Thursday, September 28, 2023

Utter Exhaustion

I don't know if I'm exhausted because I'm still recovering from COVID, or because my schedule really is that insane. 

Here's what I did today:

7:00 a.m. Got up, dressed, fed dog, gave him his insulin, fed cats

7:15 a.m. Left for school

7:30 a.m. Arrived in office

7:30-9:30: Office hours. Did prep, mostly. Drank coffee, graded

9:30-11:00: Taught Comp I

11-12:15: Taught another section of Comp I

12:15-2:00: Office hours. Graded, did prep

2:00 - 3:15: Taught editing

3:15- 4:00: Whined

4:00-6:00: DEI Workshop

6:00-6:30: Went to library

6:30- now: Had dinner. Whined more.

I'm so tired I can barely focus. It's 20 more days to Fall Break. I *might* make it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

How's Come You Won't Tolerate My Bigotry?

Pharyngula has two posts back to back today. Here, he discusses a bigot howling because an academic conference "deplatformed" a discussion of "biological sex" in anthropology. Here, he discusses a group of far-right Catholic medical students who are sad that they're expected to learn about medical care for trans people, abortion, and contraception. These students organized to bring in a member of a far-right hate group, the American College of Pediatricians (not to be confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the legitimate group) to give a presentation on why trans people are crazy. 

Why, indeed, should we not allow all speech in our universities and at our conferences? Even speech which is demonstrably false and incorrect? Surely if we were real free speech advocates, we would provide platforms for everyone. Isn't the cure for bad speech more speech?

And yes, in a perfect world, that would indeed be what we should do. Let the bigots spew their bigotry, let them lie and slander. We who are interested in the truth and in justice will reply with evidence and data and fact-based reasoning. In a perfect world, that would work.

In this world, not so much, as the last decade has surely shown us. And yet we do, in fact, allow liars and bigots to have platforms quite often. An example: here at my university, the local far-right Christians appear on campus several times a year, to scream their bigotry, racism, and misogyny at our students. We let them do this, even though most of the students hate it, because free speech. By doing so, it is arguable, we give legitimacy to their ideas. They're howling this hate speech on a university campus, funded by the state. Surely, then, the students are to agree, my professors, my university, my state thinks all these ideas are legitimate and worth considering?

As PZ Myers argues, we're scholars in the academy, and as such we have a duty not to tolerate false ideas, lies, and fraud. In my classroom, I don't hold a debate about what a good source is. Instead, I teach my students how to evaluate a source, and how they can tell a credible source from a non-credible one. Once, when I was teaching History of the English Language, I had a student who wanted me to teach that we on planet Earth speak multiple languages because of the Tower of Babel. Should I have let this student's false idea have equal time in the classroom? Should I have taught it as an "alternative" theory of how languages arose?

As a side note, notice that the conservatives who screech that we should give equal time to their mythological belief system do not, in fact, practice this themselves. The conservative medical students did not want to see both ideas in the classroom. They want their idea to be the only one taught, the official really true truth, and everyone else to be shut up or called insane.

As Myers says,

There is a line we have to draw where we openly repudiate bad ideas presented in bad faith. We should no more have a conference panel at a serious meeting on fallacious ideas about sex than we should have conference panels on creationism and flat earth...

 See also this:  

X, the company formerly known as Twitter, has removed the ability for people to report a tweet for containing misleading information

Honestly, if we can't call something which is demonstrably false a lie, what is the point to having universities, or academic conferences, or any sort of an organization which is in the business of learning, studying, and discovering the truth?

Sunday, September 24, 2023

As the Kids say, LOL

 I mean, this is accurate as well as funny:

Justin Robinson
· 46m
boomers freaking out over screen time while ignoring climate change and covid pretty much says it all doesn't it
Sep 24, 2023 at 10:55 AM
Maybe they're worried that our children will have insufficient attention spans to rule Bartertown

This is from BlueSky, the liberal alternative to Twitter, which -- as you can see -- still has some kinks to work out. I have an invite code if anyone wants one, though.

Ruminating on Conservatism

Remember when Rod Dreher got so outraged about the COEXIST bumper sticker, and claimed he was especially upset because some of the people he knew who had it on their cars were divorced?

I mean that tells you everything you need to know about conservatism right there.

Hottest September on Record

It's nearly October and we're still getting highs in the 90s.

According to the Guardian, this is the hottest September on record, and at least some of that is caused by all our air conditioners. However, living in the American South without air conditioning is, what is the word I am looking for, impossible. Even before global climate change. Now that we're having 92 degree days in the last week of September and 75 degree nights, no air conditioning is not just unpleasant, it's dangerous.

(I did, briefly, live in a duplex without air conditioning when I was a graduate student in Fayetteville. Sleeping was difficult and getting any work done at all was impossible. Do not recommend.)

Also, see this.

Friday, September 22, 2023

TERFs and Bigots...but I repeat myself

I grew up in a time in the South when gender-based clothing was strictly enforced, at least in the schools and at formal events. I did get to wear shorts in the summer, when school was not in session, but in the winter it was dresses and tights, which I hated with a passion. I'm not even trans, I'm just non-gender-conforming, and this made my life miserable. I was also compelled, for years, to have long hair which my mother put up in curlers at night -- like my insomnia wasn't bad enough.

U.S. conservatives claim to be against government overreach, and yet they are making alliances with the TERFs, who want to regulate what children can wear and how they have to dress, because it's apparently essentially that "children's actual sex must be known by everyone in school."

Honestly, ask yourself: if gender is a binary fact, as real as a rock in your fist, why does society, apparently, need to enforce it with such unrelenting zeal? It's essential that everyone around a five year old knows what genitals that five year old has? Why, exactly?

TERFs and conservatives, who claim to oppose liberal indoctrination, are really upset because they aren't being allowed to practice indoctrination on every child within their reach. It's why they want to "bring back prayer" in public schools, and why they're opposed to teaching actual history (instead of "patriotic" history), and why they're angry about books which show a world that isn't their world, and why they don't want any sort of suggestion that children other than white straight cis children matter, and so on and so on.

This is why I never believe them when they claim to want to protect children. They want to indoctrinate certain kinds of children into believing in their hateful version of reality, and make sure any other sort of child is crushed into invisibility. "Let kids be kids!" my ass. What they mean is, Let kids be forced into being what we, their owners, want them to be. Kids aren't people to these people. They're accessories to their bigoted political agenda.


Thursday, September 21, 2023


Honestly what would make recovering from COVID a better experience is a couch in my office so I could nap between classes.

That's if I can't have two months in a sanatorium in the Alps, which would be my first choice.

DEI Workshop

So I signed up for a DEI workshop back there in August when my energy and enthusiasm was boundless. It came with a stipend, and the focus of the workshop was students with disabilities, which is an area where my knowledge base is weak, so it seemed like a good deal.

And it is! I am learning a lot. For instance, today's assignment had us work out how long it would take to get from a specific address in town to the university using public transit, and how long it would take (and how much it would cost) using Uber. I used to use public transit exclusively back before I had a car, so I'm used to negotiating public transit systems, but I've never used the one here in the Fort, which to be frank is not great. I do know some of my students use it, but the ones I know about who use it are all able-bodied. I can't imagine trying to use it if you, for instance, need to use a cane, or are in a wheelchair. There's a way you can get a special pickup, but only if you're more than three-quarters of a mile from a bus stop. I mean, yikes.

So a useful workshop, but I didn't expect to get Covid, which has put me behind in every single thing I need to get done. Finding the extra hours to prep for this workshop on top of that is nearly impossible, especially since I'm still recovering and need about 12 hours of sleep/day. 

So kind of a direct lesson in life with a (temporary) disability, I guess.

Anyway, DEI workshops are great, and I recommend them, especially for people who don't get Covid in the third week of classes.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023


We finally have rain here -- it started last night and continues into this morning. I do love rain.

Also, the weather will change on the other side of this storm, at least here in Arkansas. No more days in the 90s. Highs in the low 80s and 70s for the next ten days. Not exactly cold weather, but better than summer.

I am catching up on all the work that did not get done while I was languishing with COVID. Plus next semester I am teaching script writing for the first time, so I have to learn how to do that. Does anyone know a good program for formatting scripts / screenplays that I can make my students buy?

In worse news, I have just noticed that my public library is weeding out books that, apparently, not enough people check out each year. For instance, they have gotten rid of all their books by Cecelia Holland; everything by David Lodge except the TV shows he wrote; everything by Eleanor Arnason; all the Marian Cockrell; and probably others that I have not noticed.

They still have everything Stephen King ever wrote, though, and shelves and shelves of Harry Potter -- 93 books in their holdings written by Rowling alone.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

What I'm Watching

I watched the free episode of the new Justified series, and liked it well enough. If I ever decide to start buying TV, I'll probably watch more.

Meanwhile, for free on Amazon Prime, I watched the entire series Deadloch, and loved it to pieces. Set in a small town in Tasmania, it follows the work of a tiny police force -- two women, a gay guy, and a forensics specialist -- as they try to figure out who is killing the men in town. A homicide detective from Darwin, Australia comes in to help the locals out.

Deadloch has been gentrified by wealthy Lesbians. The white cis straight people who used to run the town are resentful of these interlopers, as are the indigenous people, who have seen rents and prices rise without seeing much if any help for them in their lives (though the white cis people who formerly exploited them were not any better). A lot of rich characterization, (I think?) indigenous actors, with most of the focus on the women of the town. The creators are two women who I think are famous in Australia, though I haven't heard of them: Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan. 

Anyway, I highly recommend this one. There's a lot of murder, and we see a lot of bodies, but the violence is mostly off-stage.

Friday, September 15, 2023

What I'm Reading Now

Anne Leckie, The Long Game

A long short story which for some reason Kindle let me read for free. Here, Leckie retells the tale of Gilgamesh with a short-lived alien who discovers halfway through their two-year life span that they're going to die. Like Gilgamesh, the alien journeys beyond the bounds of the world and demands of the gods (which is to say human scientists) that they make him immortal, or at least longer-lived. That's the basic plot, but as with all Leckie's fiction the wealth of characterization and their motives makes this a wonderful, rich little read. Also deeply touching in places. Highly recommended. (You don't have to be familiar with Gilgamesh to understand it.)

Stephen King, Holly

You know, King isn't exactly inventive and he's a fairly mediocre writer, but he's got something, whatever that thing is that compels readers through the books. He has a mega dose of that. His recent books have gotten better -- I really liked Fairy Tale, for instance -- and this one isn't bad. It covers ground already covered by about a billion other crime novelists, serial killers, cannibals, missing kids and women and gay people; and the revelation isn't really a surprise. It's extremely readable though. Also, it's set during the initial COVID outbreak, so we get a look back at what that boring, scary time was like. Don't read this if graphic murders and cannibalism are too much for you, and parts of it are irksome (King has apparently never read a woman writer in his life -- he has a world famous woman poet recommending poets and fiction writers to a young writer and of course every single writer she recommends is male), but if you can get past that, this is fun. Also it has our favorite character Holly at its center.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin

I read this after reading an essay on it by Jane Smiley, arguing that this and not Huck Finn should be seen as the foundation of American literature. I dislike Huck Finn as a novel -- it might have made a good short story, if Twain had written it that way. The first two or three chapters are good, and then it falls apart. 

So I read this, which somehow I had managed not to read so far, and while it is a better novel than Twain's, it's overwritten and preachy in that way that many middleweight novels from the 19th century tend to be. It did not help that the annotator, Henry Louis Gates Jr, is clearly a misogynist, ascribing Stowe's every weaknesses in her writing to her desire to please the female portion of her audience. Women, clearly, have terrible taste, Gates seems to imply, so what can you expect from Stowe? 

The plot itself does well enough -- we follow the fates of two people, Tom and Eliza, as they use their own separate methods for dealing with the injustice of slavery. Eliza runs away, Tom uses his Christian faith and his determination to be a good man to deal with being sold down South. After a lot of religious stuff, Tom ends up being murdered by his new owner, while Eliza ends up finding her long-lost mother and emigrating to Africa, which is apparently Stowe's solution for America's evil institution.

One problem I have is all the religious guff. Stowe, I think, wants American slaveholders to realize that their religion means they shouldn't have slaves. Though that's not clear, since -- as Frederick Douglass pointed out -- plenty of American slaveholders used Christianity to justify the ownership of slaves; and indeed the Bible does not forbid slavery, but gives rules for the correct way to own slaves. (It also gives rules for the correct way to rape people, as I used to point out to people who claimed the Bible was a moral guide.) Anyway, the religious yammering was tedious, and tended at times to bury the plot.

The other problem is that Stowe does indeed tend toward the sentimental, especially with her Christian characters. Gates isn't wrong about that, but he undercuts his case by with his obvious contempt for women readers.

Anyway, I'm glad I read it but I do not recommend this, unless you just like 19th century reform literature. And I don't think this is the foundation of American literature either. What is, then? An excellent question.

Kate Atkinson, Life After Life

I didn't read this one, I listened to it while I had Covid -- over and over again, because I kept falling asleep and waking up thirty or forty pages later, so I had to go back to the last part I remembered. Which, if you know the structure of this novel, that wasn't always easy.

The perfect novel for listening to when you're only semi-conscious, though.

Dorothy Sayers, Busman's Honeymoon

I also listened to this one while suffering from Covid. Since I've read the book like ten times, and it has a very linear plot, this one was easier to backtrack in once I'd fallen asleep. Also good for listening too when sick.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Covid on Campus

Two more of my students have Covid. That's six out of sixty-six, or just over ten percent. Two of them were in the same room that gave all us professors COVID, and four were in my fiction workshop, so I suspect I am the vector, at least for that class.

So far only two of us (including me) have had serious cases. Dr. Skull is holding his own, but he's still not well. Since he has CKD and other complicating factors, I'm a little worried.

Fucking Trump.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Endemic on Campus

I've had four students report in with COVID so far today.

As for me,  I had to cancel my third class and go home and sleep for four hours, although I am back on campus now for tonight's workshop.

We'll see how many students show up.

(I can never remember the difference between endemic and epidemic, so the title to this post may be entirely wrong.)

C'est un deluge

Heavy rain this morning, and I am back at school. The consensus of our university, if not the CDC, is that if I were testing negative, and if I was symptom free, and if I wear a mask around students, I am safe to resume teaching, even if Dr. Skull is still experiencing symptoms.

I did email my students and warn them, telling those who were immunocompromised or who lived with immunocompromised family members, that they could skip class this week, and work remotely. So far I have had one taker, one whose family members (grandparents and one parent) have health issues.

I'm feeling okay today, no exhaustion, and I dashed through the rain and up the stairs to my building without being even a little winded.

Here's hoping I don't kick off a second wave on campus.

I was glad to see that the next round of vaccines will soon be available.

Hard at Work

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Is this Fall?

This morning when I took the little dog out the breeze was almost crisp. Still a high of 90 today, but after today, highs are forecast for the low 80s and the 70s. Please!

I'm much better today, after sleeping 10 solid hours last night. I think I've shook this thing.

My department figured out that all of the English instructors who got COVID, including me, shared a specific classroom. It's epidemiology, baby! They have scoured the room with antiseptic whatevers, locking the barn door, as it were.

ETA: Dr. Skull just tested positive. He's not very sick, but UGH.

Saturday, September 09, 2023


I'm nearly well, just still a bit weak. I may take a short walk tomorrow, up the street and back. I have stayed awake all day today, not even a short nap, and have done a load of laundry as well.

It helps that the weather is changing. Highs in the low 90s today and tomorrow, and then after that, fall arrives. We outlived summer once again.

I'm also out of books to read. Can I go to the library yet? Some places say you should quarantine five days after testing negative, and some say ten. I suppose there must be something in this house I haven't yet read. 

I spent the days I was sickest re-reading Connie Willis's Passage, a book about death, which probably isn't the best choice for when you feel like you're dying. It's such a good book, though.

Friday, September 08, 2023


I feel worse today. Is that possible?

Still exhausted, and now congested and depressed as well.  I know depression can be an after-effect of some flus -- is it an after-effect of COVID as well?

Thursday, September 07, 2023

COVID Update

I am less exhausted today, though more than about six minutes of activity (that is, making myself some tea and feeding the dog) wipes out every energy reserve I have. I don't immediately fall asleep afterwards though.

Yesterday I used Instacart for the first time, to get a minimum grocery order, since we're isolating. It's a great service, but I felt bad for the couple who was doing the job -- past middle-age, they were clearly in serious poverty. I tipped them the highest amount Instacart allowed, but STILL.

Meanwhile, I have apparently slept through the last week of summer. Highs next week in the 70s and 80s.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023


Fever is gone, and I can stay awake for nine or ten hours at a stretch.

I'm extremely, extremely tired, though. I think it might be because I'm not eating enough -- I have absolutely no appetite. Yesterday I ate a piece of toast, and a couple mugs of tea with milk, and two popsicles. I think that's it?

I did peel an orange, but I could only eat one segment of it. Ugh, I hate being sick.

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

COVID Update

I'm better, but still pretty sick. Walked out to the mailbox, which is about 100 yards from my door, and had to stop and rest before I trekked home again.

But it's just a bad cold, the conservative blogs assure me. No need for masks or precautions!

Monday, September 04, 2023


I'm still sleeping most of the day and night. Also, my skin hurts. What does that mean?

My fever is staying between 99 and 100, higher in the afternoons. No trouble breathing, not yet. Just endless exhaustion.

This is great

From the indomitable Ursula Vernon, of course.

Sunday, September 03, 2023


The worst part of being sick is how boring it is. I'm too sick to do anything useful, and not sick enough to sleep all the time. I've been listening to audible books, which helps a little.


Saturday, September 02, 2023

Symptoms on Day One

Or maybe it's Day Three, since I felt bad on Thursday.

Anyway, I have a fever of 101, a headache, fatigue, a truly vicious sore throat, and general aches in my joints. Also, my skin hurts. Dr. Google says that might be a symptom.

Dr. Skull had tested negative for COVID, but he seems fatigued as well, so I'm going to retest him tomorrow.

A text exchange between us earlier (I am in the living room and he is in his music room, which is like ten yards away, but we text one another frequently):

Me: I'm dying

Dr. Skull: No you're not.

He hates it when I'm sick.

He did come bring me another blanket, though.

Is This COVID?

I came home from work early on Thursday because I felt so awful -- a sore throat, aches, a headache, fatigue. Then yesterday, Friday, I felt okay. This morning I woke with an awful sore throat, more aches, and exhaustion.

I have an expired test which I am going to take, and maybe venture out to buy a couple more. The internet says the Walmart close to our house has them.

COVID is spreading through my university. My chair tested positive for it two days ago, so it's not impossible that I have it too.


Update: Fuck me:

Friday, September 01, 2023

Thank You, Whoever You Were

I forget who suggested listening to book tapes as a way to fight insomnia, but thank you! I have been having a terrible bout of insomnia lately, and I tried listening to an audiobook last night. Next thing I knew, I was waking up in the middle of a scene I did not remember starting, and it was one a.m. I turned the book off and went right back to sleep.

The only problem is I have to listen via earbuds (because Dr. Skull is also trying to sleep), and my current pair hurt my ears. But that's an easy fix -- I just need smaller buds.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

I Write a Poem

Meanwhile, in an Alternate Universe

Glassdoor keeps sending jobs it thinks would be a great fit for me

Landscape gardener, Warehouse night clerk, baker’s assistant

I have taught poets to write sonnets for thirty years but I admit

Sometimes I yearn for the world where I tend roses instead of students

Where I bake pies, where I move through towers of shadow

finding lost packages and hidden treasures, going home

at dawn to my one-room apartment

Where my cat sleeps in the sun

And a chicken stewed with peaches simmers in a crockpot

(The first poem I've written since I was about 25 years old)

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

My Kid the Poet

My kid publishes yet another poem.

You can read it here!

Tuesday Again

It's Tuesday again, the day I'm on campus from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. UGH.

I'm prepping for my Comp I and my editing class. The editing class is the hardest, because all I can find to say is "go edit, okay?" It's kind of like riding a bicycle; there's not that much theory. Though I plan today to talk about the instructive case of the editor that bought a story by a literal Nazi and then had to figure out what to do when their reading public objected. 

Is it okay to buy fiction written by a Nazi? What about a TERF? Do the political leanings of the writer matter? Back when I was working as an acquisitions editor, I did indeed google everyone, just to make sure they weren't fascists before I bought their stories, but that was because we had fascists trying to punk us, a premier fascist himself, Vox Day, having brought their attention to our little zine. 

I've seen people argue that you have to separate the artist from the art, which under that reading, what does it matter that your author is a Nazi/TERF/fascist? Except, of course, it does matter, since writers write what they know/believe, and so a Nazi's art, or a TERFs, is going to be informed by that writer's worldview. If you publish that work, you are, in a very real way, endorsing that worldview.

Also, usually what people mean when they say "separate the artist from the art" is "you shouldn't gore my ox, but it's perfectly okay if you gore oxen belonging to those people."

Hence, for instance, Rod Dreher, who is perfectly fine with trans people and black people and atheists having their work canceled, but screeched with outrage whenever anyone dared to note that Christo-fascist bigots maybe shouldn't be allowed to set the rules for the rest of us.

ANYWAY. I also have a night class, Fiction Workshop, with four texts on the worksheet for tonight. I've already read and written feedback for each of them, but our cursed printer is refusing to print, which means I'll have to take my laptop to class and work from that. UGH.

One piece of good news -- the high today will only be in the low 90s. A brief respite before triple digit highs resume.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Ugh, this WEATHER

According to the Weather Channel, this week will be relatively cool -- highs in the low 90s. But then Sept 3rd through September 10th, triple digits again. ENOUGH ALREADY.

Three more weeks of summer.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Being Able to See

The new glasses are splendid. I knew I was having trouble seeing the computer screen, but I had no idea how bad it had gotten.

10/10 would buy them again.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Yet More Glasses

I picked up my new pair of glasses today. Now I have five pairs.

Two sets of reading glasses -- one for day use, and one I use (rarely) at night when I am very tired and still want to keep reading.

One set of glasses used for driving and regular about-town activities.

One set of glasses for working on the computer.

One set of sunglasses for driving and walking about in the sunlight.

All still in active use. If they could just clone my eyeballs, how much time might I save!

Me in my reading glasses

Trump Surrenders to Authorities

I mean, I too am pleased (if surprised) that Trump was formally arrested. And his mug shot is hilarious, as is his bizarre and transparent lies about how much he weighs and how tall he is.

But he's not going to jail. I doubt he'll even pay a fine. And the support of the MAGAist is only increasing as he flaunts his criminal activities. They like that he tried to overthrow a lawful election. That shit is like heroin to them. So, you know, funny as this is, it's not a game-changer.

I'll also remind you that even if he went to prison, which he won't, he could still run for president. Eugene Debs ran for president from the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in 1920, and received a little over three percent of the vote. And he was an evil socialist!

The best outcome of this, I guess, would be if the GOP refused to run Trump on their ticket, and he ran as an independent, and split the vote. But if you think the GOP won't come around to backing Trump, I'll just point you at 2016, when they were all Never-Trumpers until election day, when they all started licking his boots with amazing fervor.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Heat + Class = Exhaustion

The first day of classes was unexpectedly exhausting, probably for a couple of reasons. One was that I had four classes, the first one starting at 9:30 and the last one ending at 8:15. I wasn't teaching non-stop, but the breaks were just big enough that there was no point in going home. I did a lot of prep work instead.

The other reason was the appalling heat and humidity. A high of 101 here, and absolutely killer humidity. Three of my classes are in our library classrooms, which is not that far from the building my office is in, but the walk over there is across an entirely unshaded walkway. It was fierce. Also getting into my car at the end of that long day was like getting into an oven.

The classes themselves went well. Everyone showed up! I don't think that's ever happened. Usually a handful of students skip the first day, probably thinking not much will happen. Not this time. Also, the classes were engaged, asking questions, and going to my first day "assignment" with zeal.

The assignment was for them to tell me (1) their preferred names (2) their preferred pronouns and (3) one question or anxiety they had about the class.

Honestly, I expected a little pushback about the pronoun question, given how conservative this area is, but that did not happen; and several of them, in fact, have pronouns that don't match the gender assigned at birth. So I'm glad I asked. And about a third of them asked to be called something that isn't their name on my roll sheet -- this has been common throughout my teaching career, because so many kids are named something like Hunter and called something like Bubba; but I never actually asked for that information up front. 

Frankly, I also asked this because I wanted to give my students fair warning. Yes, that's me, the ultra-progressive professor. If you can't take it, you've got three more days to switch into a different section.

But as I said, no student so much as blinked. The kids really are okay, even here in the reddest of the red states.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

3:30 and 101 Degrees

This is my first day of teaching for Fall 2023 and it is currently 101 degrees here. I've taught three classes already. One more to go.

How tired am I? Really fucking tired.

Also, peep this -- chips in the vending machine now cost $2.50. When I started teaching they were fifty cents. My handy inflation calculator says this is a much higher cost than inflation justifies.

Also sodas now cost $2.25. They were .75 cents back when I started this gig, which the inflation calculator says is a more reasonable increase.

Luckily I brought a bag of oranges to work with me. I'll just eat those.


 I'm sharing this post from TYWKIWDBI to boost the signal. Honestly, I know it will make our conservative citizens simply increase their support -- my conservative students are all pro-torture.

Ron DeSantis at Guantanomo

Sunday, August 20, 2023


Record high of 106 degrees predicted for today.

Highs in the triple digits all week, which is my first week of classes.


Four more weeks of summer.

Friday, August 18, 2023

What I'm Reading Now

Ann Patchett, Tom Lake

This is the best book I've read in a long while. Patchett is hit or miss for me -- I've really liked a couple of her books, while others bored me horrifically. I almost didn't check this one out when I saw it at the library. "Oh, Patchett again. Is she still writing?"

She is, and this book is a masterpiece. Patchett tells the story of a summer on a cherry farm in the early months of the pandemic, when the three daughters of the farm come home to stay with their parents and help them pick the sweet cherry crop. (All the details about cherry picking ring true, though I don't think Patchett lives on a cherry farm.) The daughters want the mother, Lara, to tell them the story of how she dated a guy who later became America's biggest actor. So she does, her story interweaving with the story of cherry-picking and their lives during the pandemic.

Lara met Peter Duke (the actor) when they were both in a summer theater production of Our Town, and the entire novel is filled with echoes of that play, as well as Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, while remaining a story about its own characters. The plot, such as it is, revolves around Lara's love first for Duke and then for her present husband, and how that came about; and about the oldest daughter, who is in love with the neighbor boy (just like in Our Town, yes) and what happens with that. The plot is fine, but the wonderful structure and writing of this book are just sublime. I kept stopping to read paragraphs over again, because they were so wonderful. Not showily written -- this is not a "lush" book -- but just perfect.

Read this one. It's amazing.

Thorton Wilder, Our Town

This is one of the first plays I ever saw performed, as an adolescent in New Orleans, and one I read several times during my teen years. I re-read it because of Patchett's novel, of course. I remembered almost nothing about it, while everything felt familiar. I do remember Mrs. Gibbs saying, "Once in your life before you die you ought to see a country where they don't talk in English," a line that has stuck with me for all the intervening years. But I think I missed the part where Wilder tells us she never went to Paris -- she leaves the money to her Emily and George, who spend it on a concrete watering trough for their cattle. Which, yikes.

It's a good play. But don't watch the 1977 version on YouTube, that's my advice.

Liane Moriarty, What Alice Forgot

This is a re-read, my favorite of Moriarty's books. Alice hits her head in the gym and forgets the last ten years of her life, the time during which she gave birth to three kids, stopped loving her husband, became an exercise fanatic, and lost her best friend, traumatically. She thinks she's still 29 year old Alice, a goofy, soft, whimsical woman, pregnant with her first child and madly in love with her husband, who in her memories is a wonderful guy. What happens when her memory returns? It's an engaging book, like most of Moriarty's novels, with great characters. I liked it just as much on the re-read as I did the first time I read it.

Martha Wells, The Murderbot Diaries

I'm re-reading all these for an essay I plan to write. They're great. Murderbot is a "construct," which is to say a kind of half-human/half-robot Security Unit, SecUnit, as these constructs are often called. It's an entirely ungendered being (it finds sex boring) who underwent a traumatic event, which it mostly can't remember, and which caused it to "split" from its previous self, hacking its governor module and becoming, technically, a rogue unit. What Wells does in these texts is really interesting. Clearly I'll have more to say about this in the essay, but meanwhile you can also just read these for fun.

Whining about the Weather

Ugh, the forecast is for highs of 101 and 103 for the next seven days. 

Four more weeks of summer.

Back to School

We are having our back-to-school "training," which mostly consists of sitting in an insufficiently cooled room listening to administrators talk endlessly about things which could have been summed up in a 25 word email.

Also they are careful to explain to us why we can't have a raise this year either. It is because all the university's money is going to pay administrators, in my humble opinion.

They fed us, sort of. I just drank the coffee. I have discovered I like my coffee black now. I am indeed 100% grown up. (And about time, too.)

One of my students from about ten years ago has taken one of our Visiting Professor positions. I remember them as an adorable, kind of sleepy presence in the front row. Now they are a poet, and the new other half of the creative writing department. (I am the fiction half, they are the poetry half. Our poet for the past seven or eight years left just before the semester started to take up a job that actually paid enough to live on, apparently. God Speed.)

Anyway, more "training" tomorrow, and then first day of classes on Tuesday. It was cool this week, highs in the low 80's and very little humidity -- almost fall-like weather. But now we are in for a stretch of 100 degree days. At least all my classes are in my building or right next door -- no more long hikes across the campus in the killing heat.

Hope your semesters are start well!

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Taking Care of Babies

My nephew and his wife had their baby about a year ago, and my sister-in-law has been taking care of him while his parents are teaching middle-school and high-school in their local public school system. Now and then I stop by when I'm in town and help her take care of him for a bit.

Monday I went up and helped all day, since my SIL (I should give her a blog alias) had caught a cold from my nephew and his wife (schools are huge disease vectors, as we all know). The baby is about ten months old now, a very happy child, who crawls everywhere and stands up for brief moments. He doesn't talk yet, but he knows five or six signs from ASL, which he uses to good effect. (This is a thing now, to teach your infant sign language, since they can do signs before they talk, apparently.) When he's tired of doing something or being somewhere, he does the "all done!" sign with great vigor. He can also knock down blocks and turn pages in books. He's a talented child! And very active.

About halfway through the day, I commented to SIL that I'd forgotten how exhausting taking care of a tiny child could be. "Well," I said. "Forgot. I guess I never knew."

This is because I never had the full-time job of taking care of a child. I was working when my kid was tiny; Dr. Skull was home with him all day. Then later he was in pre-school, so again, I wasn't with him all day, except for brief periods -- winter break, that sort of thing. The SIL reflected that this was the case with her, too. She was working full-time, and my mother and my brother and preschools were dealing with the kids (two for her) much of the time.

All this to say that while babies are delightful, and I really enjoyed my day with the baby, the ratio of adults to babies in a caregiver situation clearly needs to be something like four or five adults for every one child.

They're looking into preschools for him, which will give SIL a break; but my god are those things expensive. The least pricey one available seems to be a thousand dollars a month.


Tuesday, August 15, 2023

What I'm Reading Now

Rebecca Yarros, Fourth Wing. This is a 498 page book, and I read it all in one night. It's about a world at war, and the dragon flyers who defend (part) of that world. The point of view character is the daughter of a famous general, and also has (I think, since the disease is never named) Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which makes her spectacular unsuited to be a dragon rider, work requiring great physical strength and resiliency, among other traits. But she is compelled by into becoming a cadet by her mother (the famous general), and through a combination of clever tricks, hard work, and the help of her fellow cadets, survives the brutal training months. Yarrow apparently also writes romance novels, and a little of that seeps through -- the two leading men are super hot, a fact which is dwelled on endlessly; and there are some boring (at least to me) sex scenes, but the dragon stuff is great, as is the politics of the world. Very nice world building here. A sequel is coming out soon, hurray!

Matt Haig, Humans, The Midnight Library, How to Stop Time

I forget where I saw Matt Haig mentioned, but I've been reading through all his books that my library has. Humans is the best of those I have read so far -- it's about an alien who takes over the body of a mathematician at Cambridge, one who has just solved a very big math problem having to do with prime numbers. The alien's job is to kill anyone the math guy might have told about the solution, since solving it has some very bad effects on the universe. Instead, the alien discovers that it likes being human, and likes the humans in its life -- specifically the son of the math guy -- and so he doesn't want to kill them. 

How to Stop Time is about long-lived humans, ones who age about a year for every fifteen years of life, and their struggle to survive in a world filled with short-lived humans. The Midnight Library is about a woman who has lived a life filled with regrets, who after committing suicide finds herself in a place called the Midnight Library, where every possible life she might have lived (this is infinity lives, obviously, since every choice she's made creates a new life, in the multiverse way of viewing universes). She must sample life after life until she finds one she is happy in. A nice ending to this one. These are all what we call "high-concept" novels, which is to say they're built around a big idea, which the novel spends its time examining. I'd actually read part of The Midnight Library before -- I remembered the opening, and identifies the spot where I stopped reading the first pass through, due to not really being interested in any of the characters. I liked it a little better this time, but I don't think Haig is going to be a favorite of mine.

Octavia Butler, Lilith's Brood, Seed to Harvest, Fledgling

Rereading this. Octavia Butler is great, and it had been long enough since I re-read these, her major works, that I'm enjoying them immensely. Butler takes big ideas and mixes in fascinating characters, plus a huge dose of hotness, plus an examination of why all that is so problematic. These are wonderful novels, well-written, and disturbing. 

Lilith's Brood is about aliens taking over an earth lately destroyed by pollution, global warming, and nuclear weapons; Seed to Harvest is about long-lived humans with psionic powers; Fledgling is about vampires, sort of. Butler also wrote Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, which are a little too prescient of our current world: a failing climate and a failing economy lead to widespread governmental and social collapse, during which a young woman founds a new religion. These are two very depressing books, partly because Butler read the writing on the wall, and I'm not up to rereading them this go-round. And she wrote Kindred, about a black woman who jumps back through time to her remote (white) ancestor, who she must keep alive if she is to continue to exist in the present (1970s Los Angeles).

Anyway, everything Butler writes is very much worth reading, even the depressing stuff, if you're in a place where you can take it. 10/10 will always read again.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Here Comes the Fall Semester

I'm teaching four classes this fall, all of them meat-space, which I don't think I've actually done since the pandemic hit, back then in March 2020. 

Two Comp I, a class in editing, and Fiction workshop, all on Tuesday-Thursday. It's a good schedule, and good classes. I wish it started in September instead of next week, that's all.

We're having yet another heat wave -- highs in the 100s today and tomorrow, and then in the high 90s the rest of the week. Returning to work + killer heat is not for me.

Also, Dr. Skull put the car in the ditch two days ago, so I've had enough excitement for a while. (Our street has deep, open concrete ditches on both sides of the narrow blacktop road, and he swung a little wide going out of the driveway. The car has a crumpled bumper, but no other damage that I can tell. Just ugh, though.)

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

Whatcha Eating?

This post inspired by one over at Nicole & Maggie's -- I *had* been eating pretty well, until the triple digit heat struck. Then I took refugee in popsicles and Licorice All-Sorts. To be fair, I also ate watermelon. And ice cream. And cheese and crackers.

Anyway, Monday I scored some fresh figs, so those have been added to the diet:

I love fresh figs, but I can only find them for sale about twice a year -- once, this year -- and all my attempts to grow my own have failed miserably.

Now that the heat dome has passed, maybe I will return to a more sane eating experience. Although I did just buy some jelly beans, so maybe not.

Only five more weeks of summer, and then I can start eating curries again.

Sunday, August 06, 2023

No More Heat Dome?

Good Lord, it's only 80 degrees here, today at noon.

And a high of 93 is predicted! What sorcery is this?

It does look like the heat dome might be over. An immense thunderstorm hit today at dawn, which I think was the dome's parting gift.

A high of 85 forecast for Tuesday! And when I woke up this morning (I left all the ACs on all night: the heat pump, the window unit in the bedroom, the window unit in the kitchen) it was 69 degrees in the house! That's the coolest I've managed to get the house in weeks. It's usually 80 degrees in the morning, and 85 or 88 in the afternoon.

My excellent landlord did replace the kitchen  window unit yesterday, which might also have something to do with the new coolness; but the relative coolness outside does as well, I'm sure.