Saturday, April 30, 2022

New Green

Trees in my yard: 


Also, the bunnies are back. Three little guys were chasing each other wildly through the yard a few days ago, and there's one out there now. I tried to get a photo for y'all, but he was too quick.

Which is a good thing -- his quickness -- because I also saw the fox a few nights ago.


Dr. Skull and I, on the advice of his physician, have joined the local Mercy Hospital fitness center. It's $65/month for both of us, which always seemed like too much to me before; but on the other hand, we have a little more money now. 

To my surprise, I'm enjoying getting up at dawn and going to work out for an hour. There's recumbent bicycles and rowing machines -- that's what I've done so far -- but also a pool. If I am to use the pool, I will have to get a swimming suit. I have not owned a swimming suit since I was 22 years old.

No, wait, when the kid was little I used to take him to the public pool. I must have had a swimming suit then.

Anyway, we'll see if this helps his health, and my blood pressure, which has been a little high lately.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Grading Papers

Student: "I don't understand why I got a zero on this paper."

Me: "There are no numbers lower than zero."

Student: "Why do I have a 98? What did I do wrong?"

Me: "Sweetie..."

Student: "What can I do to pass your class? I need an A if I'm going to keep my scholarship."

Me: "You've only been to three classes this semester, and you didn't turn in any of the papers."

Student: "I know, but I've had to work a lot. How can I get an A?"

Me: "Time machine?"

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Last Week of Classes

It is the last week of classes. I have so many Comp II essays to grade. I know your prayers are with me.

I did Comp II a little differently this semester. We read the book (Station Eleven) first, and then I made them write a paper proposal. The topic had to have something to do with the book, but it could be very tangential -- like, I had a couple students who are business majors writing about what the Black Death, in the 14th century, did to post-plague economics. And someone else wrote how art helps people deal with great social upheavals, using the Great Depression and the WPA art programs as her argument.

Anyway, so they wrote a formal proposal, and then we revised it together as necessary. Then they wrote an annotated bibliography for their paper -- for that, we worked on how they could judge whether a source was credible or not. (And I made them keep trying until they had eight credible sources.) Then they wrote a draft of the paper, and got my feedback. Then they wrote the actual paper.

All this took the entire 14 week semester, and those who participated have ended up writing really good papers. Sadly, about a third of the students failed to turn in work, or only did some of the work, or vanished from classes entirely. 

Many of them have been working full-time jobs -- I have a student who works as a nurse's aid in one of our local hospitals; and another who is helping to support five siblings -- and others have problems just getting to the campus, due to transportation issues. One student is working with the sole laptop shared by his father and his siblings.

This is nothing new -- ever since I started teaching, economic issues have kept students from doing their work. And we have an emergency fund now, which gives mini-grants to students who have sudden, relatively small problems (a flat tire, a broken laptop).

It's still discouraging, though. How can someone who is working 40 hours a week (or more) have time to be a good, or even decent, student? And our emergency fund can't fix that.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Weather Report

 It was summer for a couple of days, but now it is raining again -- a boom of thunder woke me this morning -- and tomorrow it will be cold again. This, as you may imagine, is my favorite sort of weather, especially when I can spend the next two days drinking coffee and writing.

Well, I do have to read papers in the evening. But we are two weeks from the end of the semester, and then I can spend the entire summer drinking coffee and writing my novels. We have almost reached paradise, y'all!

Saturday, April 23, 2022

What Twitter Was Made for

I'm a sucker for these: 

My First Review at Asimov's

My first review at Asimov's is live. You can read it here.

I review these books: 

Zen Cho, Blackwater Sister

C.L. Clark, The Unbroken

Rivers Solomon, Sorrowland

Melissa Scott, Water Horse

Becky Chambers, The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

Katherine Addison, The Witness for the Dead

Ryka Aoki, Light from Uncommon Stars

James Patrick Kelly, First Law of Thermodynamics

Justin Key, Spider King

Octavia Butler: Kindred, Fledgling, and Collected Stories

Honni Van Rijswijk, Breeder

The next On Books by me comes out in November!

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

What I'm Watching

It's the end of the semester, and I'm reading not just papers but revisions of papers -- 68 students in my three Comp II classes, and all of them are turning in a ten page research paper with citations. I have to read the papers, I have to check their citations, I have to give feedback. Then half of the students change one thing (or nothing) and resubmit and I have to send them gentle notes advising them not to try that bullshit on me.

But anyway! In the evenings, I have been watching, among other things, Severance, which is on Apple TV. (You can get it for six dollars a month as a "special deal." ) I thought this was a grim and depressing TV show about life in an office, and in fact it is! 

But it's also a SF show about a new procedure that lets you "sever" your work self from your not-at-work self, and goes hard in its critique of pure capitalism. I can't say you'll exactly like it, but it's fascinating and definitely worth watching. Also, gay Christopher Walken. Need I say more?

The final season of The Last Kingdom dropped. It was engaging, and Uhtred finally reclaims Bebbanburg, but it left a lot of open doors. I hear there's going to be a movie. This is a series, btw, about King Alfred and his heirs as they fight the Vikings and unify England. It's also about Uhtred of Bebbanburg, his friends, and his family. A lot of good women characters in this one, and it shows clearly how the Christian religion/cult warped history. Very much worth watching, and there are five seasons, so there's your next six months sorted.

Arcane is an animated series on Netflix, with some beautiful animation and worldbuilding. Apparently based on a video game? You can't tell, except for now and then there's a weird focus on fighting. This one is set in a city that has two levels, the wealthy in the upper city and the poor and disenfranchised down in the "lanes." We follow a handful of characters, some from the the city, some from the lanes, as an invention by a technological genius -- one which couples magic to weapons -- changes the balance of power. Nice writing and characterization, too. Only the first season is out so far.

Russian Doll has just dropped its second season. Russian Doll, you'll remember, is the Netflix show about a woman caught in a time loop -- she keeps living the same miserable night, over and over. It was really good, and won a bunch of awards, so I see why they wanted another swing. Also the lead actor is great. I can't think what they're going to do, exactly. I've got this one on my queue. so technically I'm not watching it yet.

Call the Midwife Season 10 is out on Netflix. We've reached 1967, I think. I still like this show, but it's utterly soap opera. Also I miss Chummy. She was the best. According to Wikipedia, Season 11 is out in England. 

I rewatched the Kiera Knightly Pride and Prejudice, and have decided this is my favorite P&P. Sorry, Colin Firth.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Saying the Quiet Part Outloud

 If you think for one minute the GOP and its base is stopping with abortion, you have very active fantasy life.

They're coming for your birth control next.


Baby Writer/Aging Writer

I used to could, when I was a baby writer, get up at six, go to work, work eight hours, come home and eat, and then write for six hours more, get to bed at one or two o'clock, and then get up and six and do it all over again.

Not only could I manage on four or five hours of sleep a night, I could write on such a schedule. True, I was smoking in those days; nicotine is very helpful to brain chemistry, though terrible for the body. And I was sleeping twelve hours a night on the weekend. But still.

Now if I only get four hours of sleep one night, I am useless for the next week. UGH.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Chag Sameach, Y'all

 Yesterday was the first night of Passover. We had our usual Seder, telling all the usual stories when we got to a given bit -- like, for instance, when we reach the part about the slaying of the first born, Dr. Skull always tells us how when he was a little kid, he'd be glad that it his older brother who would have gotten the sword, and not him -- and eating the usual foods of affliction.

Though this year we had an excellent brisket, instead of a roasted chicken; and Dr. Skull made a KFP (kosher-for-passover) carrot cake for dessert. We also found some excellent macaroons at the Fayetteville Whole Foods, the only place in the area that carries KFP foods.

The kid came home for the Seder -- he starts his job on Tuesday -- and the kid's boyfriend came with him. Uncle Charger also came, and a friend from our writing group. 

It was a nice time. But the best part of any Jewish holiday, imo, is that I no longer have to do the Christian holidays. Easter when I was a kid was nice because of the basket of candy and the egg hunt; but then we had to go to church. I was always dressed up in my new Easter outfit, which meant a scratchy frilly dress, white nylon hose, painful patent leather shoes, and a horrible flowered hat held on via an elastic chin strap, all of which I hated, hated, hated. Never mind sitting through two hours of Easter services, boring at the best of times, and torture to me, an easily bored child.

That is why I know so much about the Bible now, though. My parents didn't let me read other books in church, just the Bible or hymnals, so I read the Bible all the way through more than once before my father and I had a showdown when I was sixteen and I stopped going to church.

(He said, shouting, "Well, don't go if that's all it means to you!" and I said, "Okay, I won't," which surprised him immensely. I can't think why.)

And then after church, there was Easter dinner, after which I had to do all the dishes (my mother had done all the cooking, so the dishes were my job, and of course my brothers didn't have to help do dishes, what do you mean, they mowed the lawn and took out the trash, the dishes were my job). I did like the deviled eggs my mother made with the Easter eggs, but other than that, meh.

Anyway, I still have to do all the dishes -- and a Seder uses every dish in the house, not to mention Dr. Skull uses every pan and pot and kitchen tool we own, doing the cooking -- but none of the rest. And now we have the rest of the weekend to write novels and chill. 

Good Passover to those who celebrate, and I hope Easter's not too stressful if you do that, and if you dodged it all, have a nice Sunday!

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Stolen off Twitter

I took this off Twitter, and posted in on FB, and got a lot of interesting replies:

Did you buy your first car, or did your parents buy it for you?

It's a question about generational wealth, clearly, and the answers I am seeing reflect that.

Me: I didn't have a car at all until I was 30 -- I got around by bus and bicycle before that -- but when I was 30, my parents gave me their ancient Dodge Ram pickup. I had driven this from time to time when I was living with them, before I went to graduate school, which tells you how old it was! But I loved that little truck, even if it wouldn't go uphill. (I had every route in Fayetteville which didn't require going up a hill memorized -- I knew most of them already, of course, from riding the bike around town.)

What about you?

Kind of what my truck looked like, only mine was darker tan

Monday, April 11, 2022

My Kid Gets a Job

The kid is now employed.

This probably won't be his career -- just a job he'll do for a year or two until he starts graduate school -- but he's now a working man!

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Trump's Legacy

Heck of a job.

And this is your reminder that, far from being over-reported, deaths from COVID-19 are almost certainly under-reported.

Thursday, April 07, 2022

See, But When THEY Do It

 Or, as we used to say in the aughts, IOKIYAR (it's okay if you're a Republican):

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Bigots don't change and Neither Does Bigotry

I remember the 1990s, and this is all true. I especially remember Helms proposing -- seriously -- that all gay people should be exiled to an island, to protect "us" from AIDS. So when today's conservatives whine about how being asked to wear a mask is a violation of their civil rights, I know exactly how full of shit they are.

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Free Scalzi short story

If somehow you missed this post from Scalzi, you can now remedy that error. 

Grizzly Bear Conflict Manager here.

Let me start by saying that this is a circle of trust. We are here not to assign blame or dole out punishment, but to resolve conflict and come to a space of understanding and care. There are no bad bears here. There are only good bears, whose motivations may be misunderstood. Through discussion, we can come to a resolution.

More at the link 

Defining "Woman"

 It's about a week since the GOP and their minions threw a (fake) tantrum over Ketanji Jackson refusing to step into their silly trap, but the QAnon dirtbags are still screeching:

So now you know! 

Monday, April 04, 2022

What I'm Reading Now

Carmen Maria Machado, In the Dream House

My kid badgered me into reading this one, and I am glad he did. I'd read Machado's short stories, and taught a couple of them, but this is the first novel of hers I've read. As with most of Machado's work, the form is not that of typical fiction -- she writes in lists, or mock-Kickstarters, or -- as here -- a mix of fiction, essay, and memoir. It works wonderfully.

The subject matter is rough. The Dream House in question is the one she thought she would share -- the life she thought she would share -- with the woman she passionately loved; except this woman was also emotionally abusive. That is what the book is about, emotional abuse, what it looks like, how it works, why it's so hard for the victim to recognize. This is an excellent book, though very painful to read at time. If you've never read Machado, this one would be a great place to start.

A.S. Byatt, The Children's Book

This is a re-read, and I liked it even better this time around. Set in Edwardian England, more or less (beginning just before Queen Victoria dies, and ending just after WWI), it's the story of an interconnected group of friends and families, most of them involved in the William Morris arts & craft movement. The main family, the Wellwoods, is based on Edith Nesbit's life and her own complicated family. I really like books like this, big fat books that go into intricate detail about eras, communities, and people living in them. There's not much of a plot -- just these people living in this time and what happens to them. Byatt, of course, writes wonderfully. 10/10, glad I read it twice.

Anne Tyler, French Braid

This one is an Anne Tyler book, which is to say (1) set in Baltimore (2) about a big, extended, slightly weird family (3) readable, but not that exciting. Her best book remains Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, and if you've never read Tyler before, I'd start with that one. This one is okay, but not much different from every other book she's written in the past decade or so.

Caroline Fraser, Prairie Fires

This is a reread too. Fraser wrote what will almost certainly be the definitive study of the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the history and culture and political philosophy surrounding that life. It won a Pulitzer in 2018, among several other awards.

If you grew up reading and rereading the Little House series, as I did, you'll love this one. Even if you didn't grow up with the books, this is a fascinating and deeply satisfying look at both Wilder and the world of the 19th and early 20th century in the American midwest. It's also a great look at how fiction gets written, how it is shaped and warped by the author's own politics and convictions. 

Sunday, April 03, 2022


 My yard is filled with violets:

On Ukraine

 Stonekettle, one of my favorites over on Twitter, writes a thread:

Well worth reading the whole thing, as well as the responses.