Friday, December 31, 2021

Goodbye 2021

I watched a mocumentary on Netflix called Death to 2021, and I considered calling this post that, only maybe a bit stronger (fuck 2021), but rose above it. As the kid said when his boyfriend learned that someone in their family (with whom the boyfriend had just spent a week) had just tested positive for Covid-19, "Yeah, 2021 just had to get in one last 'Fuck you'."

Top posts of 2021:

January: My mother dies

February: Giant snowstorm

March: Bigots

April: Bees

May: This was fun

June: Remember CRT? Good times!

July: Unmasking as a Cultural Marker

August: The Right throws another pretend tantrum

September: In a rare burst of good news, my book is released, is featured on Scalzi's Big Idea, and gets good reviews

October: Conservatives try to make art

November: I come to a realization

December: Another bit of good news!

Also, this was the year of Evergreen, Jorts the Cat, Milkgate, that Texas law, and This. Also we're currently at 823k deaths from Covid in the US, and 54 million cases. USA! USA! USA!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Some Day This Plague's Going to End

Honestly at this point I hardly remember a time before Covid.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Time Loop, Maybe?

Jesus, how is it still December?

Hanukkah is long over, so we're just having the kid's Happy Graduation dinner today. Dr. Skull is currently fretting over the cheese cake.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

What I'm Reading Now

Claire Keegan, Small Things Like These

This is another of those novellas-published-as-novels. Just over 100 pages, it's a story about an Irish guy, Bill, who sells coal, set in 1985. He himself is illegitimate, but his mother's employer took her in when her own family kicked her out, so he was brought up in safety and relative luxury. Now married, he has five children with his wife, all of whom are being educated by the local nuns. This same nunnery runs, besides a school for the locals, a reformatory for "bad girls," which is to say girls who have gotten pregnant out of wedlock. Bill comes across one of these girls locked in the coal shed on a freezing night, and slowly comes to realize the abuse she is suffering. His wife and everyone else in the town comes down on him hard to look the other way, and the nuns threaten reprisals against his own children. He has to decide what to do.

Beautiful writing in this one, and the dilemma Bill is caught in is convincing. The novel(la) feels unfinished, though. Another couple hundred pages would have helped.

Annabel Abbs, Miss Eliza's English Kitchen 

Another one about women with illegitimate children. The main focus here is on Eliza Acton, who wrote a famous cookbook in 1845, and the kitchen girl who worked with her on testing and evaluating the recipes. 

The main plot move is Eliza's illegitimate child, raised by her sister, and Eliza having to decide between marriage and continuing her work as a writer (of poems and the cookbook). There's some nice details about the sensual side of life, which was not quite respectable in Eliza's circles. The kitchen girl's mother is suffering from dementia, so that part hit home with me.

This is also nicely written, and gives a good look at what life was like for women, including poor women, in 19th century England. I enjoyed it, but I would have liked more recipes, frankly. 

Richard Feynman, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman

An odd but interesting book -- Feynman was one of the physicists who worked on the Manhattan project. He won the Nobel prize for something I don't quite understand. (Lots of the book is physics, which I have a hard time with.) The book is mostly anecdotes about his life, so if you're interested in what life was like for an academic from about 1935 on, it's fun to read. Apparently there's a sequel, but my library doesn't have it. 

CN: Some misogyny, related to picking up women in bars. One of his friends teaches Feynman about "negging," well before that term was invented, I suspect, and he relates several stories about how he made it work, before noting that he didn't enjoy having sex with women via that method. This part of the book is a pretty unpleasant read.

Dorothy Sayers, Strong Poison, Gaudy Night, Nine Tailors

Re-reads, because my library is still mostly buying books for children. I'm all for kids getting books, but this book drought is a little lengthy. I've decided against buying a Roomba, though, and now am wavering between buying a Kindle and just buying more books. The downside to buying more books is I will need more bookshelves. The downside to buying a Kindle is that if I read electronic words late at night, my insomnia is worse. (Or anyway I think it is. I need to look into whether that is true or just a scoldy myth.)

Anyway, Sayers holds up. This is like the 10th time I've read these books, and they're still wonderful. My library has them in large print, also, which is much easier for me to read late at night.

The New Lie

 Apparently this is the one Trumpists are pushing now:

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

I feel really bad....

 ...for laughing at this one:

Buying Bacon Fat

I saw this for sale in our local Wal-Mart:

WTAF. Doesn't everyone keep a coffee can or an old mayonnaise jar (one of the glass ones) next to their stove to drain bacon fat into? I thought I was getting fancy when I bought a dark brown mason jar to keep mine in (because dark glass means the fat keeps longer). Recently, I saw someone say putting the grease in the fridge, instead of leaving it on the counter, meant it would keep longer too.

But honestly I've never had bacon grease go bad. It gets used up too fast in this house.

Here in the South, bacon grease is a key ingredient in many foods. But you've already paid for the bacon; you don't need to pay for the grease as well.

I guess it's for people who don't eat bacon? But who doesn't eat bacon?

I mean, we don't eat it often, because it's pricey, but you don't have to eat it often to build up a good store.

Anyway, now I want some beans. You grill the onions in bacon grease first, then add the garlic, then a little flour. Then you put in your beans (which have been soaking overnight) and simmer for a couple hours. The bacon grease makes them wonderful.

You can also cook your eggs in a little bacon grease, if you like eggs.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021


 I have been to the eye doctor and now my eyes are dilated. I am useless: I can neither read nor write. This is my vision (heh heh punful) of hell.

However I am getting new reading glasses which should help with my inability to read fine print.

Monday, December 20, 2021

New Recipe at Cooking with Delagar

I've been working on this recipe for a month or two now.

I first had a samosa pie when I bought one by accident from the Co-Op in Fayetteville. (I thought it was a chicken pie.) It was absolutely delicious, and I've been working on making mine as good since. I think we're there.

This one is made with Dr. Skull's excellent pie crust, but you can use one of your own or buy that one Pillsbury puts out, all ready-made.


Sunday, December 19, 2021

We Are Living in Amazing Times

The Jorts Saga continues:


Saturday, December 18, 2021

Covid-19 Update

We've hit 800,000 dead, and fifty million infected.

I saw someone on Twitter recently noting that this is now a conservative pandemic -- meaning far-right conservatives were responsible for the pandemic's constant growth over the past year. 

This isn't entirely true, since some of us who have been vaxxed and boosted can still transmit the virus; but the claim contains a grain of truth. Over 90% of progressives have been vaccinated; less than 60% of conservatives have. (Source.) 

It's worse in my state, where we have a blend of willful ignorance and rabid conservatism. Regularly on the Fort Smith Residents forum I see people repeating Fox news propaganda about the vaccine. It's pretty depressing.

And of course the conservative blogs I read (far fewer now than I did a year ago, since they are just too stupid these days) keep repeating the lie that Covid-19 is "just a bad cold," or that kids can't get or transmit the disease, or that the vaccine "doesn't work." I saw one blog author explain that a dear friend of hers had just died of Covid-19, and then in her next breath explain that this did not mean Covid-19 was a serious disease. No, it's still just a bad cold. 

That sort of deliberate denial of reality is positively Orwellian. And more than a little depressing.

Anyway, it doesn't look good for this pandemic ending any time soon, that's all I'm saying.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Jorts: Or, Why the Internet was Invented

Y'all, if you have missed the saga of Jorts the Cat, you need to rectify that omission at once.

It starts with this AITA submission:

AITA for “perpetuating ethnic stereotypes” about Jorts?

[EDITED TO ADD:]This post is about 2 cats who are named Jean and Jorts, cat tax HERE :

UPDATE is here

THE STORY We have two workplace cats in one area of our worksite. They add value to the worksite, we all love the cats and the worksite cat presence is not the issue. One of the cats (Jean) is a tortoiseshell cat we have had for years. The other cat (Jorts) is a large orange cat and a recent addition.

Jorts is just… kind of a simple guy. For example, Jorts can’t open a door even when it’s ajar— he shoves it whether he is going in or out, so often he closes the door he is trying to go through. This means he is often trapped inside the place he was trying to exit and meows until he is rescued.

My colleague Pam (not her real name) has been spending a lot of time trying to teach Jorts things. The doors thing is the main example — it’s a real issue because the cats are fed in a closet and Jorts keeps pushing the door closed. Jean can actually open all the other interior doors since they are a lever type knob, but she can’t open this particular door if she is trapped INSIDE the closet.

Tortie Jean is very nice to poor orange Jorts, and she is kept busy letting him out of rooms he has trapped himself in, so this seems easy to resolve. I put down a door stop.

Pam then said I was depriving Jorts of the “chance to learn” and kept removing the doorstop. She set up a series of special learning activities for Jorts, and tried to put these tasks on the whiteboard of daily team tasks (I erased them). She thinks we need to teach him how to clean himself better and how to get out of minor barriers like when he gets a cup stuck on his head, etc. I love Jorts but he’s just dumb af and we can’t change that.

Don’t get me wrong— watching her try to teach Jorts how to walk through a door is hilarious, but Jean got locked in the closet twice last week. Yesterday I installed a cat cutout thing in the door and Pam started getting really huffy. I made a gentle joke about “you can’t expect Jean’s tortoiseshell smarts from orange cat Jorts” which made Pam FURIOUS. She started crying and left the hallway, then sent an email to the group (including volunteers) and went home early.

In her email Pam said I was “perpetuating ethnic stereotypes by saying orange cats are dumb” and is demanding a racial sensitivity training before she will return. I don’t think it’s relevant but just in case, Pam is a white person in a mostly minority staff (and no she is not ginger/does not have red hair).

TL;DR: AITA for ‘enforcing an ethnic stereotype’ by joking that orange cats are often dumb?


So much followed (SO MUCH), but my favorite is this bredlik poem:

Anyway, this is Jorts and his friend Jean:


Monday, December 13, 2021

Achievement Unlocked

Despite having a pandemic come crashing down on his junior and senior years, and despite changing majors halfway through, and despite suffering from anxiety, trauma, and depression, my wonderful son today finished his undergraduate course of studies.

He will graduate in precisely five days, with a BS in Bioanthropology, and a team of professors who are urging him fiercely to continue on through the doctorate level. (He's going to take a year off to think that over.)

I could not be more proud.

The Kid at 12, launched on his academic career

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Winter is Here, for like a Minute

Frost on the grass this morning, and it is still in the 30s.

Next week back up to the 80s, though. And two days ago we had tornados rip through Arkansas on their way to Tennessee and Kentucky. Perfectly normal weather for December.

I am grading and grading. Since I haven't bonded well with my students this semester, grading is especially tedious.

Here's hoping next semester will be better.

Friday, December 10, 2021

I Am Boosted

I have achieved my booster. It's Moderna, while my first two shots were Pfiezer, but the pharmacist said it was okay to mix and match.

So far only mild body aches and a headache, but I might take the rest of the day off. I could use some sleep.

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Last Day of Teaching

This was my last day of teaching for the semester. (I'm still going to be working with students on papers and grading, right up to Dec 17.)

It's been an odd semester. The first one when we were all back in the classroom, and yet I continued putting most of the work online -- we did not hold in-person conferences, for instance. In some way, the work was more, and others less; but I don't feel I bonded with the students as well.

Also, we were all exhausted, I think. Me, of course, but also the students. Several of them tested positive for Covid, and others had friends or family get sick. I don't think anyone died, but that was constantly on their minds, and mine. That's just exhausting.

The ones who got sick early in the semester, and had to isolate for ten days, had trouble from that point on, even though I put the work online. It's hard to miss that much and then pick up afterwards. And maybe there was some Covid-brain in there, though I don't think anyone was very sick.

I remember when this first started, when I was sure it was all going to be over by summer.

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

What I'm Reading Now

Jodi Picoult, Wish You Were Here

I started out feeling meh about this one -- the main character, in the first few chapters, is sort of unlikeable, and honestly I thought it was way too soon to write a book about Covid-19. But within 50 pages, I was all in. This is a really good book.

The main character, Diana, is working for Sotheby's when the pandemic kicks off, consulting on impressionist paintings; she and her boyfriend. Finn, are about to head off on vacation to the Galapagos Islands. But he's a resident, and he has to cancel his vacation to deal with the surge of Covid-19 patients. You go without me, he says.

Next thing we know, Diana is arriving at the Galapagos, except the island is locked down due to the pandemic. She can't get a signal, and can't make calls or send emails, though she does receive them, mainly from Finn. While she wanders the island, meeting a troubled fourteen year old and her father, Finn sends her a series of more and more horrifying emails, detailing his experiences dealing with first surge of the pandemic. The contrast between the quiet beauty of the locked-down island of Isabel and the horror of the island of Manhattan works perfectly, as does the (spoiler) midway through.

This is probably Picoult's best book. Brilliant writing, excellent use of detail, and with a deeply satisfying ending. I read it straight through in one day. Highly recommend.

Neal Stephenson, Termination Shock

I dnf'd this one, as I do most of Stephenson's fiction. He can't stick the landing, though I don't always know why. Lots of good ideas, but while that was enough for science fiction in the 1940s, it really isn't now.

In this case, he really had too many characters and I found it hard to care about any of them. Even the feral hog hunter, who was probably my favorite character, was mostly a cipher. The queen, who should have been doing a lot, did almost nothing. I'm still not sure what Laks was doing in the book. I mean, I liked some of the episodes involving him, but what did he have to do with climate change? (I admit this might have been revealed in the last hundred pages of the book, but I could not go on.

Here's another take on the novel.

Stephen King, The Shining

This is a re-read -- I read this first when I was probably 15 years old, and have read it a couple of times since then. The story, basically, of a haunted hotel. The real story is how abuse gets passed down from generation to generation, and how hard it is to climb out of that abuse.

I remember reading somewhere that King thinks the father in this story, Jack, was actually a good guy and a good father, who just got taken over by the hotel. That's not the case, of course -- Jack is abusive to his kid and his wife even before he takes a job at the Overlook. It's more the story of how abuse can continue to fuck us up years after the event, and how hard it is to fight against that.

Also about what alcoholism can do to someone, about which King knows plenty.

There's also an interesting strand in the story, about Wendy not being able to leave Jack because where would she go, and what would she do? Women, as we all know, cannot make a living or support themselves. (This, even though Wendy was supporting all of them while Jack finished school.) It's true she has a five year old son, which might limit her options somewhat; but King's own mother was a single mother who support herself and her two kids for years. So you would think King would have known better. Very much a product of its time in that regard. 

A side note: on twitter recently someone made herself famous by advising that we should all give away books once we had read them, since we'd never "consult" them again. When people pointed out that many of us re-read novels, this person wondered why anyone would ever re-read a novel. I've heard this from before from other people -- why would you read something you've already read? -- and it's always puzzled me. You re-read to enjoy the novel on a deeper level, clearly, the same way you listen to a sing more than once. 

This person claimed to have a degree in English literature, and I am puzzled. Surely the joys of re-reading is what brings us all to the study of literature?

Maybe not. 

Monday, December 06, 2021


Our university is holding an in-person commencement this semester, as they did last semester. Last semester, faculty did not attend; this semester, they've made it optional.

And they're requiring masks. So that's something.

Last semester I volunteered to work the gate, making sure people had masks and an invitation (only three people per graduate were allowed to attend). This year, with the rise in cases, not to mention omicron, I'm opting out.

Almost fifty percent of our population is vaccinated. That's not enough, obviously. And we do have Trumpsters shrieking about the the vaccine is a plot to mutate us all or make us all sterile or kill us -- one person on FB solemnly informed us that anyone who got the vaccine would die two years to the date after getting the vaccine.

Meanwhile, I am working on giving feedback for final papers and also working on my book review for Asimov's. Also reading Jodi Picoult's new book. I always like them about on the 80% level and this one so far is running true to form.

Friday, December 03, 2021

Global Climate Change in Arkansas

 It's 76 degrees on the third of December here in the Fort.

I may have to put the AC on tonight.

But yeah, it's all just a liberal plot to destroy capitalism.

See also this.

I'm currently reading Termination Shock, by Neal Stephenson, about rich Texan who decides to do something about global warming his own self. Stephenson, who would be a better writer if he could quell the urge to include snide comments amounting to "LOL librals are silly" every 40 or 50 pages, makes good points about the expense of climate change. I'm not entirely convinced by his fix, and the book badly needs an editor -- it's over 700 pages long, and honestly should have been half that.

Also, the feral hogs seem a side issue, frankly. But I'm only on page 419. Maybe they make more sense later.

Thursday, December 02, 2021


 And if anyone thinks for a minute that conservatives are going to stop with abortion, I have three words for you: HA HA FUCKING HA.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Spend my Money

 I will probably about $100 or $150 in holiday gifts from various relatives. What should I spend it on?

(1) A Roomba. The cheapest ones are around $200, so I'd have to put some non-gift money into that. Do I really need a Roomba? I have a broom, after all.

(2) A Kindle. My ancient iPad died, so if I want to read e-books, I have to do it on my laptop. Kindles are well within the $150 I might have.

(3) Shoes. Do I need new shoes? I already have three pairs, one for commencement ceremonies, one for snow, and one for everyday. Who needs more than three pairs of shoes? I only have two feet.

(4) More books. I always need more books.

(5) Save it for emergencies. God knows one will be along any moment.

Tell me what you think!