Monday, August 30, 2021

Ida and my Family II

 They came through without any flooding or damage. No power, which will be unpleasant in New Orleans at the end of August, but otherwise fine. 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Ida and my Family

 One of my brothers and his family, as well as my father, are all in New Orleans right now. They couldn't really evacuate -- my father, as all y'all know, has dementia and does not travel well, and my brother's family has four large dogs.

They're all in places that should be all right -- not in areas that usually flood, I mean -- but I am worrying anyway. The satellite pictures of Ida are not comforting.

My brother is updating his status frequently on FB. They have lost power at this point but still have cell services. Any magic or mojo any of you have would be appreciated.

Update: I've talked with my father, who is anxious and not at all sure what is going on. "We're having a really big storm," he tells me. "This is a big storm."

"Right, it's a hurricane. You're in a hurricane."

"What? What's happening?"

"It's a hurricane -- Hurricane Ida. You'll be okay."

"I don't know what's happening. I'm going downstairs to look. Can I call you back?"

"Yes, call me back."


"Call me back."

"Okay. Okay. This is a bad storm."

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Teaching Octavia Butler

My chair just asked if I wanted to teach Major Authors: Octavia Butler in the spring.

You could hear my shrieks of joy from space.

Bonus information: There's a landing site on Mars named after her.

Review of Water Horse is live at Strange Horizons

My review of Melissa Scott's new novel Water Horse is now live at Strange Horizons.

Spoilers: I really liked it.

Monday, August 23, 2021

A Gift from a Student Who Knows Me Too Well

 She says I can use it for grading essays:

Summer's Lease

It was just so hot today -- 98 degrees at six p.m. when I finally finished teaching, oppressive humidity, scorching sun. Very unpleasant, but worse than that just exhausting. Being so hot, with such thick air, and such painful sunlight, wears me to the bone.

I grew up in New Orleans, which is likewise hot and humid. I remember running (literally running, as fast as I could go) down the streets of my neighborhood, and climbing trees, and playing kickball and tag and I don't remember even feeling the heat. Well, I remember the sidewalk being so hot it burned my feet (we all went barefoot all the time then) but other than that....

Do kids just have some magic feature of their metabolism which makes them impervious to heat?

First Day of Classes

 It's day one of the fall semester here and the predicted temperature is going to reach 100 degrees.

This usually wouldn't matter, but I have a class on the other end of the campus that starts at 10:00. UGH.

I finished watching The Chair last night -- it's a little depressing, but not at all "woke." The opposite, in fact -- the main plotline concerns how a Twitter mob ruins a professor's life (with a little help from the professor) and the way the admin rolls over to that mob.

What I think my FB critic meant by that is that it has people of color as main characters. It doesn't matter what the plotline is, or what happens in the show: if brown people, and women, are main characters, instead of just gazing adoringly at white men, then the show must, de facto, be woke. At least to white conservative Trump cultists.

Trump did get boo'd for advising his followers to get vaccinated yesterday. So apparently he can shoot a man on 5th Avenue, sexually assault women, and try to overturn the government, but contradicting militant ignorance about medical matters is RIGHT OUT.

Sunday, August 22, 2021


 I laughed too hard at this one:

Saturday, August 21, 2021

What I'm Reading Now in French

 I've been doing French on Duolingo for 489 straight days now and I can read the French bits in English novels (which is nice). Next goal: reading actual French novels.

I'm starting with this one, which I got from Thriftbooks. 

If you haven't discovered Thriftbooks yet, highly recommend: they have almost everything I'm looking for, and what they don't have they will let you add to your wishlist, and tell you when it comes in. Mostly you can get what you need for less than five dollars; occasional rare items can be very expensive, but I just don't buy those.

Also, their shipping is only a dollar per book, or absolutely free if you buy more than ten dollars worth at a time. I save up books (they'll hold them in your basket) until I have enough to get free shipping, and then buy them. Oh! And once you buy enough books, you get a free book! I think it's like $50 worth of books, though I'll admit I haven't really kept track of that part.

Anyway, I am pleased to find that I can read Le Petit Nicolas, which is a children's book, quite easily.

"Woke Garbage"

 I watched a couple episodes of The Chair on Netflix last night after someone on FB called it "woke garbage."

It's not the best TV I've ever seen -- Sandra Oh has just been named the chair of the English department in a small eastern college somewhere, where enrollment is falling and most of the faculty are white guys well over the age of sixty. It's her job to thin out the faculty, and her dean suggests she start with the oldest (two white guys and a white woman, all apparently in their late 70s) and the highest paid. But these faculty were her mentors, and at least one is a close friend, and so she's reluctant.

There's also a young black professor, and a fifty-year-old white guy professor whose wife has just died and who, though a brilliant teacher and scholar, is in a tailspin over her loss. At the end of episode two (which is where I stopped) he runs into trouble online after he (ironically) gives a Nazi salute in class and someone takes a video of it which goes viral.

That's it, that's the entire show. I watched it, frowning, looking for the "wokeness" which made it "garbage." There are no LGBT people (highly unlikely, at a university in the East); there are office politics but no other politics; there is no mention of immigration or global warming, or the pandemic;there are no enforced seminars to make people recognize that black people are people too....

Oh, wait. There it is. The show simply assumes that black people and Asian people and women are people. The show has an Asian person as its main character. Not only that, but she's a woman. And the show has two other women -- one of them black -- as professors in a university. There's the "woke garbage" my FB critic was complaining about.

It's honestly true. White conservatives think anything that's not about white men, entirely about white men, with women only as minor characters in the background, is liberal propaganda. That's the world they live in. Which explains a lot, when you think about it.

Anyway, so far as recommending it goes, it held my interest, and it's mostly realistic (unlike the usual fictional depictions of university life we get in movies and TV). The professors are clearly paid an unlikely amount (what English professor makes over $100,000 a year?) but this may be because they're at a famous (if fictional) private university? I probably won't keep watching, what with the semester starting up, but if you like campus fiction and Sandra Oh, this might be for you. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Jasper and me


Jasper very gently clawing my shoulder to make me pet her:

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Virtual meetings

 My back-to-school meetings are all virtual this year. I'm highly in favor of this since (a) this means I can attend without putting on shoes or leaving the house and (2) I can crochet relentlessly during the meeting.

Also less of a chance of picking up the Delta variant, which is good, I guess.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Adventures in Arkansas

 Don't worry, my kid made it home okay.

They just missed the exit in the storm. Do that, and you hit Dora, Oklahoma in about six minutes.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Please less heat


Hot Take

 "Marijuana is a slur for cannibis" -- yeah, okay, sweetie.

(Browsing her timeline -- oh, of course she's a TERF. And an anti-vaxxer.  God help us.)

Thursday, August 12, 2021

August in Arkansas

 It's so hot here. Near a 100 every day this week, with lows of 79 or 80, at four in the morning. Our air conditioner keeps the house near 80 during the day; it's two in the morning before I'm cool enough to sleep. God, I hate summer.

It's also too hot to exercise unless I wake up at six or wait until sunset (at 8:20, these days). Even then it's too hot to take the little dog out. I have to walk by myself. Poor little dog misses his walks.

Only six more weeks until I can start reasonably expecting fall to start, though. "Then this winter you'll be wishing for summer," Dr. Skull predicated. "You'll be wishing it was hot."

"You must be thinking of your other wife," I said, because I have never once wished for summer. Or heat.

My father seems to be doing a little better. He's gained twenty pounds -- he was down to 137 after my mother's death, which given he's six foot one and heavy boned was way too thin. Every time I talk to him, he weighs himself while I'm on the phone and reports his weight. This past Monday, he was up to 158.3.

"Food must be good there," I said.

"Oh, well, you know," he said. "There's plenty of it, at least."

It's being made to eat three times a day that's doing it, I suspect. Before, he ate a few bananas for breakfast, and drank skim milk, and then had salmon or something for dinner. This while running ten or fifteen miles a day.

I don't think he's running as much anymore either. My brothers have managed to convince him to stop driving, which means someone has to drive him anywhere he wants to go, so he can't go run on the levee as often, or go to his swim club as often either.

Every time I talk to him, he tells me how lonely he is, and how much he misses my mother. But he does seem to be making friends there, among the other "inmates," as he puts it.

Monday, August 09, 2021

Win a copy of In the Deep!

 Do you want to read my new book early? You know you do!

Enter here to win a free copy of In the Deep, the sequel to Fault Lines. For the low, low price of saying yes, please, you can be entered to win!

Velocity Wrachant and the crew of the Susan Calvin have been working in Pirian Space for three years, doing adjunct work for the Pirian fleet. When they are offered a mission in Republic Space, they know this is their chance to be taken in as full members of the fleet. And the job looks safe enough: they are to rescue some Pirian fleet members out of contract labor, while also learning what they can about local insurgencies.

More at the site!

Sunday, August 08, 2021

What I'm Reading: D. E. Stevenson

I recently began reading all the D. E. Stevenson in our library. Previously, I'd read her Mrs. Tim books, and liked them well enough. I assumed the rest were romance novels, since our library has them catalogued as such, and left them alone. Outside of Jane Austen, I mostly don't like romance novels.

But a few years ago, as loyal readers recall, I began reading Georgette Heyer, and found her novels entrancing, despite being romance novels; and also I'm having trouble with regular-sized print again (this happens every few years, as my eyesight steadily degrades), so I was rummaging in my library's miniscule Large Print section. I came across a row of Stevenson, and checked one out -- Winter and Rough Weather, which turned out to be the last book in a trilogy. 

Since then I've been reading all of them owned by my library, which is only about half of the Stevenson books published. I thought I might pick some of the others up over on Thriftbooks, but while the site does have some of those not in my library, they're all priced out of my range -- like fifty dollars for a book. Ai.

The novels I've read so far remind me a great deal of Angela Thirkell's novels, in that they give close looks at a narrow segment of English society from the 1930s through the 1970s. Stevenson isn't as mean-spirited as Thirkell can be, though. She has occasional satirical turns, but these are almost always aimed up, rather than down -- that is, where Thirkell mocked and satirized the lower classes and the merchant classes (the new rich), Stevenson mainly mocks the upper classes: a wealthy lord who refuses to hear anything anyone says, a Lady who neglects her own children to care for the children of the poor, that sort of thing.

But even this sort of satire happens rarely. Mainly her novels are about life in Scottish villages and in the Scottish countryside. The Winter and Rough Weather trilogy, which starts with Vittoria Cottage, is about the entangled life of four sisters, now in their mid to late thirties, and all their families, and the families around them. It's also about living in England after WWII -- the books were published in 1949, 1950, and 1951.

In 1936, she wrote a science fiction novel (sort of) called The Empty World. It's set in her future -- the future from the perspective of 1936 -- and is charming to read for just that reason, to see what at least one writer thought the world of about 1950 might look like. (She got almost everything wrong.) The plot concerns a comet sweeping by the world and catching the world in its tail. This causes an electrical field which destroys everything with "life force," tearing apart the electricity in the bodies of everything from elephants to ants, including humans, and reducing them to handfuls of dust. (This is why I say it's only "sort of" science fiction: Stevenson clearly knows almost nothng about actual science.)

Only two groups of people survive this comet: one is on an "airline carrier" and happens to be above the comet's tail (what? don't ask me) and so they survive, by chance; the other is a carefully selected group of about fifty people who a mad scientist (the only one who understands what the comet means) takes up in giant dirgible/air balloons, along with certainly useful animals and insects. Like Noah's Ark, except with eugenics. 

This gives an interesting look at the world of 1936, when eugenics was a good idea, and television only a vague notion on the horizon; and when airplanes existed, but clearly no one flew passengers across the Atlantic. The opening scenes, in which our historical novelist is returning from a tour of America back to London (they end up in Scotland), take us aboard an "airliner," which is like a little ocean liner, but on a giant plane. It has private cabins, and two separate dining salons: one for the first class passengers, and the other for their servants. (The pilots eat first class, the engineers with the servants.) Also there are "televisors," which apparently beam live pictures non-stop, following a famous actress around and broadcasting the minutia of her daily life to her eager viewers. Like twitter, but with pictures.

This is definitely NOT Stevenson's best book, and I would not start here. Start with Amberwell, published in 1955. This is the story of landed gentry and their land, or specifically their estate, Amberwell. It focuses on five children in one generation: their lives from about 1930 to just after WWII -- that period in England when everything changed, in other words.

She does an excellent job with bringing characters to life, and not just upper class characters: her servants and working class characters are excellent.

I've still got plenty of Stevenson to read just in my public library; I've also lately discovered our library has Kanopy, which gives me access to heaps of e-books, and many of Stevenson's books which our library does not have in print I can get through Kanopy. So this should keep me occupied for a week or two.

Content Warning: Casual racism, though almost always by characters we are not supposed to admire; casual imperialism; and Stevenson is a conservative, though the referrents for that word in Scotland in 1950 bear no resemblence to what we mean by "conservative" in the USA in 2021. Less "Yay bigotry!" and more pro-church, God, and Duty.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

I Did the Things

 I had, literally, two things I had to get done this week.

(1) I had to submit a form so that I could keep getting my 9-month salary distributed over 12 months; and

(2) I had to submit several forms so that the kid could get his tuition waiver for his last semester of college.

Both had to be printed out and submitted hardcopy. However, it was literally ten minutes work.

Guess how long I spent whining and sulking and not doing it? Yeah, they went in this morning.

UGH. I just hate having anything planned. All I want is one day after the next with nothing planned. Why can't I have that?

Monday, August 02, 2021



 Is this true?

Please tell me it's not true. Please tell me even Fox News viewers aren't this gullible.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

What I'm Reading Now

Laurie Frankel, One, Two, Three 

Frankel is one of my favorite writers who has written fewer than five books. (This is a hint that I would like her to write more.) She wrote This is How it Always Is, which is a great book; this one, One, Two, Three, is also very good, though maybe not quite as excellent. Here, we have a set of triplets growing up in a doomed town, one which a chemical company contaminated nearly 20 years in the past, killing off huge swaths of the population and leaving many of those who remain broken.

It's told from the point of view of the three sisters, one of whom is disabled by the chemical pollutants, one of whom is on the spectrum, and one of who is as normal as anyone can be in such an environment. Among other things, this is about how unchecked and unfettered capitalism destroys (is destroying) the world. 

The ending is a bit weak, but up until then, this is an excellent book.

Rainbow Rowell, Any Way the Wind Blows 

Rowell wrote Fangirl, which is one of my favorite books about a young adult, Cath, in her first year of college. The girl also writes fan fiction, and after Fangirl was a big hit, Rowell wrote the fan-fic books that Cath was writing. This is the third in that trilogy. They're obviously Harry Potter fan-fic, but they're Harry Potter without the class-apologism, the misogyny, and the bigotry. 

The first two are Carry On and Wayward Son. These aren't serious literature, but they're fun. Like most fan-fic, they focus on relationships and drama rather than plot. And Rowell can write. If you're looking for well-written fun, these are your books.

Benjamin Rosenbaum, The Unraveling

I'm doing an actual review of this one, for Strange Horizons, so I won't say too much about this here, except that this one is indeed serious literature, and also a lot of fun. It's science fiction, about a far, far future planet rebuilt in the human diaspora. The worldbuilding is lovely, complex and complicated and delightful; the characters likewise. Very much worth reading. I read it straight through one day, and then immediately re-read it the next day. This book should win awards, and I hope it does.

John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

I re-read this one every three or four years. Among other things, it's a nice look at 1960 America. Steinbeck is also extremely readable, and the dog is great. The most interesting part, though, is how little America has changed since 1960. Everything everyone is losing their shit over today -- divisive politics, racism, white supremacists having tantrums -- Steinbeck encounters and discusses all of it. There's no mention of global climate change, but he does get depressed by the destruction of his home stretch in California, and the resultant droughts there.