because our landlord lost his rag. This meant we had to pack up everything in only a few days -- I think it was less than five days, total -- and that meant we ended up either donating or throwing away so much stuff. Some things toward the end we just shoveled things into boxes and donated them, without really paying attention; some we just abandoned in the yard for the local trash guys to haul away. (They will do this free of charge four times a year.)

Things we have now discovered we left behind or donated that we really wish we had not:

  • The whisk broom we used to sweep crumbs off the table
  • Dr. Skull's cleaver 
  • several small trash cans (I think I must have filled them with junk and donated them)
  • My other jeans that fit (I accidentally kept the ones that don't fit)
  • Two lamps
  • The dog's leashes
  • the rake
  • the shovel
  • the ladder
  • the branch cutter (these last four I think I must have left out in the back yard -- luckily this new house came with its own ladder)
  • my cast iron skillet (this must have been shoved to the back of the cupboard so that I didn't see it)

None of these are huge losses, aside from the jeans that fit, obviously. It is so hard to find jeans that fit right, or at least for me it is. I share this only under to prove that point that three moves equal one fire.

Also, I'm sure we'll find other things that didn't survive the move as we go along.