Friday, April 30, 2021

All over but the Grading

I taught my last classes yesterday; today I spent writing and grading portfolios submitted by various students. About 1/3 of my students stopped coming or doing any work sometime in March. (I haven't done an actual count.) This will give me less to grade, clearly, but I'm still bummed about it.

I reached out, repeatedly, to students who weren't coming to class or doing the work. Those who responded told me about their workloads, or illnesses in their family (sometimes Covid, sometimes other illnesses), or problems with lost jobs which made it difficult for them to drive to campus/keep their laptops and internets working. Several are also suffering from depression, which, no shock there.

I'm not sure what the solution is. I offered to work with them, showed them the work they needed to do to at least pass the class, and sent follow-ups. Only a few of them got back on track. 

We're going back to f2f in the fall. Here's hoping that will help.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021


 I have suffered from insomnia all my life -- one of my earliest memories is wandering around my house at well past midnight, getting snacks from the refrigerator in the dark kitchen and playing with my toys in the light from the streetlight, as it shone through the living room window. 

I couldn't read yet, so I was probably four years old. One reason I'm a writer, I suspect, is because I got through those long nights by making up stories to tell to myself.

Anyway. For awhile I managed to control the insomnia with melatonin. But now it's ba-a-ck, but in a weird new form: I fall asleep, usually before one a.m., but then I just skim the surface of sleep, waking every ten or twenty minutes, never falling into deep sleep.

A benefit (I guess) of sleeping this way is I can remember all my dreams. How useful that would be if I were in therapy now!

My dreams are very bloody, but also very cheerful. Make of that what you will.

I plan to call my physician and see if she will give me some sleep drugs.

Monday, April 26, 2021

One More Week

 We're in the last week of classes now. 

It was a long semester. I can honestly say that I hate teaching online -- although one benefit was the discovery that doing "conferences" via Google Classroom was much more effective.

I used to hold one-on-one conferences with the students over every paper. This took about two weeks, and was exhausting, but was fairly effective in improving their papers. It also let me teach them how revision* works. 

This semester, since I couldn't meet with students one-on-one, I had them submit their papers to Google Classroom, and then I read them and sent feedback. Then they resubmitted. Then I sent feedback again. And so on.

This took much less time, and also seems to have been more effective at getting students to take direction. I suspect that some of them had trouble hearing what they were being told in person. Also, I can go into more detail on GC, because of its comment functions.

Anyway, that was useful information. 

I also taught Intro to Creative Writing for the first time in about a decade. It was more fun than I expected. I enjoyed teaching poetry writing, which -- as it turns out -- I know more about that I suspected.

Still, I am glad this semester is ending, and glad (if a little worried) to not have summer classes. I need a break.

*Some people will tell you they don't need to revise their writing, and some percentage of those people are actually correct. But those people I would excuse from conferences, and the rest were very much helped by having feedback and close-readings of their texts.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Sunny Sunday

 Cat on the porch:

It's been rainy and cold here all week, but today we have sunshine. The cats are pleased.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

A Tale of Two Bretts


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

ETA AGAIN: And this:

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Review of The Relentless Moon

 My review of The Relentless Moon, by Mary Robinette Kowal, is live at Strange Horizons.

Spoilers: I liked it, with some quibbles.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021


 Now I have a swarm of bees in my yard (hanging in the tree-that-might-be-a-Japanese-Cherry-tree). 

That's plague, screeching owls, and now swarms of bees. Hail and cattle disease, coming right up.

I asked the internet, which gives me conflicting advice. Most say to leave the bees alone for a little while and see if they leave -- they're looking for a new home, and will probably go find one if I don't bother them.

Others say they will die if it freezes, which...the low tonight is supposed to be 30 degrees. (In April! In Arkansas!)

There's a hive in one of the other trees, and I suspect this swarm came from there. I'm going to call the county extension office if the swarm is still there when I get home today. (That's the advice most of the internet gave me.)

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Screeching Owl

 A barn owl is living in one of the trees in my yard -- or maybe two owls.

Their screams are pretty terrifying. The first time one screamed, I thought, holy shit, is that an alien being tortured?

Like that, only really fucking LOUD.

April in Arkansas

 It's winter here again -- a frost warning for tomorrow night. (I am worried about my tomato plants.)

Mind you, I am enjoying the unseasonably cool weather. Usually by this time we are hard into summer and I am spending $$$ on air conditioning. Yesterday I had to put on the heat.

We filed our taxes. Only owed the state $58 dollars, and might get something back from the Feds -- which is better than a few years ago, when we owed them money.

Meanwhile our Biden buck finally arrived. I am saving them up against this summer, when I have no classes and also the new system used by the university is apparently going to fuck up my pay. 

They "can't" do a 12-month pay schedule anymore. So either I'm not getting paid this summer at all, or I'm getting 3 paychecks in June and then nothing until a half-check in August. Then next year, it's a 9-month pay schedule, though apparently they're going to set up some scheme by which we can "opt" to save 25% of each paycheck, and then...get all of that in June?

Also they'll be taking our part of the health insurance costs out in 9 lumps into of in 12 lumps.

Theoretically, it will be the same amount of money, just distributed weirdly. I am waiting to see what happens de facto. And hoarding cash, just in case.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

My Father

 It's been nearly three months since my mother died, back at the end of January. 

In the weeks after her death, my brothers and SILs (who since I live six hundred miles away had to deal with everything) learned just how serious my father's memory problems had become. Apparently my mother had been covering for him for years.

Though in fairness, I think he has deteriorated a lot in the past year. It was during this past year that my mother began mentioning to me how much trouble he was having, and asking me -- after they visited -- if I noticed how different he was. (I did.)

In any case, my SIL and nephew took him to a neurologist, and he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. We've got him in an assisted living facility now, which luckily his combined pensions and Social Security will pay for. He's physically very healthy, but he can't remember things -- he still has trouble remembering that my mother is dead.

This is all very depressing, I have to say. My father was a brilliant man -- his intelligence, his mind, was his strength. Now he can't remember how to charge his phone.


Marie Howe


We stop at the dry cleaners and the grocery store   
and the gas station and the green market and   
Hurry up honey, I say, hurry,   
as she runs along two or three steps behind me   
her blue jacket unzipped and her socks rolled down.   

Where do I want her to hurry to? To her grave?   
To mine? Where one day she might stand all grown?   

Today, when all the errands are finally done, I say to her,   
Honey I'm sorry I keep saying Hurry—   
you walk ahead of me. You be the mother.   

And, Hurry up, she says, over her shoulder, looking    
back at me, laughing. Hurry up now darling, she says,   
hurry, hurry, taking the house keys from my hands.


Cold Spring

 We're having an abnormally cool spring here this year, which I am all in favor of -- usually by this time, we're seeing temperatures in the 80s and 90s. And we did hit 80 here last week. But mostly we're having mid-sixties, and lows in the 40s and 50s at night.

It's very nice. More of this, please!

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Re the Hate Bill

 Conservative bigots are so concerned* about damage being done to children, except of course when it is damage they approve of. See this thread here, and this one here, but I'm sure all y'all can fill in your own blanks**. 

*Spoilers: They are not actually concerned about the lives of trans kids. They're deeply pleased at the harm they are doing to trans people, and trans kids in particular. Their faux pretense of concern hides giggling glee at being able to hurt trans people and especially trans kids. That's how bigots work. That's what they are.

**For example, forcing 12 year old rape victims to continue their pregnancies, despite the damage that will do to their bodies; allowing young girls to take such things as ballet, despite the risk of harm that does to their bodies; letting children of 17 and 18 enlist in the armed forces in order to pay for college -- I can go on.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

On the Other Hand

Duolingo is beta-testing Yiddish on its platform.

And my writing students are writing the best Bredlik poems.

And my kid does amazing art:

So, you know, not everything is terrible.

Bigots Surging

 As most of you probably already know, our state legislature overturned our governor's veto on the hate bill. This is all virtue signaling -- the ACLU is already planning to challenge this "law," and will certainly win handily, given that the bill clearly discriminates against one class of people. 

That is to say, for example, we can give puberty blockers to cis kids, and parents of cis kids can get them whatever therapy and plastic surgery they desire; it's only trans kids who can't, and parents of trans kids who are forbidden by the state from seeking medical and psychological help; and doctors are only forbidden by the state from providing needed medical care to trans kids.

The GOP and other bigots are showing their true colors here, of course. No government overreach, they howl -- unless that overreach allows them to hurt the people they hate. Then it's fine.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, their legislature is voting to make it a crime for a medical professional to do anything that allows a trans kid to "present themselves" as their actual gender. And it will force teachers to report any kid who seems "gender non-conforming." 

This is utterly sickening. The fact that these laws can't stand does not erase the fact that citizens of my country think such vile bigotry is just dandy.

Ten years from now, every single one of these hateful vipers will be claiming they "have no problem" with trans people, and that "of course" trans people should have equal rights, and that "of course" no one sane thinks otherwise. 

None of us are going to forget, though. I promise you that.

ETA: More here

Monday, April 05, 2021

Hutchinson Comes Through

Our governor vetoed the hate bill.

Arkansas’ governor has vetoed legislation that would have made his state the first to ban gender confirming treatments for transgender youth. 

So that's some good news!

Cover Reveal!

 Aw, look! It's the cover for my new book:

Coming in September, y'all!

More here.

Come the Fall

 We've just found out that our university is not just going totally f2f in the fall, but that we're no longer going to be doing the alt.hybrid thing.

(The alt.hybrid thing is when you teach the class half online and half f2f -- so like half the class comes on Tuesday, and half on Thursday, and most of the work is done online.)

I'm extremely pleased. True, the part where I get to do most of my work squirreled away in my house like the introvert I am was very nice. But on the other hand, teaching this way (mostly) does not work. Students are less engaged and less interested, and about half of mine have checked out entirely -- they don't come to class even on the days they're scheduled to, and they have quit doing any of the work.

Since much of the work is online, some of them seem to think they can just put off doing the work until the last few weeks of class, and then "catch up." But that's going to be impossible.

One good thing that may come out of this: maybe university administrators will stop claiming that online teaching is the future of the university. Because, bah.

Saturday, April 03, 2021


 My yard is filled with violets:

Also these flowers:

Also bees, though I didn't get a picture of those.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Being a Good Parent to Your Trans Kid

 This thread is pretty good:

Starts here: