Friday, September 30, 2022

Just a Reminder

Even though the pandemic has officially been declared "over," we are still losing between 500 and 3000 people a week to it. That's just the deaths. Far more than that are suffering long or short term disabilities due to Covid.

But since it's an article of faith among the conservatives in my state and elsewhere that COVID-19 is just a "bad cold," or lately a "bad flu," I don't expect much to be done about it.

How many American dead so far? 1,084,282.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Non-Stop Work

I finished and submitted the review to Asimov's. Now I'm powering through all the grading I did not do over the past week.

I'm also wishing I had something delicious to eat for dinner tonight. What's some comfort food which won't take very long to make?

ETA: The cat is really enjoying the cooler weather, which allows me to leave the doors open.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Updates on Everything

The funeral was yesterday. One of Scott's sons and my little brother (who is for fuck's sake 48 now) gave the eulogy, and then we all had BBQ in the church's community room. I saw my nieces, whom I hadn't seen since they were very tiny. Now they are very tall, ages 14 and 12.

Fall has arrived. It's 60 degrees here now, and the forecast has highs in the 80s and lows in the 40s and 50s for the next ten day.

I got very behind in all my work over the past week, for obvious reasons. Going into overdrive to catch up -- a review for Asimov's is due, plus all my grading. I finished the reviews for Strange Horizons, and am about halfway through the next one for Interzone.

I've been having a lot of nightmares, again for obvious reasons. Last night I dreamed our house was full of junk and trash, and the more I tried to clean up, the worse it got. Then a big storm hit and the roof was leaking and all the junk in the house got soaked. This is probably some sort of Freudian dream, what with house = family or self, and so on.

We also haven't exercised in a week. Maybe tomorrow.

Now that the heat is broken, I might make some bagels. Bagels and lox would cheer me up.


Sunday, September 25, 2022

Scott Jennings 1959-2022

Scott was born fourteen months before I was, both of us in Renton, Washington, where my father worked for Boeing and my mother stayed home in our little pink trailer with (soon) three children under the age of four.

My earliest memories are of Scott, who must have been three years old then, making breakfast for me. He would take slices of white bread from the wrapper and make smiley faces with ketchup, and then we would eat them while we watched cartoons on the little B&W television that was all our family owned. (My mother, already pregnant with my brother Michael, went back to bed after she got my father off to work.)

Later he and I roamed the little trailer park -- people let small children out on their own back then -- and I would be remiss if I didn't tell the famous story of how he pushed me into a red ant pile when I was four. On purpose, I always swore, and my mother would swear he had done it on accident. I remember we were balancing along a brick flower garden border. Red ants means it must have been in New Orleans -- we moved there when I was three and Scott was four.

Later we moved into an actual house in an actual subdivision. You could buy houses on one salary back then. Soon after we moved down, five year old Scott took a machete from the garage and chopped down all the bushes in the hedge out front. He was gardening, as he ingenuously explained to my mother. I think he just liked wielding the machete, myself.

When he started school, later that year, the local schools were still overwhelmed by all the children moving into the subdivisions that were springing up in the area, to handle the people transferred in by Boeing, which was handling contracts from NASA at that point. Scott had to go half days, and the next year so would I. We went afternoons. It was a big shock to me, about halfway through the year, when the new elementary school opened, and we had to attend school from 9:00 to 3:00.

Around that time, my father sold our old car (a Dodge Rambler, I think? He would know, but I don't remember). Scott loved that car, and for years would, every now and then, complain about my father selling it.

My mother ran a cub scout pack for Scott and my younger brother Michael; later he would be a boy scout. He joined the local baseball and football teams that sprang up. His dream then was to be a famous quarterback, but when he was eight, he was diagnosed with diabetes, just a few months after my grandfather, my mother's father, died of it.

After that, his life veered into a new path. In junior high, the football coach refused to let him play on the team, saying his diabetes made him too much of a risk. Honestly, my parents should have fought that. But they did not. After that, Scott focused more on board games -- chess, for instance, was a favorite. I remember him coaxing me to play him, even though I was absolutely terrible at chess.

And as he grew up, he played with city teams and coached his sons on their teams. Sports remained one of his interests throughout his life, as did all games. He was a lifelong Saints fan, for instance. He also loved Star Trek novels, and had shelves and shelves of them.

He married my best friend, Toni, when he was 22 and she was 21, and after finishing college -- him with a degree in math education and her with a degree as a medical technician -- they moved a few blocks from my parents' house and had two sons, one in 1987 and one in 1988. He taught in the New Orleans school district for years, some of it at my old high school, before he retired due to his failing health.

After he left teaching, he worked a series of less stressful jobs before retiring on disability. He and my sister-in-law planned to move to Fayetteville as soon as she retired, which she did this past spring. They moved up right away, since their second son and his wife were having a baby. Scott was looking forward to his first grandchild, so much. When I rode home from the hospital in their car, there was already a car seat installed in the back.

People with Type I diabetes are living longer these days -- my grandfather died at 57 -- but they still die younger than non-diabetics. When he was in his 20s, he would say he wasn't going to live to 50, and then after he turned fifty he would say, every year, that this would be his last Christmas. It got to be a family joke, though it doesn't seem so funny now. He said it a couple months ago, one of the last times I saw him -- "This is going to be my last Christmas." 

We all laughed. 

His wife and sons are asking people to donate to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in his memory.

Friday, September 23, 2022

My Brother

The EEG showed very little to no brain activity, so my SIL and her sons decided to take him off life support, and he passed away quietly a few minutes later, with her and my oldest nephew there with him.

I've sort of known this was coming for the past few days, but it still feels like a shock. 

ETA: Some photos

My brother Scott

From left to right, my father, my oldest nephew, Scott, and my youngest nephew

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Update on My Brother

He is not responding to stimuli. I don't have to tell you this is not the news we were hoping for.

They're running a 24 hour EEG. We'll know more after that.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Another Update

Okay, they've got his temperature back up to 98.6 now (37 Celsius, which is how they actually do it), and they've begun weaning him off the sedative/paralytic which they have to use with hypothermia therapy. Apparently that's going to take most of the night. In the morning, if he's not responding, they'll bring in the neurologists. 

My SIL is having trouble sleeping. "Do you have any Xanax?" I asked.

"Oh, [her sister] brought me some. I might take half a one. I've never taken it before, and I don't know how I'll react."

Me, stunned: "You've never taken Xanax?"

"I had to get drug-tested!" she protested. Then she admitted, "Once, when I had a prescription for it, I didn't even fill it."

"Wow, I hate you," I said. In the background I could hear her sister and my nephew mocking her unceasingly. 

I mean, if I had my way, you'd be able to buy Xanax out of gum machines in the grocery store. It should be a major food group, that's all I'm saying.

Update on My Brother

He's still being warmed up -- apparently it takes awhile. My SIL says we'll know more around five today.

The doctors are talking about putting a pacemaker in, but that's only after he wakes up and responds, if he wakes up and responds. We're just waiting now.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

My Older Brother

My older brother had a "cardiac event" yesterday -- his heart stopped beating. This is the brother that just moved up here to NWA Arkansas to help out his kid whose wife is pregnant. (Baby is due in early October.)

My SIL got his heart started again, doing CPR, and the ambulance and fire truck showed up fast. He's in the ICU now. They're doing something called hypothermic treatment, which is when they lower your body temperature down to 89 degrees and hold it there for 24 hours. This helps your heart to heal and somehow (they're not sure how) helps avoid brain damage.

They got him down to the target temp last night at midnight. In 24 hours, they'll start warming him up again.

I spent yesterday afternoon in the hospital with my SIL (who was my friend first -- we were best friends in high school and then she married my brother, so we've been friends since we were fifteen). Got home last night at nine o'clock and went to bed almost at once and just woke up, maybe half an hour ago. I feel like I was rode hard and put away wet, as they say in these parts.

We'll know more tomorrow.

Monday, September 19, 2022


So last night I had my usual insomnia, finally falling asleep around one o'clock, and then at around four a.m. had a terrible nightmare in which the town started flooding, and the floodwaters kept rising, and everyone pretended it wasn't happening and then suddenly water was pouring into my house, rising terrifyingly fast, and I couldn't find the dog to get out and the kid wouldn't leave (he was about ten in this dream) because he said people would start saying we were at war if we left (what?) and just as we were all about to drown I woke up. It was one of those dreams where you're pretty sure it's really happening for a little while.

Then I had insomnia for the rest of the night. I lay in bed trying to fall asleep and unable to. Got up once to take the dog out and make sure no flash flood was happening. It was a lovely clear night, with a waxing moon and brilliant stars, but even when I was sure the dream was just a dream and went back to bed, I still couldn't get back to sleep.

So I got up and Dr. Skull and I took the car to get its tires aligned except the place where we take it doesn't do that anymore so we went to another place and they still do alignments but they're booked up for a week, so we made an appointment. In the tire shop was an old guy wearing a LETS GO BRANDON hat and smoking a cigarette. When we left to come home, we smelled of cigarettes. (He was waiting for his car; he wasn't working there. The people working there were very nice and wore hats with the place's logo on them.) 

Now I'm drinking coffee and trying to stay awake. Sleeping all day would not be a good idea.

Saturday, September 17, 2022


The last three days of summer: highs of 99, 99, and 100.

Please let it end.

Cat Pictures

 It's Amity in a box:

Friday, September 16, 2022

Cocaine Hippos

I'm teaching three sections of Comp I, for a total of 65 students, and wisely I made everyone's paper due on the same day. So I am having to read 65 Summary/Evaluations of scholarly articles (which in practice means reading 65 scholarly articles myself). 

I am also working on reviews for Asimov's and for Interzone.

I would also like to write a little fiction, please. Also exercising four times a week. Dishes and laundry are piling up.

So blogging may be slow for the next couple weeks.

For you edification, however, Cocaine Hippos! 

In the 1980s, the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar imported 4 hippos onto his estate in Colombia. Today, the hippos have escaped the estate and they number around 60 individual animals and continue to reproduce. To mitigate risk of harm to humans and curb hippo population growth, the government has begun an effort to castrate the males in order to control their numbers. How effective are these efforts? 

(One of my students is doing their paper on hippos as an invasive species, and used this article for their Paper #1.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2022


 After three days of lovely cool days and 55 degree nights, we have a forecast of highs of 98 degrees and a 100 degrees coming next week.

Only seven more days of summer. Enough, please.

Monday, September 12, 2022

In Ancient Times....

 I'm reading an article that refers to "earlier centuries," and then cites an event in the 1990s.


Brief Fall

 Y'all, it's 67 degrees here! High of 85.

Tomorrow a little hotter, and next week back in the 90s, but last night when I was taking the dog out I was briefly cold.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Links: The QANON Edition

Did you know that the Clintons were in the White House on 9/11? And they hate America, so that's why the terrorists could succeed, but also it was an inside job. (The comment section for this one is quite a ride.)

But I can top that: this guy thinks Obama should be held responsible.

We're erasing women!

Did you know those horrible trans people are now FORCING schools to provide LITTERBOXES for kids who identify as cats? (I've seen this claim made or referred to on supposedly rational sites.)

Leftists supporting gender re-assignment surgery for toddlers  (These people argue otherwise, but they're just leftist-controlled "scientists")

COVID Vaccines kill children and babies (despite being pedophiles, leftists really want to kill babies, it's their religion)

This is kind of funny

Cat Pictures

 Jasper asleep on my ankles:

Amity in a chic sweater:

Saturday, September 10, 2022

What I'm Reading Now

A lot of what I'm reading now is books that I'm reviewing for various publications, so I don't want to review them here. I'm also doing a lot of rereading -- I just reread all of Chaim Potok, for instance, and most of Joe Haldeman. I won't bore you with those, either. Here's some of the rest of what I've been reading lately.

Claudia Gray, The Murder of Mr. Wickham

More Jane Austen fanfic. I can't get enough of it. This one pulls together all the characters from all the Austen novels (well, not Sanditon) and puts them in an English Country House murder mystery. Mr. Wickham gets murdered, as the title suggests; and Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth's son joins forces with the daughter of Catherine and Mr. Tilney to solve the murder. 

Both Jonathan Darcy and Juliet Tilney are about seventeen, and young Mr. Darcy is neurodivergent, which works pretty well in the book. Further, Gray does a good job of capturing the characters of all the other Austen favs.

I don't know that I would read this one twice, but it was fun to read once.

R.F. Kuang, Babel: Or, the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution

In part this is an academic novel, about academic life in the 19th century. But that is just its cover. In fact, it is about colonialism, and the effect colonialism has on the colonized. At the start of the novel, a young Chinese boy is "rescued" from the cholera plague which has killed his mother, his grandparents, his tutor, and his entire neighborhood. As we read further in the novel, we come to realize that this "rescue" is not what it seems. 

Robin Swift (the English name he takes at the request of his "rescuer") is raised on a Lord's estate, given excellent tutors, educated to take a place at Oxford, which -- in time -- he does. Only slowly do we realize that he has, in effect, been bred -- like a prize Corgi -- by the man who rescued him. This is a magic-infused Oxford. England runs on the ensorcelled silver bars produced by Babel, the tower of translators, who need to be fluent in several languages if they are to work the magic that creates the power that English trains, lights, water purification, and other necessities run on, including the English Navy. The magic is powered by the gap between an English word (say) and the Chinese word used to translate it, or v.v.

Set just before the Opium Wars begin, this is an engaging look at the evils of colonialism, and the way the colonized frequently lose their ability to see their own oppression. An important and wonderfully written book.

John Crowley, Flint & Mirror

Another historical fantasy. This one is about the British colonization of Ireland, and part of the reason I didn't like it more may be that I know very little about the colonization of Ireland. It's also mostly history with very little fantasy -- the main character, the leader of an Irish clan, is connected to and controlled by Elizabeth I through an ensorcelled bit of obsidian, cleft to produce a mirror-like surface. It wasn't very clear how Elizabeth controlled the chief of the clan. Maybe the connection was enough.

There's also a flint blade, given to him as a child by the Fey. That seems to connect him to his land? I'm not sure.

Most of the book was about historical events, though there's also a slight digression about a selkie (male) who comes ashore and impregnates a lord's daughter. 

This probably wasn't the book for me. It was readable, but I had the feeling I was missing the point most of the time. If you like historical novels, this might be your cup of tea.

Friday, September 09, 2022

Death of Elizabeth II

Honestly, I have no feelings one way or another toward Elizabeth II, though I did enjoy the first few seasons of The Crown. (I lost interest somewhere halfway through the third season.) It's true Britain was a colonizing superpower that hurt a lot of people, and it's true that she did nothing about it, but on the other hand, at least according to what I saw on the Crown, there wasn't a lot she actually could do. The anger should be aimed at those members of Parliament who actually implemented the bad actions, I would think. But bear in mind I know almost nothing about how British government actually works.

What I'm really enjoying is watching people on Twitter clutching their pearls because other people on Twitter are saying mean things about the queen. The old "How dare you speak ill of the dead?" routine. As if Elizabeth, or her family, could give a toss about what people were saying on Twitter.

I do like the person who linked this video in response:

ETA: Pharyngula has a take

Thursday, September 08, 2022


What's this? Sunday a high of 83 and a low of 58?

Practically WINTER.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Cat Pictures

Amity plays with toys:

Good News, Though

The new season of Call The Midwife is out on Netflix. I recently noticed that I had skipped the entire third season, somehow, so I had started a rewatch anyway.

If you want a mildly soap-opera-y historical series with eleven seasons so far, and lots of babies, this is the show for you.

It's rife with religion, since the midwifes are (some of them) nuns, but not screechy, hateful American conservative religion, so it doesn't really interfere with my enjoyment of the series.

Why Anxiety?

I am having a lot of anxiety lately. This is odd, because everything is going pretty well. Usually when I'm anxious I can locate the reason for it, but there's no reason now. What's up?

I'm used to having depression for no reason. (The kid jokes that he got his depression from me and his anxiety from his father.) But free-floating anxiety is something new.

WebMD tells me I either have congestive heart failure or generalized anxiety disorder. GAD fits my symptoms better. 

It could also be because of high blood pressure, interestingly, a condition I'm already being treated for.

Or a tumor on my adrenal glands. Something else to have anxiety about.

Saturday, September 03, 2022

Could This Be Fall?

Now that the sun is down it's actually almost cool outside -- probably because the humidity is so low. But it definitely feels like we're turning toward winter.

Only 18 more days of summer.

Thursday, September 01, 2022


I used to be able to survive on five or six hours of sleep a night, while teaching 12 or thirteen hour days -- I went to work at seven and came home at 8:00.

Now I go to work at six a.m. and come home at noon, and need a three hour nap. Getting old is not for the weak.