Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Support an Independent Artist

Buy some art from my young artist friend if you can.


"Sometime soon, it's just going to go away."

4.4 million (official) cases.

150,000 dead, so far.

Meanwhile, as someone who probably had it (I was never officially diagnosed, so like many people I'm not included in the above count), I'm suffering many after-effects.

I get dizzy, quite often.

I still have no appetite. And when I do eat, I feel sick for about an hour afterwards.

For about a month, I had weird headaches. (This seems to have stopped.)

For nearly six weeks, I was exhausted most of the time. I had trouble walking my usual exercise route -- a mile and a half, some of it uphill. For awhile, I could only walk about a quarter of a mile out and back. (This has mostly gone away. I still get more tired on the walk than I did before I was sick, but I can walk the whole way now.)

Also weird insomnia -- I fall asleep okay, but then wake up about three hours later and can't fall asleep.

I don't know how much of this is due to the virus, and how much is due to being shut in the house 23 hours a day.

Evidence is coming out showing that the virus can leave lasting damage to the heart.

That it has life-threatening effects on children.

That it can have long-term effects on the kidneys and the lungs.

It can lead to amputations.

But Trump says it's just the "sniffles," and anyway it's going to "just go away," any day now.

So don't fret.

Trump speaks about coronavirus amid outbreak: cartoons

Monday, July 27, 2020

Cat and Dog Pictures


The dog has learned to sit in the window like the cat.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Transphobes See Children as Possessions

I think almost everyone has read this appalling essay by Tess Morgan, whose life was apparently ruined because her adult son got a tattoo. (Or, as she put it, had his "precious skin" inked like a "pig carcass.")

Reading the essay, most people can't help feeling that Tess has some very clear issues. Her son -- her adult son -- is not a person to her. He's a possession, a perfect object that she's spent time creating and polishing, like a fine cherrywood desk. How dare that desk have an image engraved on it against her will? How dare this creature -- her possession -- act as though he's a creature with autonomy?

This is the same reaction we see from certain parents who find out that their children are trans. They describe themselves -- as Morgan did in her essay about her son's tattoo -- as heart-broken, as crushed, as unable to sleep or eat. They say they have "lost" their children. They say their lives are now "horror films." They describe their children as "mutilated," as "damaged forever," as "contaminated."

They speak of ROGD -- rapid onset gender dysphoria, an entirely fictional "disorder" not recognized by any reputable clinician, and claim their children are trans because their teachers or peers or "the media" brainwashed them.

They are supported in these delusional beliefs even by people who claim to be trans-supporting. (That link is to one advice site, but I could give you dozens of other so-called progressive advice columnists who say similar things.)

Almost all of them also claim that their children "never" showed any sign of being trans or unhappy before this sudden announcement. As the parent of a trans child, and as someone who knows many trans people, I entirely understand how someone could convince themselves that this is true. My kid was happy, if anxious, before he hit puberty. If I was someone who wanted my possession child to remain the cherrywood desk that I had ordered and polished for years, maybe I too would insist that this (imagined) three-year-old was the "real" child.

Here's how I did react, when my kid told me he thought he was trans: I was interested, and I was cautiously pleased. 

Because no, being trans does not come out of nowhere. Nor does it have a "rapid onset," no matter what some parents are telling themselves. My kid was unhappy from puberty on. His misery increased, almost daily. He would cry in his room every single night. He was suicidal. All of this, even though he had parents who loved him and therapy and everything else we could think to try.

Once he knew he was trans, and once we found a therapist that would work with him on how to understand what trans meant -- and especially once he began taking T-shots twice a month -- all of that went away. Though he still has some anxiety, and some bad days, he is so much happier, and so much better, emotionally, socially, and physically.

So I was and am pleased. My kid is no longer being tormented daily. My kid is able to be who he is. My kid is becoming his best self. Why would I not be pleased?

Yet many parents aren't. When their kids finally come out to them, when they finally say, hey, here's the truth about me, these parents react very badly indeed.

Many of them speak of "losing" their son or "losing" their daughter -- as if their child had died. As if a trans child is not the same child they always were.

Many of them insist that their children are "mutilating" themselves, by taking HRT or by getting surgery. "My beautiful daughter chopped off her breasts!" they wail. (Have a look at that verb. That verb -- like so many of the violent and inaccurate verbs many of them use -- is not an accident.) "My son is destroying his fertility!" they insist. And of course so long as a child is in their power, they will refuse that child treatment, even at the expense of the child's life. Like the anti-vaxxers, they'd rather have a dead child than the poodle child they didn't order.

None of this is new, of course. This is how parents reacted thirty years ago to children who came out as Lesbian or gay. Their children were sick, they insisted. They were delusional. What about my grandchildren? they cried.

Notice that all of them locate the problem in their children. It is the children who are at fault; the children who had misbehaved and done horrible things, even though the parent didn't say they could do it.

*** *** ***

What about their claim that their children "never" showed any signs of being unhappy with their assigned gender before "suddenly" declaring that they were trans?

I don't believe them. I don't believe them because that is not how it happens. 

I don't believe them because so many of my kid's trans friends will write about how they wish they could tell their parents the truth, but they know their parents would reject them, would kick them out of the house, would refuse to believe them.

I don't believe them because being trans never comes out of nowhere. Looking back, I can see all sorts of signals I should have recognized, ways my kid was broadcasting that he was trans. I missed them or I assumed they were just signals that he was genderqueer, or that he just liked dressing like that or wearing his hair like that. I am 110% trans-supporting and I missed those signals. A parent who thinks being trans is a sin, or a disease, or a mutilation -- do you think they will see what their kid is showing them? 

Or will they deny everything they don't want to see?

*** *** ***

As with Tess Morgan, these are parents who have control issues. (Very often they will describe a doctor or other professional gently advising them to get therapeutic help, and they explode in fury -- because there is nothing wrong with them, they insist. It is that very bad child who should be made to understand how evil and wrong they are!) 

These parents frequently control how their children dress, and what they eat, and what they read, who they talk to, what emotions they can show. (No lie, one kid I know is not allowed by their parents to show unhappiness, or anger, or even boredom. Only happy, contented emotions can be expressed. Anything else, and the child is punished.) They punish and beat children who don't comply. (Gee, why would children hide the truth from such parents?) 

These parents lack the ability to understand that their children are not possessions. They are not toys. They are not objects to be shaped into whatever form the parent desires. 

These parents can't accept their children as human beings, with all the rights to self-determination that any human being has.

My kid is not a possession. Nor did he become some "new" child because he transitioned, or because he changed his name. (You would not believe how many of these people are furious because "their" child choose a new name.) He's still the kid I raised, the one I loved then and love now. And he was always trans, though for years he didn't understand that, and neither did I.

You can read more here.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Links: The Mini Edition

Via TYWKIWDBI, here is AOC speaking on the ways (some) men in power attack women who get uppity

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Covid-19 Denialist Part II

In a move remininscent of my earlier post, here is the White House denying that Stephen Miller's grandmother died of Covid-19.

It is all a hoax, y'all. This virus is nothing but "sniffles," to use Trump's phrasing.

Granlund cartoon: Famous last words - Opinion - The Daily Herald ...

Misunderstanding the Point of Protests

This was shared by someone on my FB Timeline who is a center-left person, on the whole, well-educated and sane. They work as a social worker, so they have some life experience.

I've seen similar memes and comments from people both on the Right and Left (though more from those on the Right). When the posters aren't just arguing in bad faith -- which does happen -- these comments stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of what protest is for and how it works.

I interrogated one of these people once, asking them what form of protest they would find acceptable. Their answer -- after they obfuscated a while -- was that people should stand off to the side of a sidewalk (so that they don't block it) holding up signs quietly. The signs should have civil requests on them: like, "Please Give My People Civil Rights."

Well, that's not how protests work. That's an ineffective way of protesting.

Protests work, as MLK Jr. knew, by disrupting the status quo. Protests work because they make it impossible for the status quo to continue.

Those in power will never surrender their power of their own free will -- why would they? The status quo is fine with them. The way things are is working well for them. Why would they disrupt it, especially for people they don't care about and usually actively dislike?

For a protest to work, we have to create a world in which the way things are no longer work well for those in power.

We can do this by occupying lunch counter seats, or by boycotting their businesses, or by blocking traffic, or by surrounding the seats of power with immense crowds which draw attention to the ineffectiveness of those in power, or any number of other ways.

For example, the Right to Life brigade mounted a daily, non-stop protest outside the strip mall where Planned Parenthood in Fayetteville was located. This was where my kid was getting his check-ups and his prescription for HRT. They harassed anyone who drove in or out of the parking lot, non-stop. They banged on windshields and shouted about killing babies, while holding grotesque signs against people's windows. They caused so much disruption to the businesses in the strip mall that when PP's lease came up for renewal, the owner of the strip mall refused to renew it.

And they also made it clear they would do the same to anyone else who rented to PP. To this day, PP in Fayetteville has not been able to find a location in order to re-open.

Whatever you think of the Right to Life Crowd (I think they're willfully ignorant bigots), you have to recognize that this was an effective protest.

The key factor in any protests must be the disruption of the status quo. We must make it impossible for those in power to continue business as usual.

Otherwise nothing happens.

That's not an effective protest. That's virtue signalling.

Jonathan Riley on Twitter: "White People: "#BLM should protest ...

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Shared on the FB Timeline

God help us

I thought the child-trafficking conspiracy theory was peak silliness. But yeah, hold my beer, says America 2020.

Monday, July 20, 2020

The Real Taproot of Conservatism

“Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition …There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.”


r/trippinthroughtime - Yep

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Covid-19 Denialists

I recently learned that one of my cousins contracted Covid-19 back in May, and was in the hospital for nearly a month, in the ICU for most of that. She tested positive for the virus and even after she was released from the hospital has not yet recovered.

But she insists she didn't have the virus. The hospital lied to her, she says. The virus is a hoax, she says.

Want to guess who she voted for?

You remember when MAGA Americans thought the smart thing to do was to accuse all of us who didn't join their cult of having "TDR," or Trump Derangement Syndrome? Yeah. We should have known then that, as with almost everything else about them, this was projection.

How are we to run a country when 30% of our fellow citizens are this obdurately removed from reality?

Coronavirus: Divided we fall | The Seattle Times



This is excellent news -- also, if you haven't read the Underground Railroad, what are you waiting for?

Probably only interesting if you read SF

The roots of Trump

Thursday, July 16, 2020

What I'm Reading Now

Or What You Will by Jo Walton

Jo Walton, Or What You Will

I love Jo Walton and will read anything she writes. If you haven't yet read her Thessaly trilogy (starts with The Just City) you should do that now.

If you have never read Walton before, Or What You Will is not the book to start with. It's complicated and meta and very much relies on you knowing her body of work, as well as two Shakespeare plays, nearly by heart.

That said, I love this book. The structure is the sort I like best, intricate and moving back and forth through time, alternating points of view and (in this book) levels of narrative. The writing is compulsively readable, as always. And the setting is Florence. (I immediately re-read A Room with a View after reading this book, just to get more Florence.)

I'm going to need to re-read this one a few times before I can say I know exactly what it is about. It's worth it, though. In fact, you should go read all of Walton just so you can read this book.

Jo Graham, The Black Ships    

Black Ships (Numinous World, #1) by Jo Graham

I read this one because Jo Walton recommended it in her monthly column, Jo Walton's Reading List. It's very much the sort of book I like -- a survivor of the sack of Troy ends up on a ship with Aeneas's best friend, and they make their way to Rome. Lots of historical detail, extremely readable.

If you like Mary Renault, you'll like this. I can see the influence of Renault on every page in this. It's also LGBTQ friendly, in the Renault sort of way. (By which I mean there's a trans character, and lots of bisexual characters, and no one bats an eye, because that's just the norm in that society.)

Joe Ide, Wrecked, Hi Five

I swear I wasn't picking books by sorting for people named Jo/e.

These two are sequels to two books I read some time ago, IQ and Righteous. They concern the further adventures of Isaiah Quintabe (IQ) and his Watson, Dodson, as they struggle to survive and solve mysteries in South LA.

On one level they're mystery novels; on another, they're an examination of a specific place and time. These last two also deal with white nationalism, the hyper-wealthy, and the brutalization of black and poor citizens by our militarized police force, so they're interesting for that reason as well.

Definitely start with IQ, though, or you won't know what's going on. They aren't stand-alone novels, I mean.

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

I had read this in high school, and possibly re-read it in college. I remember not liking it much, despite the interesting details about the Brave New World. (I'm a sucker for world building.) I re-read it because there's an adaption coming soon, and I wanted to see if the novel was as bad as I remembered.

It's not (quite) as bad as I remembered. But it's not very good. This is very much an early 20th Century science fiction novel -- ideas over character, over plot, over style. It starts with a huge info dump: one character walks a bunch of other characters through a factory that produces citizens. They're created in test tubes and gestated in artificial wombs, during which they are "conditioned," which is to say some are deprived of oxygen at key stages and others inundated with various chemicals, all to create castes of human workers: Betas, Deltas, Gammas, and "semi-moron" Epsilons. Every embryo is "budded," to make eight to 96 identical "twins," since it's a conceit of this society that when everyone around you is exactly like you, the world runs more smoothly.

Then during childhood, these "twins" are conditioned through sleep-study -- that is, they have their morals and ethics implanted in them through repetition of key slogans (like ads) that they hear every night in their sleep.

Also everyone takes Soma, which is a drug that induces euphoria and also sleep.

However, there are also the alphas, who are not twinned, and who go to Eton instead of getting sleep-conditioned. They run the world, though they also adhere to the ethics of their lower caste siblings. 

All this is perfectly okay, and even interesting, despite how ludicrous the science looks now. The problem arises when Huxley had to create a story for this world he's built. Ugh.

The characters are all flat -- which might make sense in the Hatchery world, where no one is really an individual, and everyone spends half of their time stoned or having (stoned) sex. But we see the same flatness when two of the characters go to visit the "savages" in America. (These are people living without technology, for reasons that aren't made clear, and without Hatcheries.) Here, the main character, Bernard, meets John, a Noble Savage. He brings him back to the Hatchery world and we get the fish-out-of-water plot for awhile. 

Everyone is kind of stupid, though, including the Alphas, and including John (he's more priggish than noble), which makes it easy for Huxley to impose his plot on them, but also makes for a boring narrative.

This is more of an essay than a novel, in other words. There's some good stuff about capitalism and its need to make everyone into a consumer, and as I said the world-building is fun. But there's also more than a little racism, and some really unbelievable nonsense. The Noble Savage, for instance, has been made Noble because he finds a copy of Shakespeare's Collected Works which somehow -- even though he's had literally no education at all -- he's able to read and understand. 

Also everyone is unrelentingly heterosexual and cisgendered, which, come on. This was written in 1931. That's the same era in which Isherwood and Auden were writing their best works. Maybe we could believe everyone is (conditioned to act) cis and straight in the Hatchery world, but we also see only straight people among the "savages" as well.

The real flaw, though, is that we don't care about any of the characters, because they're not actually characters, so the narrative has almost no impact on us.

Worth read for the world Huxley shows us, I guess, but don't expect a novel.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Cat Picture

This is Jasper in her new toy house:


She and Junti will not share the toy house. It's plenty big enough for two cats, too.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Language, as a Concept

My kid, who is just finishing an 8-week intensive Latin class (they learn two semesters of Latin in eight weeks), taught entirely online, has something to share:

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Back into the Past

This is my great-great grandmother, Etta Hawkins.

Rosetta Rose “Etta” <I>Hawkins</I> Dewitt

And this is my great-grandmother, Bertha Skaggs:

Bertha <I>Bell</I> Skaggs

That's a picture of my grandmother, Mae Skaggs, on her knee. Bertha died at 32, when my grandmother was twelve. Mae was sent to Indiana to live with a relative. Family history says the relative owned a "roadhouse," which is local parlance meant a whorehouse. I don't know how much of that is true.

The husband there, Ditchler Skaggs, looks quite a bit like my father and my second brother. Mae looks a bit like me when I was young, especially the white-blond hair and the suspicious glare.

What happened was, I couldn't remember my grandmother's name. So I hunted for her husband's obituary, and fell into the internet.

The trail ends with Ella -- or at least that's as far back as I can discover.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Tucker Carlson 14

If you hang around the wrong corners of the internet (sometimes I can't stop myself) you may have seen people with "1488" or just "14" in their usernames.

What's this refer to, maybe you wondered.

"88" is used for "HH," since H is the 8th letter in the alphabet. It's a cutesy way of saying Heil Hitler.

"14" means the fourteen words of the white nationalist slogan: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."

And this, well


If you want to know why certain conservatives are now stanning Tucker, there you are.

Monday, July 06, 2020

What I'm Reading Now

Janice Hadlow, The Other Bennett Sister

The Other Bennet Sister
Add caption

I'm a sucker for books that are basically Jane Austen fan-fiction. That's what this one is -- Hadlow gives us the life of Mary Bennett, the least attractive of the five Bennett daughters. Jane Austen meant us to view Mary with contempt: she read books, but didn't understand them; her sententious comments are both grating and laughable. She's the female version of Mr. Collins, and I can't be the only reader to think that she is who Mr. Collins should have courted.
But of course he never would, because besides being smarmy, she's ugly. An ugly and stupid man (Mr. Collins) can still gain himself a wife, though Austen lets us know what a bad bargain this is for the wife; an ugly, smarmy woman is desired by no one.

Hadlow sets about revising this view of Mary. She's still unattractive and foolish as a young woman, but as her life progresses, and she gains experience, she also gains wisdom. All in all, I enjoyed this one. Hadlow writes a very Austen-ite prose, and visiting the familiar landscapes and characters was a lot of fun.

Georgette Heyer, The Foundling

This is an uneven work, at best. But interesting in what it's trying to do! We've got a very odd hero, Gilly Lord Sale, who gets migraines and is short and mild -- he spends the first quarter of the book letting everyone push him around, because he doesn't want to start arguments. The book is more or less about him learning to assert himself, which, okay. 

The book also has two wonderful teenagers, one a fifteen year old boy with no brakes and one a fifteen year old girl (the foundling of the title) who is delightfully stupid. (Hen-witted, another character calls her.) Usually I hate stories about stupid people doing stupid things, but Heyer makes this one work.

On the other hand -- we have kidnappings and blackmail and murder plots and other melodramatic plot elements, which Heyer doesn't (quite) manage to pull off.

It's got some nice bits, but read only if you're a Heyer completest.

Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

This is a re-read, but it's such a good book. A scientist talks about her life and how she became a scientist, with a lot of detail about plants, and especially trees, and doing science with plants and trees. Extremely readable, brilliant writing.

Stephen King, The Stand

Also a re-read. It's a pandemic book, and one I hadn't read it in years -- maybe 20 years? Maybe longer.

Some parts are interesting, but argh, the sexism and the (unconscious) racism and the fat-phobia and the anti-intellectualism and

It has all the faults of a book written in the 1970s by someone who has never thought deeply about his own writing or anything else much.

Very readable, and as I said, some parts -- especially the bits during the plague and after Our Heroes set out for Vegas -- are still pretty good.

Some parts are really disgusting, however. King loves to gross people out. I skimmed past those.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Anxiety Dreams

I had that dream again -- it's always a different dream, but the basic conceit is the same. I need to get somewhere, urgently, but when I open a door to get there, there's another door behind the door (like in that cartoon) and another behind that one, and so on.

Or I'm climbing stairs, except they keep running out before I reach the place I'm trying to get to.

Or (last night) I have to take elevators, but they won't stop on my floor; or they don't go to the floor I need to reach; or the elevator doors open, but there's no elevator, or it's stalled halfway between floors. Or I finally reach the right floor, but the person who needs to sign off on my paperwork is gone, and no one know when he'll be back.

I mean, the symbolism is obvious; but they're still stressful dreams.

Friday, July 03, 2020


Two lovely reviews of Retellings of the Inland Seas have just come out.

Paul Weimer at Nerds of a Feather

Nancy Jane Moore at Treehouse Feathers

The anthology is available now!

Thursday, July 02, 2020


As all y'all know, my sabbatical for Fall 2020 was granted. This means I don't have to return to campus until January 2021.

Also Dr. Skull is currently unemployed, due to the virus. (Normally he'd be teaching at the Governor's School right now.)

And the kid is back up the hill, taking a summer class.

So I have absolutely nothing to do, day after day after day. The last time I had this much leisure, I was ten years old.

8:30: I get up, drink coffee, do the NYTimes Crossword puzzle.

9:00 until about 2:00: I write. Just now I am working on a vampire novella (which is SO not my lane) and finishing the revisions of the Velocity Sequel.

2:00: Eat lunch while reading something.

2:30: Consider the housework. Usually laundry needs doing, or the floor has to be swept. Today I made a grocery run. Yesterday I picked up books at the library and did laundry.

4:00-8:00: I read.

8:00 If it's not too hot, I take the dog for a walk. Lately it is far too hot. And next week the highs are going to be in the 100s, with 70-80% humidity.

9:00-Midnight: More reading, though occasionally I watch a movie.

Midnight or so: Bed

These days I remember my Catullus:

Ōtium, Catulle, tibī molestum est: ōtiō exsultās nimiumque gestīs. Ōtium et rēgēs prius et beātās perdidit urbēs.

Leisure, Catullus, it destroys you; with leisure, you're just too hyper..

In the fall, once things cool down, I can take more and longer walks. That will help.

Little Catulli

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

When the Light at the End of the Tunnel

Image may contain: one or more people, text that says "Look, a shooting star Iwish 2020 would get a little better wait, that's not a shooting star"

The GOP Solution

The Gop solution to the collapsing economy is exactly what it always is: give more money to rich people.

Here at my university, we're collecting groceries to feed our students. The GOP proposes to give a $4000 tax credit to any American who takes a vacation.

That's $4000 per person. So $8000 for a couple. Plus $500 each for their kids.

Notice it's a tax credit.

So who does this benefit? Well, it benefits those who have $8000 to spend on a goddamn vacation. As for the rest of us, hey, the lines at the food pantries are down to a couple miles each, I hear.

Charlie Middleton - Accidental Whistleblower - Various Companies ...