Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Doing 20 to Life in The Fort

I turned in Part I of my annual evaluation today. This is the part where I tell the school what I plan to accomplish in the upcoming year, so it has to do with what I'll be writing and teaching, and the committees I'm on -- standard stuff.

But one blank to fill in is how many years you have been at this institution. I have been nineteen years at this university.


People have done less time for murder.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

What I'm Reading Now

 I'm working on my second guest review for Asimov's, so much of my reading is directed toward that. But here are some works I'm reading just for fun.

Mona Clee, Branch Point

This is a SF book published in the mid-90s. It's got both AU and time travel, so it's hitting my buttons. The initial situation has Kennedy swerving in the wrong direction during the Cuban Missile Crisis, touching off a nuclear war which ends up destroying Earth's population and ecosystem, all except for a handful of people who survive in a bunker in northern California. These people too are doomed, so they spend most of a century developing a time-travel device, which can only be used four times. They send their three best young people, two women and a man, back in 1962 to warn Kennedy. They can't come back, so they're supposed to monitor world events and fix things if another nuclear war ever happens. In the event, they have to stop three more nuclear apocalypses. The book reaches through 2019, which means we get a look at what someone in 1995 thought the early 21st century would be like, always fun. Clee predicted the first black US president, for one thing, but she's waaaay off.

This is probably more interesting to people who lived through the end of the 20th Century, since there's a lot of recent history that gets discussed and played with. Several times, Clee spends pages and pages discussing the history of this era of that one. And there are some unlikely as well as some queasy moments, as James Nicoll notes in his review.  Still, I enjoyed this one enough that I'm planning on reading her other book -- apparently she only wrote two.

Joe Haldeman, Forever Peace

Another 1990s book. I think this is the only Haldeman novel I have never read. It's supposed to be one of his best, along with Forever War, but I didn't like it all that much. It's not a bad book, mind you. Like Forever War, Haldeman's experiences in Vietnam inform both plot and theme. So we get a lot of pretty horrific violence, all being excused by those committing it because, after all, this is war, and the enemy is evil. 

This is not Haldeman's point of view -- he's showing us how it works, and how people come to fervently believe the truth of it. I remember being told as a child that it was okay to shoot small Vietnamese children, since (after all!) those (slur deleted) used them to kill American soldiers. I also remember adults in my neighborhood explaining that "nuking" Vietnam (and then later Iran) would be a good thing, since "those people" were commies who killed Americans.

Anyway, in this novel, "soldierboys" are used to fight "terrorists" in Central America. Soldierboys are drone-like machines, powered through link to actual soldiers, lying in a "cage" thousands of miles away. These soldierboys are almost indestructible, so the enemy (that being anyone who lives in Central America, including small children) doesn't have a chance. There are hints that the war is being continually ramped up because of a religious sect in the US, the Enders, who want to bring about Armageddon; and more hints that it is being ramped up because of profits being made by arms manufacturers; and more hints that the war continues because the best way to create enemy terrorists is to continually destroy their families and communities in drone strikes.

The tech people have a fix, and through the last half of the book we watch a race between the Enders and the scientists -- one wanting to create endless peace, the other to destroy the planet. I'm not sure why I felt lukewarm about this one. The endless gore and violence, maybe. It needed to be there, but I'm just exhausted by it. 

Interesting point: Apparently one of the controversial details about this book when it was first published in 1997 is that some of the soldiers are women. 

Anne Bernays, Growing up Rich

This is a re-read, which I enjoy mainly for the look it gives us of life in 1940s New York / Brooklynn. An obscenely wealthy rich girl, Sally, who is also neglected and unloved by her skinny beautiful mother (Sally is slightly plump), loses her parents in a plain crash and has to go live with a (just slightly less wealthy) friend of her stepfather's. So we get to look at live among the haut in New York, and then life among the upper-middle-class in Brooklynn. The details and the writing are what make this enjoyable. The plot is unsurprising -- the rich girl learns to like life among the warm and loving (slightly less rich) middle class. Also she loses weight.

Bernays wrote some other books, none of which I have ever read, but I see my library has one. I might give it a try.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Being Thankful in America

 According to a NYTimes editorial, liberals can't be happy because we can't convince ourselves that inequality and injustice are super cool, and Jesus is real.

Also, we need to be married and have babies and be conservatives. If we could just do that....

I'm always suspicious of research that depends on self-reporting, and even more so in this case, since I've been living among Evangelicals for the past 20 years. I know that group. When my kid was in school, one of his friends (a little girl) was punished if she ever said she was unhappy, or if she ever even looked unhappy. Being unhappy was a sin, see, because Jesus.

Anyway, if "happiness" means I have to convince myself that up is down and slavery is freedom, then yeah, I'll take being a bit moody now and then.

Meanwhile, my kid and his roommates and Uncle Charger are all coming for the big dinner today. We're combining Thanksgiving and Hanukah, since Hanukah is very badly placed in this year's calendar.

On the menu:

  • Butternut squash soup
  • Turkey
  • green bean casserole
  • Sweet potato casserole 
  • mac n cheese
  • cranberry sauce
  • rolls 
  • pumpkin pie

Everything except the sweet potato casserole is made from scratch by Dr. Skull. I do the sweet potatoes. Cum marshmallows, of course! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Psyche of a Writer

 Me (sitting down after folding a load of laundry and glancing at the clock on my laptop): Holy hell it's almost 1:30 and I haven't done a thing.

(I have spent the morning doing laundry and dishes, sweeping, grading student papers, and making a run to the grocery, but apparently only writing novels counts as actual work in my stubby little lizard brain.)

Monday, November 22, 2021

Movies in the Movie Theater

I haven't been to the movies since the early days of the pandemic -- the last movie we saw in the theater was Little Women.

Now the theaters are open again, but all the local theaters are showing are (1) superhero movies (2) horror movies or (3) Christian movies. 

Also kid movies. I could go see Clifford the Big Red Dog in three different theaters.

I guess I'll keep watching Netflix for a while. 

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Today's Young Conservatives

This is the end result of thirty years of conservatives working to discredit and destroy the public school system. They have taught their children that public school teachers are beneath contempt. Note the racism also.

When children grow up in a household and community in which their parents are constantly shit-talking teachers, as well as women and black people, this is the result.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Deep inside the Cave

Watching today's conservatives (really reactionaries/fascists) talk about what progressives and liberals are like is just so strange.

It's not so much that they're deep in Plato's cave, explaining earnestly to each other what the shadows on the wall mean and how those shadows really are reality. It's that they're so so far down in the cave they can't even see the shadows. They're sitting huddled together in the dark, around a fire they have made by rubbing the sticks of their ignorance together, creating shadows by making shapes with their fingers, and declaring those shadows to be the only reality.

And then having screaming hysterics when one of their number catches a glimpse of the shadows further up in the cave -- Plato's shadows -- and mentions that maybe they should climb up a little out of the darkness, see if there's anything to those shadows.

This post brought to you by (1) Rod Dreher's reaction to David Brooks' editorial in the NYTimes and (b) this really, really, really bizarre post.

See also this

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

In case you were wondering

 Have a watch here

It's ten minutes long, a video outlining the work done by Jason Stanley, a philosophy professor at Yale who studies fascism. Every tactic he notes is a tactic currently in use by the American Right. See Rod Dreher's blog, for instance, which does every one of these things, over and over.

It's a little worrisome.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Doing a Re-Read

Since I ran short of new books (I'm still waiting for my library to buy some more -- they've been buying a lot of kids books lately, which I am all for, but...) I began re-reading John Barnes' Century Next Door series. 

It's what it says on the tin, a series of four books set on a near-future alt.history Earth, one in which everything goes to hell when a series of biological attacks lead to an all-out global war that lasts most of a century and ends with the Earth's ecosystem and its people all but destroyed.

There are SF elements -- mainly the bioweapons and something called "memes," which are AI that can run on biological parallel processors, which is to say people's brains -- but the books mainly deal with the aftermath, what happens during a giant climate-and-world catastrophe. Including pandemics. So these novels are instructive to read for just that reason -- here is what climate refugee-ism will look like, here is what happens when the world economy really crashes, here is the world without public schools or a social safety net or functioning infrastructure. That kind of thing.

I've taught three of the four in SF classes, so my books are filled with marginal notes, things I wanted to be sure to ask/tell the students. It seems like I liked Orbital Resonance best, and Candle least.

Kaleidoscope Century is horrific, since the main character is delights in his war crimes, and relates the things he has done in a matter of fact way. I'd skip it unless you have a strong stomach.

But all of the characters except those in The Sky So Big and Black (in which the murder/rapist/torturer from Kaleidoscope has a cameo) are some flavor of sociopath, so KC guy fits right in.

These are good science fiction, in that they force us to look at the world in from a new perspective -- they make it strange, as Darko Suvin says all good SF does. And the writing is good.

Don't read them if you're looking for a good time, though.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Facebook Memories

 I have to admit, I like the FB Memories feature. 

This came up today -- eleven years ago:

Jasper as a kitten.

Well, Your Kid Sucked Anyway

After months and months of claiming that kids don't get Covid-19, MAGA Americans switched to claiming that sure, kids could get Covid-19, but they didn't die of it, so calm the fuck down.

Now? Now they've switched to "Sure, kids can die of Covid-19 -- but only the weak ones."

With each iteration, their masks slip a little more. If kids die of Covid-19, well, clearly they were inferior, and needed to die. Clears out the old genepool, doesn't it?

Thursday, November 11, 2021

I Wish This Wasn't True


Stolen from Twitter: Your Library

 What do you remember of the library where you grew up?


Mine was the Wagner Library, maybe three miles from my house? Close enough that I could reach it on my bicycle. I used to ride over there a couple of times a week from age twelve or thirteen on. Before that, my mother took me, generally as often as I liked.

There was a children's room, down a short hallway to the right of the desk; the books for adults -- including a tiny science fiction section -- was directly facing the desk. It smelled of books and paste and library tape, my favorite smell in all the world. Well into my adolescence, the librarians still stamped due dates on little Manilla cards kept in pockets in the back of the book. Also, you could only take ten books out at a time, which was why I went back at least twice a week.

This is what it looks like now -- not at all what it looked like when I was a kid. Then it was cream-colored brick and giant darkened windows. Also it was square, not whatever shape this is. But it was exactly that tiny, which explains the limits on how many books could be taken out.

No lie at all, this library kept me alive through some dark times. We didn't have much money in those days -- later, when my father went to work for LOOP, we had more. So my mother couldn't buy us many books. (My father thought reading fiction was a bewildering activity, and couldn't see why we would need to buy books when we already had books.) If I'd been limited to books my mother could buy for me, or those I could buy myself when I started earning money, my scope and my mind would have been much narrower.

(I remember the first book I ever bought with my own money: Door into Summer, by Robert Heinlein. It cost seventy-five cents and was a skinny paperback, but it was a revelation. I had money now. I could buy books.)

I remember when I was eight years old walking into this library and taking a deep breath of that delicious smell, being so happy I was going to get more books. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for all the people who had written books for me to read, that I decided I would have to write books when I grew up, to pay them back.

You can blame this library for my life, I guess is what I'm saying.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021


I am about to run out of books.

The library has bought about 50 in the past two days, but none of them are books I want to read. 😕

Time to re-read, I guess. Or go browse the shelves and read something I ordinarily would not consider.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

A Hit Dog Will Holler

 A sad case of too much Fox News:

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Every Fall

I dreamed last night that my parents had put me in a Christian school where I was going to have to wear a uniform with a skirt every day, so I ran away from home with my dog.

File this under #EveryFallI'mStillGladIDontHaveToGoBackToHighschool

Friday, November 05, 2021

Update on Milkgate

 Milkgate was only a Twitter star for one day -- sign of an outrage which is actually outraging no one -- but I thought I would share this from Roy Edroso.

See also this, also from Roy.

That's the big problem we have with today's unhinged conservatives -- they don't care whether something is true, or what the facts say. They care whether something supports their worldview. Have you seen the claims that Biden shit himself in Rome? They're all repeating that lie as if it were true (it's not), and as if it proves something about Biden's competence. Why? Because it makes them feel better about themselves.

"We're not bigots! We didn't vote for Trump because we're bigots! We voted for him because Biden is senile!"

See also: their lies about trans people.

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Today's Twitter Star!

The star of twitter today is the Texas family that drinks 12 gallons of milk a week

TBF, they have several kids -- nine, I think. But even so, that's a lot of milk. Apparently each kid is drinking a glass or two per meal? I mean, yikes. 

If you watch the episode, you'll see they buy five boxes of cereal a week as well. That could be where a lot of the milk is going.

My kid drank and still drinks water most of the time. We put milk in our tea and coffee, and occasionally I made pudding when he was little. He sometimes had cereal too, and we'd use some milk then. Even so, we had a hard time getting through a half-gallon per week.

But people's diets differ! Maybe it's perfectly normal for a kid to go through half-gallon of milk a day in some families?

The point of the article is that inflation is making food more expensive. That remains true no matter how much milk this family goes through.

I am dubious that they were buying milk for two dollars a gallon six months ago. Milk here in Arkansas has cost between three and four dollars a gallon since I can remember. Eight dollars a gallon if you buy organic.

Anyway, does 12 gallons of milk for a family of eleven strike you as normal or over the top? 


Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Mmmm, Curry

Cold and wet today, so I made my extra-spicy vegetable curry.


One onion

One sweet potato

One regular potato

One carrot

One apple

1/2 cup peas

1/4 cup butter

Curry powder



Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put a heavy five quart pot on the stove on low heat. Put the butter in to melt. Dice the onion and add it to the butter.

Peel the sweet potato and cut it into chunks. Mix in with the onion. Add the curry powder. I used this kind, but you do you. Stir while spices wake up. Add a little flour, stir some more. Add about a cup of water, stir some more. Add salt. 

Scrub and cut up potato (I leave the peels on). Add to curry. Scrub, peel, and cut up carrot. Add to curry. Stir some more.

Peel and cut up apple. You want sizeable chunks. Add frozen peas. Stir, stir.

Put a lid on and put it in the oven for about half an hour. Eat with toast, rice, noodles, or crackers. Very good on a cold day.

If you want to add meat, you can put it bits of left over chicken or cut up scraps of beef. But it's fine without.