Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Book Drought

I'm having the worse time finding books lately. Partly it is because my library has, lately, been buying nothing but the sappy cishet romances I don't care for, along with a lot of genealogy books and kids books. (I am all for buying kids books, but this means less SFF for me.) Partly, I think, it is that my standards have upgraded. Books that would have been perfectly acceptable to me, say, five years ago annoy and bore me now. Possibly I have just read too many excellent books. I cannot put up with dreadful one.

Also it is that my favorite authors are writing books too slowly. Please, I need more books. Quit your day jobs!

This week I took six books out of the library two days ago and I have DNF'd all of them. Well, I am still trying to read The Professor and the Madman, because I am desperate, but it is slow going.

I still have War and Peace, which I never got around to reading last summer. Maybe I will read that. That will keep me in reading material for at least a few days.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Spring Break!

Today is the first official day of Spring Break and it is 29 degrees here. 59 degrees in the house. That's WITH the heat on.

Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Reviews of Proud Pink Sky and World Running Down

Here you can read two of the reviews I have done lately for Interzone. These both have trans characters, and both are dystopian/utopian worlds. One has Mormon pirates!

Paying Taxes

We did our taxes this morning. It was relatively painless, but because this is the first year the kid is not a full-time student, this is the first year we had to file without him as a deductible. So -- for the first time in years -- we had to pay rather than getting a refund. Nearly a thousand dollars, plus what we had already paid, so, ugh.

With this, plus the car, plus having to rent the car, our little savings are going fast.

Friday, March 17, 2023

My Very Happy Birthday

I did laundry for my birthday, drank a lot of coffee, and wrote on my novel. Later I finished a review for Interzone, on Proud Pink Sky by Redfern Jon Barrett and World Running Down by Al Hess. Then I went to the grocery and bought milk. Later, Dr. Skull made me a happy birthday pastry:

Blueberry and custard in puff pastry

Now I am reading a science fiction novel and thinking about doing the dishes.

May all your birthdays be as happy as this one.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Spring Break Looms, Have Some News

We're two days away from the start of Spring Break, and yes, I am counting. I am desperate for time to get caught up on my work, which I believe was the original intention of Spring Break.

The weather here is not quite spring-like -- we're having rain and cold, interspersed with bright cold sunny days. I suppose that's spring-like in some parts of the country. It's unusual for an Arkansas spring, though. Everything is blooming early -- daffodils, redbud, pear trees -- and every lawn and field is fuzzy with bright green grass. Very Easter-y.

I have bought the supplies for Passover, which is on April 5, except for the brisket. I floated having lamb, but Dr. Skull demurred. Apparently brisket is traditional for Northeastern Jews.

Meanwhile, the kid is considering graduate school. He had a meeting with the head of the university library, which is his true goal -- to work at a library and do art -- and the guy said a masters in science would make him more competitive for library jobs. (We were wondering what use a masters in biological anthropology would be.) He's talking to his mentor about it, I think today? But maybe tomorrow.

My father's condition is worsening, which is to be expected, but is depressing nonetheless. He's in the fifth stage of dementia, which means he can't communicate and doesn't recognize people most of the time. Also, he can't really handle daily life -- he forgets to eat and bathe, that kind of thing. The assisted living place is moving him into what's called The Memory Care unit, where nurses and aides will help him function. I want to live a long life, but I do not want to spend my last years like this. It's just awful.

Also, I succeeded in making a sweater. Here is a very bad picture of it, with my shambolic bedroom in the background:

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Daylight Savings Time

Once again, we lose an hour's sleep in the interests of...something. No one has ever given me a convincing explanation for why we have to spring forward every year, and then fall back again later in the year. Something to do with World War One, and the idea that longer summer days means less fuel use? Something something kids walking to school in the dark?  I don't know. I do know the lost sleep makes me cranky. 

Apparently Marco Rubio and I agree about this, which I admit made me think twice.

Anyway I am tired and grumpy today. Maybe I'll go exercise. That might help.

Saturday, March 11, 2023


What you get when you vote GOP: Abuse of power

What you get when you vote GOP: Weaponized spousal abuse

What you get when you vote GOP: Weaponized government

I gotta say, it's interesting to learn that (a) Rod Dreher only exists in his current form because one guy wanted to read his work and funded him 100% and (2) that Rod Dreher eventually got too weird for even this guy.


Thursday, March 09, 2023

Pendant le deluge

It is bucketing down icy rain here, rain and thunder, though as yet no wind. A good day to stay inside and nap, but I am too overwhelmed by work to nap. 

I had been keeping up with my work easily, but somehow despite the fact that I finished my Asimov's review and sent it in, I am still entirely whelmed. Maybe because I am spending so much time writing my novel and reading books for my next reviews?

Anyway, picture me huddled under the storm of classes, student work, upcoming book reviews, and writing the novel. Some day I'll get some sleep.

Le deluge:

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Schiacciata All'uva


I can't eat it until it's cool.

Is This Spring?

I think it's actually false spring, since a storm is coming through in a few days, with cold weather behind it. But today we've got lovely weather, with a high of 72 and cool bright sunshine. Also, wildflowers are starting to bloom in my yard.

Spring is, honestly, my least favorite season, given that it's a harbinger of summer, which I detest with all the fury of my soul. But today is nice. I can't help enjoying it.

I'm also making schiacciata all'uva, only with blueberries instead of grapes, because I have too many blueberries (they were on sale, and Dr. Skull said he would eat them, but he did not).

Pix later.

Saturday, March 04, 2023


Our car is fixed. $998, but because they got the parts early, we can take the rental car back. We're keeping it until Monday, since we're driving up the mountain then to take the kid to a medical thing, and having a sedan with four doors (our car has two) will be pleasant for that.

So we'll save a little money on the rental car, and -- let's hope -- this will be the last repair we have to do on the car for awhile. We're saving up to buy a new one, or rather a new used one, sometime within the next year or two. Dr. Skull wants a Subaru Forester, and I want a SmartCar. Is compromise possible? Can this marriage be saved?

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Side Effect: Exercise

 I can't drive the rental car to work -- or rather, I could, but I can't park it on campus. 

Well, I suppose I could park it on campus, but I would have to go over to Campus Security and negotiate with them, and who has the energy, frankly.

So I'm walking to work and walking home every day. Before Dr. Skull retired, this was what I did anyway, since he drove the car to whatever school he was working at that day; but I had quit doing it since his retirement, even though the campus is literally just a half mile away. Driving seemed so much easier, especially at six a.m., which is when I come to work.

However, being compelled to walk is doing wonders for my mood. It's a short, very nearly pleasant walk (there's an appalling hill halfway there), and by the time I reach school I am thoroughly awake and ready for coffee. Walking home is even more pleasant, because the hill is less appalling going home (most of it downhill instead of most of it uphill).

Maybe I will continue to walk to work once we have our own car back.

Hey, it could happen.

The Road Home (before the hill)

Wednesday, March 01, 2023


The guy finally looked at the car, and (1) it's over $1000 to fix it and (2) he can't get the parts until next Friday, like March 10 Friday, which means (C) we have to rent this other car through then at least.

Seriously, UGH.

As I said to Dr. Skull, at least we have the money. I didn't want to spend it this way, true.

Monday, February 27, 2023


They're censoring James Bond now. Is nothing sacred?

Seriously, as I noted a few days ago, this sort of thing is standard in the publishing business. 

Friday, February 24, 2023

Ugh, Cars

I'm reading a SF book by Jo Walton, set in the late 1970s, and there's a character who can travel all over England and Wales by train and bus. Meanwhile, here in Fort Smith, Arkansas, in 2023, when our car (the one we can barely afford) breaks down, we are fucked. 

The mechanic can't even look at the car* until March 1, so we have had to rent a car. As I said in the previous post, at least we have the money. And the car we have rented, a Toyota compact, is new and very cool. 

The back-up camera, of course, that's apparently standard now, but also a large touch screen which tells me all sorts of things as I drive. (As it loads, it gives me a warning screen, telling me I shouldn't look at it while I'm driving, which is practically impossible, since a screen, especially one filled with data, is an irresistible pull on our attention.) It flashes a little passive-aggressive Alert if I go over the speed limit, telling me what the speed limit is on the road where I am driving; and it tells me the outside temperature, and how many miles I can travel on the current tank of gas, and how efficiently or inefficiently I am using the available fuel. Apparently it will also alert me if I'm about to run into someone, but I haven't set off that alarm yet.

Rental companies will now come to your house to pick you up and drive you to the rental agency, so that's nice.

The car we rented

*This is apparently due to the labor shortage we don't have, since no one is dying of COVID-19 and no one is being disabled by long COVID. It is all a plot and a lie.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023


Boy, the bigots and TERFs are really getting mad at the Onion over these posts.

A hit dog hollers, as they say. 

Curried Vegetables

This is a sort of stew, which you can eat as an entire meal. I only use a little curry these days, because too much gives me indigestion.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Ugh, Car Trouble

Our car has -- I think -- a coolant leak. Very impressive gouts of steam came out from under the hood as we were driving home. The engine didn't overheat, though, and the check engine light also did not come in. Still, we're taking it to the shop.

At least we have, knock wood, the money to get it fixed. I won't have to put it on the credit card. (I don't know if I mentioned, but I have all my credit cards paid off at the moment. So, you know, I could put it on the credit card. But I hope I won't have to.)

Monday, February 20, 2023


The GOP is fine with the actual government actually banning books in classrooms and libraries, but let the publisher decide to update kid's books* and they begin throwing very showy tantrums. How dare you take that word out of that book? Do you think this is 1984?

Or, I know, tell them Dahl's books have LGBTQ kids in them. That'll do the trick.

*something that has been a common practice since kid's books were invented, by the way. I remember when I found an old copy of, I think it was, the Railway Children, which still used the adjective n***r-brown. Should the publisher be forced to continuing issuing books to kids with that language in it? Or should they have to choose -- as, I recall, the publishers of Dr. Seuss did -- not to republish the books at all? Conservatives didn't like that, either. It's almost as though they want to keep using certain words, ones associated specifically with bigotry.

That said, if it is true that the only change is that August Goop is no longer called fat, I think the publishers are getting a little too prissy. But I don't know what the facts are, and neither do most conservatives, I believe. That doesn't stop them from filling Twitter with their wails.


Friday, February 17, 2023

Just Saying

As the actual parent of an actual trans kid, the lunacy of conservatives with their faux moral panic about trans people is, what's the word I'm looking for, exhausting. Though not surprising. For the past 40 years, faux moral panic has been how conservatives get votes. Black people are scary! Feminists are scary! Gay men are scary! Muslims are scary! Immigrants are scary!

They don't have issues to run on -- most Americans don't support the actual goals of the current conservative party, which is to abandon infrastructure and the public good while destroying the planet in order to increase the wealth of corporations. So they have to whip up their base by pretending black people, or gay people, or immigrants, will destroy America (tm). Hence Trump's success in being elected by pretending "those people" had made American not-Great. 

Conservatives know nothing about actual trans people and -- here's the hilarious part -- don't actually care about trans people or their existence. Remember a couple years ago when the moral panic was that trans women would destroy women's sports? Like conservatives care about women's sports. Please.

Or when they were pretending they care about the safety of women in bathrooms and gyms. As if conservatives care about women's safety. The pro-rape party cares about women's safety. The party that wants to force raped ten-year-olds to carry their fetuses to term cares about women's safety. Please.

Or when they pretended to care that trans men were "erasing" women. How can you say pregnant person! That ERASES women, since as we know women aren't people. Like conservatives care about women or their rights.

The problem, obviously, is they have to keep ramping up the fake panic in order to keep the base engaged. So we go from "feminists exist" to "feminists are Satanists who want to drink teh blood of babies!" 

That's the road we're currently on with trans people. DeSantis, whose entire bid for the White House is based on his ability to keep his base outraged, has to keep outdoing himself. Trans kids shouldn't get surgery! Trans kids shouldn't have gender-affirming care! Trans kids don't exist -- Teachers are grooming kids to make them think they're trans! Trans adults aren't competent to make decisions about their own bodies! The government should ban gender-deviance!

DeSantis doesn't care about any of this. Conservatives do not care about any of this. They care about whipping up outrage among their ignorant, bigoted base, in order to keep their guys in power, so that they can continue destroying the planet, public good, and American infrastructure while making a few people just a tiny bit richer. That's it. That's the whole goal.

And what's ten or twenty or fifty dead trans people, or the misery of thousands of others, if they can accomplish that goal? So we abrogate the civil rights of some Americans? So we're hurting some of our fellow citizens? So some kids end up committing suicide? I mean, it's not like they're real Americans, right? Or even real people. Small price to pay!

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

I am a Grading Bot

Cleverly, I made assignments due from both my Comp I students and my writing students, so I am reading 25 short stories and 25 source evaluations today. Today and tomorrow and the next day. 

Keep me in your thoughts and have some links.

No way to prevent this -- this article has been published more than 30 times, which is probably all you need to know about gun violence in the only country that has gun violence like this.

No, wait: you also need to know this. One in twenty! USA! USA!

Pharyngula also has something to say. This reminded me of what my school did. Be sure to fight the gunman, but be aware that if you do the police (and Good Men with Guns) might well kill you if you do.

On the earthquake in Turkey -- as with Ohio, it seems deregulation, that darling of Conservatives and Capitalist, may be behind the immense death toll.

Also from TYWKIWDBI, the cloud over Ohio:

Upcoming SFF books -- thanks to my reviewing activities, I've already read some of these. 

A short story from one of my former colleagues -- he and his wife were our buddies when I was teaching in Idaho, and the wife and I had babies together, her second and my only.

A perfect short story:

Hmm...I wonder what happened in 1980?


Monday, February 13, 2023

Capitalism Fail in Ohio

I assume you've all heard about the derailing of the train in Ohio and the massive spill of toxic chemicals which are -- apparently -- going to threaten the water supply of people in ten states. 

Among other things, this is a great example of why unregulated capitalism is a terrible idea.

If you don't want to wade through that thread, Erin makes the point that because the corporation that owns the trains will not be required to pay for the cleanup, or the medical costs, or the suffering, or the destruction of the ecosystem caused by the spill, they had no incentive to make sure the train did not derail. Ineffective regulations and ridiculously low fine do nothing to change this equation.

Even a superficial examination of how capitalism currently works in this world shows us that if we, in effect, penalize corporations for being careful stewards of the earth (as we do, when we allow other corporations to escape the costs of such environmental disasters), we in effect incentivize the destruction of the planet, and incidentally the humans who live on it. 

Marx pointed this out quite some time ago, though he was talking about labor costs. If you don't compel companies to pay a living wage and provide decent working conditions, you are -- in effect -- forcing  those companies to underpay and mistreat their employees, since if they don't, and their rivals do, then they end up going out of business. It's the central flaw of capitalism. 

See also BP and the Gulf, Exxon and the coast of Alaska, Bhopal, India....


Sunday, February 12, 2023

The Kid Gets Engaged

The kid proposed to the boyfriend, who accepted. I suppose I will have to start calling him the fiancé now.

He popped the question at Crystal Bridges, the art museum Alice Walton opened with the Walmart bucks. In the mirror room, he says. My nephew brought up some of my mother's rings, and they used one of those.

In celebration, my kid sent me a photograph of one of my favorite paintings:

That's Winter Scene in Brooklyn, by Francis Guy.

Friday, February 10, 2023

What I'm Reading Now

Sarah Winman, Still Life

I saw this recommended on one of the book blogs I follow, I don't remember whose, but thank you, thank you. This is an amazing book. 

I recall the book blogger saying it was a story of love, found families, and E.M. Forster, which was enough to get me to hunt it down; the Forster is mostly influence, though he does make an actual appearance. 

The novel starts on the outskirts of Florence, Italy in the middle of WWII, with a young British soldier and a sixty-year old British art historian, who may or may not be a spy. Ulysses Temper is with the Eighth Army, the Allied forces fighting to take Italy back from the Axis; Evelyn Skinner is here to help salvage the art of Florence which has been hidden or lost during the various invasions. They have a brief encounter as their two missions intersect, a magical encounter, made magic -- Winman hints -- at least in part because of where they are, there in the hills above Florence, and because of what they are doing, locating and retrieving the art of Florence. One work specifically -- Pontormo's The Deposition from the Cross -- runs through the novel, wielding influence on all the characters.

Ulysses and Evelyn don't meet again until the 1970s, but the novel follows their lives and the lives of the characters who are their friends and family, through the decades until they meet up again. Ulysses returns to England, where he lives with all his friends and neighbors as well as his wife and his wife's child (conceived with an American soldier who then abandons her) in a fairly grim bit of London; but when the kid, as he calls his wife's child, is five, Ulysses inherits an apartment in Florence, and moves with the kid and one of his friends, Cress, to live in Italy thereafter. 

The writing here is amazing, fully immersive, with immense narrative pull. The contrast between the grim, damp, fetid slum in England and the impoverished but beautiful square in Florence is wonderful, and Winman's ability to make us see and believe in the transformative power of art is just as wonderful. Plus the characters are great. This is my new favorite writer, though sadly my library only has two of her books, this one and one another (already requested!). I will have to hunt the other down in used bookstore.

David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks 

I liked this the best of any of Mitchell's books I've read. Each section of the book is set in a different time and follows the same group of characters, starting in the 1980s and continuing into the future, after climate change has wrecked the world (though Iceland is doing pretty well). We follow secondary characters as well as main characters as they age through the decades, and as the world changes around them. 

There's some science fantasy elements involving a cabal of immortals having a war throughout time, which I enjoyed; but the characters and the use of place and time are the best part of this. There's a semi-happy ending. I liked this one a lot, and it taught me a new word: pandiculate.

Claire Keegan, Foster

I read Keegan's earlier short-story-published-as-a-book, and liked it well enough, so I picked this one up when I saw it at the library. The earlier one, Small Things Like these, worked well as a novella/long short story. This one is even shorter and really would have been improved with some more length. It's the story of an Irish girl, maybe eight years old? Maybe a little younger. It's never made clear, except she's school age, and her mother seems to be having a child a year, with the result that this child, the oldest child, is suffering from neglect. The girl is sent off to live with her aunt and uncle, whose only child has died, and blooms there, under their care. Then she's sent home again, just after her mother's new baby is born.

The language and descriptions of mundane life on this little farm in the Irish countryside are great, as is the characters development. If this book had been four times as long as it currently is, I would have loved it. As it is, it feels truncated and rushed -- just as we settle in to enjoy the story, it's over. Disappointing. Keegan is clearly a gifted writer. Someone should tell her to slow down.

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Cold, Cold Rain

It's been raining here since yesterday afternoon, a steady heavy downpour of cold, cold rain. Dr. Skull is baking bread for me and I'm trying to write something. Later I have a faculty meeting, but luckily I can zoom to it. 

The cat staring gloomily out at the rain:

Video of the cold, cold rain:

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

List of SF written by cis women, non-binary writers, and trans people

Over at Pharyngula, he links to a database of science fiction written by cisgendered women, non-binary authors, and trans authors. Fans will be pleased to see I appear in this database, as do many of my favorite writers. (I'm in Post-2010 Space Operas.)

The Discourse Circle

I made my students sit in a circle in class today and suddenly everyone has something to say after all! 

I'm sure there's some psychological reason for this, but it made me think of the Pirians in my novels, who love to make people sit in circles.

(Sorry if you thought this was going to be about wokeness.)

Monday, February 06, 2023

Faux News

Everybody was at the gym today, which meant I got stuck with the bike with the television that is stuck on Fox News. Luckily, I have gotten earphones for my phone, so that I can listen to audiobooks while I bike, so I didn't have to listen to the endless screech of nonsense, but I also couldn't turn the TV off, not on this bike. Even glancing at it now and then was painful. For well over half an hour, excluding lengthy commercials, they discussed the extremely important story of the Chinese balloon that drifted into American airspace and how Biden didn't immediately make it, I don't know, vanish, and how that put Americans in danger, and how the Chinese are laughing at us, and and and. It was endless, and every segment looked like it was repeated at least three or four times -- same graphics, same "reporters," same clips of Biden being interviewed about the balloon and China.

The commercials were selling silver coins by the pound, plus survivalist kits, plus telling you how to sue your local water company, plus how to sign up for some kind of prescription medication card that will let you get your blood pressure medicine even cheaper than Medicare, plus plus plus. 

I suppose the good news is that people avoid this bicycle, even choosing the one on the end on which the television doesn't work at all, rather than get stuck with Fox News, despite ninety percent of the members being conservative. 

Still, it was relentless and depressing. American propaganda. Ugh.

My Phone Made a Little Movie for Me

Seriously, what the hell? I didn't ask it to do this, it just did.

Friday, February 03, 2023

Back to the Gym

It was freezing fog this morning, 28 degrees and damp, but as the day went on, the fog cleared and the sun came out. I finally got back to the gym, for the first time since Monday, and did weights and biked seven miles. Now I feel stretched out and excellent.

I also got to the store, where I bought ingredients for vegetable soup. Some popovers with it would have been nice, but I used crackers instead. Now I'm going to grade some papers and finish reading a book which I'm reviewing for Interzone.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

No Snow No Ice

Can you believe these people made me go to work today?


Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Campus Closed Yet Again

We're having an ice storm, plus more snow is forecast for tomorrow. At some point people in Arkansas are going to have to learn to live with winter. But not yet, I guess.

That's sleet, not snow.

I'm huddled under my duvet with cats sleeping all around me grading work my students have posted on our Google Classroom page. Later I'm working on a book review. Beans and rice for dinner.

Cats. You can see the second cat, just barely.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Copies of Interzone

You can now buy e-copies of Interzone, which is where some of my book reviews are being published:

Interzone #294 is now out in all its forms: print copies have started
heading off around the world (IZ has subscribers in over 30 countries)
and ebook copies are now available from Scarlet Ferret and Weightless Books.

Snow Day Links

Once again our university has cancelled classes, this time because freezing rain and sleet are icing up the bridges and no one can get to campus anyway. My kid's campus has also closed, so he gets to stay home and draw his comic today. I get to stay home and write my novel. I might finish off that book review as well. Also, I plan to make beans.

Have some links!

Here, Pharyngula notes a problem with DeSantis's plan to rebuild education in his own image.

This is from Alas a Blog is good, though leaves out the part where, when the GOP gets in power, they run up the debt in various ways (tax cuts for the wealthy, increased military spending) and then demand cuts in social spending.

John Scalzi has won an Alex award. He gives the full list of other books that won, a couple of which I have also read and liked, especially Babel, which I high recommend.

Honestly, if I was this ignorant I would just shut up and read some books:

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Kafka Appears on the Midnight Society

When my kid was about seven years old, I turned around and found him reading the graphic novel version of Kafka's The Penal Colony

"Oh no," I said.

"WHAT IS THIS BOOK ABOUT?" the kid demanded in horror.

In memory of that:

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Florida Man Destroys Literacy

 Stolen shamelessly from Nicole & Maggie:

This is, of course, the world conservatives want. If they can control what other people's children read and learn, they can (they hope) control the upcoming generation. Keep them ignorant, poor, and desperate, and you can get them to vote for people like Trump and DeSantis.

My kid has a friend who was a high school teacher in Florida. They're moving, and mostly because of laws like this one.

Friday, January 27, 2023


 The snow is melting here:

Just in time for the next storm, which is arriving Wednesday.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Snow Apocalypse

The snow is still melting here, and the power is still off at my kid's place. He and the boyfriend got their car dug out and made it the four miles to his aunt's house, and they're going to stay there until the power comes back on, which the local power company says might be tomorrow, and might be Saturday.

Most of the Fort has power again, and my university is holding classes, though I am getting dozens of students who can't get out of their driveways or down the mountain. And more snow is forecast for next week.

Honestly, now that my kid is somewhere warm, I love this weather. What's better than burrowing under my duvet with two cats and the little dog and reading novels all afternoon while the snow tumbles down? Add some hot chocolate and I am in paradise.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Night Snow

 This was the snow last night:

Now it's all melting, so I guess technically we're not snowed in.

Up the hill, however, my kid's power went out at eight o'clock and still has not been restored. The power grid in the South, y'all, it's something else. (Something else besides a function power grid, I mean.)

Their heat is electric, but so far they're keeping warm.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023


 It is indeed snowing here.


We're waiting for a yuuuge winter storm here in the Fort. Classes are cancelled after two p.m. (which means both my classes will meet) and the weather reporters are crackling with excitement. Eight inches of snow! No, ten inches! Stay home! Buy supplies!

I'd love eight inches of snow, but I suspect it will be more like one inch, if that. Also, the temperatures are going to rise tomorrow, so no one's going to be snowed in for very long.

Very dramatic radar though.

We did go to the grocery last night, to buy enough food to get us through an extensive blizzard, and als Dr. Skull made bread for me. So we'll be fine.

Monday, January 23, 2023


Our state has implemented a new policy, which is basically this: if we as employees of the state do any work outside our work for the state (which is to say, me as a university professor) which pays more than $500 we have to report that to the state.

Previously, this edict said we had to report it if we worked for any OTHER state agency. So like if I taught English and worked construction in a state park, for instance, I would have to report that. That sort of made sense, I guess. Maybe?

This one doesn't seem to make sense at all (a) and (2) seems a violation of my rights as a worker. Maybe they're trying to see if people have two jobs, because them these people aren't devoting their lives to the state job? I don't know. 

It makes me edgy, I do know that. Not that I am making anywhere near $500 for anything I'm doing, like writing book reviews and so on. The most I've ever made for a short story is a couple hundred dollars. But still, suppose I actually manage to write a novel that makes a little money. (It could happen!) Is that going to be seen by the GOP down there in Little Rock as a violation of the terms of my employment?

Also, as one of my colleagues mentioned, maybe these Republican numpties should consider why state employees might need to be working two jobs. Just an idea.

The Culture War Idiocy

I admit this has been cracking me up too. 

Things the Far Right opposes: Vaccines, masks, helmets for bicycles and motorcycles, marriage equality, clean water and air acts, electric cars, public transit, nationalized health care, feeding poor children, academic freedom for anyone except conservatives, Jews, and trans people.

Things the Far Right supports: gas stoves, smoking indoors, forced pregnancy, and shooting poor people.

Do you think they're ever going to have a Eureka moment? Like, "Hey, Fritz, I've been thinking...are we the Baddies?"


Sunday, January 22, 2023

Best Cough Syrups

Pharyngula writes here about the shelves in his town being stripped of cough and cold medication, and I am here to report that this is not true here in the Fort. Just the good cough medications are gone. You can buy all the holistic crap you want. 

I did score some Mucinex extra-strength at the Walmart, for the appalling price of $13/a six-ounce bottle. Luckily my cold is almost gone -- I'm mostly only using at night, when my dramatic cough keeps everyone in the house, including the cats, awake.

It's still not Covid, by the way, at least according to the home tests. Twice vaccinated and twice boosted seems to be doing the trick.

Mmm, cherry flavored.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Cat Pictures

Junti, last night, asleep on my belly and objecting to my plan to get up and go to bed:

These days whenever I lie on the couch to read, the cats come and sleep on me. It's the only warm place in our frigid little house, I suspect.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

1000 Days of French

 People have done less time for murder.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Handsome Young Man

I have crocheted a sweater for the little dog:

The Kid Goes to the ER

So there I was rewatching the first season of 3% on netflix and trying to decide if I wanted to go on watching the new seasons when my phone rings.

No one ever calls me. Who calls people anymore? But it was the kid, so I answered. He had cut his finger, really badly, what should he do? 

"Send me a picture of it," I said, but this proved impossible, since he and the boyfriend were both deeply upset. "It might need stitches," I said.

"It definitely needs stitches," said the boyfriend.

"You're going to have to go to the ER," I said.

"That's going to cost so much money!"

"I know, but you need stitches. Go to the ER."

"It's going to take so long! This is going to ruin our evening! I was going to cook a nice dinner!"

"Go to the ER."

Luckily the boyfriend is the one who can drive, so he drove the kid to the ER, where it ended up only taking a little over an hour. He got five stitches, and reports that the wound is "so disgusting." Also, the ER people said he had to come back to get the stitches taken out, but I told him this was nonsense, I could take them out, or my SIL the med tech can take them out.

"Will I have to miss work?" he asked. "Will I be able to draw?"

I am happy to report that the answers to these are no and yes respectively.

I tried to get him to send a picture, so I could post it here, but he refuses. It is too gross, apparently.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

First Day of Spring 2023

First day of classes and I am here at dawn, as usual. At least this semester I don't have an eight a.m. class.

Because I have a research release (which I'm using to write my novel), I'm only teaching two classes this semester. Only fifty students! This is strangely liberating. Well. Not so strange, I guess.

My first class is Introduction to Creative Writing. I'm starting with Fiction, in the wan hope that the world will end before I have to teach them how to write poetry. My second class is Comp I, which I could teach in my sleep at this point. Our topic this semester is going to be the Decline of Insects. 

I have started using a topic in my Comp classes. All our readings are on that topic, and students must write their papers on that topic as well. This keeps me from having to read endless papers on How Social Media Is Bad and Why Jesus is Real and the Necessity of Not Having Abortions.

Instead I get 25 papers on various kinds of insects and why these insects are important and what is killing them off. A much better read, frankly. Also I can force my students to read scientific papers, which is good for their souls.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

What I'm Reading Now

I haven't done one of these for awhile, mainly because much of my recent reading has gone toward reviews for the three science fiction magazines I am writing reviews for. If I'm reviewing things there, I usually don't review them here. (I think there was one exception?) Anyway, you can catch all of my reviews at Strange Horizons, IZ Digital, and Asimov's Science Fiction.

What else have I been reading?

Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall, Bringing up the Bodies, the Mirror and the Light

I read Mantel's Wolf Hall when it first came out, but I never got around to reading the sequels. The library had them both, so I took them both out. You probably know this, but they cover the life of Thomas Cromwell, the guy who saw to it that Thomas More was executed, among other things. The first one, which I reread before reading the sequels, is definitely the best. Bringing Up the Bodies is almost as good; but The Mirror and the Light was a slog. Or maybe I'd had too much Cromwell by then.

I would definitely recommend the first two, but only go for the third if you're a completist.

Freya Marske, A Marvelous Light and A Restless Truth

I re-read A Marvelous Light when I saw Marske was releasing the sequel. It holds up! Here, we have Edwardian England but with a secret cabal of magicians. The overarching plot for what I think will be a trilogy is that someone in the cabal is attempting to gain control of all the magic in England, or more specifically all the power that powers all the magic in England. There are three magic items, used to seal the transfer of power from the fairies to the magicians of England, and having those items will allow the bad guys to take control of that power. Our intrepid band of plucky heroes, only some of them magicians, are trying to find and hide the magic items before the bad guys do. The plot is fine, but the characters and the writing make these work. In the first, we had a M/M romance with hot sex, and in this one we have bisexual romance and hot sex. If graphic depictions of hot sex unnerve you, maybe avoid these? But I liked them.

Sarah Miller, Miss Spitfire

Sarah Miller wrote a couple other books I liked, one called Caroline, about the mother in the Little House books, and Marmee, about the mother in Little Women. This one is about Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller's teacher, and perfectly readable. But Miller doesn't say anything in this one which I didn't already know, so I didn't enjoy it as much as the other two. 

Also, I didn't grow up loving books about Helen Keller the way I did the other two -- I didn't even see the iconic movie until recently, whereas I read and reread Little Women and the Little House books all through my childhood. (I once joked that everything I wrote was an imitation of Little Men, but I don't actually think that's true.) Anyway, if you love Helen Keller's story, you will probably enjoy this one.

Bel Meadows, Winterland

This is about a gymnast in the 1970s in Russia, and mainly about the abusive system for training young gymnasts. There's also a mystery involving a missing mother. The writing here is good, plus there's a lot of snow. Also, the details about how young gymnasts are trained is excellent. I really liked one place where Meadows has the mother (before she goes missing) warn the father about what will happen if they put their child into gymnastics as a serious contender -- the mother has been a world-class dancer, and warns the father that the child will always hurt, always be exhausted, always have her body policed, that she won't have a childhood or an education, just gymnastics. Then as we follow the child into her career as a young gymnast, yes, that's exactly what we see happen.

There's also some attention given to the labor camps, with one of the young gymnast's neighbors and mentors being a survivor of the camps.

If you're into gymnastics, you might like this one. I think Natasha Pulley did the labor camps story better in The Half-Life of Valery K, which I reviewed for an upcoming IZ issue, but Meadows also does it well.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Leaded Gas

Back when I was a kid, you could still buy leaded gas for your car. 

The additive TEL (tetraethyl lead) helped extend the life of cars, a very important thing for working class Americans, and also improved mileage, making the car run more efficiently. True, the lead then escaped into the environment, damaging the brains and nervous systems of children and adults, leading to lower IQs and problems with impulse control. This effect was especially severe in children. (See here for more.)

Lead was finally phased out in the US in the early 1990s, but remains concentrated in soils near roadways, especially in cities, which saw a lot of automobile traffic. 

During the time this ban was being debated, there were -- you will not be surprised to find -- a number of people, especially conservatives, who insisted that poisoning our population with lead was no big deal, and that the benefits of leaded gas very much outweighed the damage done to people they didn't even know or care about. Plus, producing and distributing TEL was a lucrative business. Why did these ridiculous social reformers hate capitalism so much?

Since TEL was banned, crime rates have plummeted and US IQ levels have inched higher. This is especially true of violent crime levels. (Here's the Wikipedia version of these events.) Also, ways have been found to extend the life of automobiles and improve their efficiency without also poisoning the population. Win-win, wouldn't you say?

Well, some reports have surfaced that show gas stoves and gas heating can cause problems with indoor air, and that can increase the risk of diseases such as asthma, especially in children raised in a home with gas stoves. Refusing to learn from history, today's conservatives are throwing a giant temper tantrum. You can pry their gas stoves out of their cold, dead hands, and so on.

Disclosure: Our house has both gas heating and a gas stove. I love my gas stove. It is so much better for cooking than one with electric hobs. I also love sitting in front of a gas fire. My favorite part about the duplex I rented in graduate school was that it had these little gas fires installed in the walls of every room, including the bathroom, so that you could warm your rooms by these cheery blue flames.

But if these stoves and these heating systems are harming children, not to mention me, then hell yeah, we should phase them out, hopefully a little more quickly than we did leaded gas. I mean, I'm not an idiot.

Putting your identity politics ahead of the health of children is....quite a look, I have to say.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Coughing like I'm in a 19th Century Novel

My cold hangs in there. I am coughing so hard and frequently that sleep is almost impossible. I got the extra strength cough medicine, but it only stifles the cough for a few hours. Ugh.

The potato curry soup helps, though. I am eating that and languishing on the sofa reading old science fiction novels and cursing my fate.

Anyway, my cough is very whooping and dramatic. You would think to hear it that I am much sicker than I actually am.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The Kid's New Comic

The kid's new comic, Un/Bound, has launched.

Start with the cover here.

Start with the action here.

Monday, January 09, 2023

Languishing in Arkansas

Like Pharyngula, I've been battling some virus. I'm not very sick at all, but the head congestion and the coughing make me feel much worse than I am. Last night I was coughing too much to sleep. We had some ancient cough syrup, so I took that, but it only helped a little.

I also have no appetite. I'm going to make some potato curry soup today and compel myself to eat it. 

Meanwhile I'm drinking lots of hot tea and getting prepped for classes. 

Oh, and I still have insomnia.

Hope your new year is going better than mine.

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Saturday, January 07, 2023

A Fever in the Lungs

Dr. Skull was sick for nearly a week, though he is better now, just in time for me to catch whatever it is. Symptoms: a sore throat, congestion, headache and muscle aches, also a cough. We've both tested negative for COVID (him twice), so I don't think it's that. It's very unpleasant, whatever it is. I'm finding it hard to read or write anything, and I don't want to eat anything at all. I'm drinking tea and hot chocolate, and taking Musinex, hoping I will be better soon.

Friday, January 06, 2023

Hilarity Ensues

This is hilarious:

When your party's brand becomes "Elect the clowns who will give us permission to stay ignorant and bigoted," this is what you get. 

Thursday, January 05, 2023

Cat Pictures

Amity on her new cat tree:

She loves it.

The Clown Show You Ordered

This was on Twitter this morning (originally from the Washington Post, I think?) and I could not agree more:

The entire schtick for the GOP since the age of Reagan was that government didn't work and couldn't work. The worst thing you could hear, claimed Reagan, was "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help." (Though I will note that this does not stop reactionary voters or Red States from gobbling down all the government help they can get.)

That's their mantra -- government can't work, government shouldn't work, anything the government is involved in fails. It's their excuse for destroying public schools, refusing to allow nationalized healthcare, underfunding state universities and public transport, and selling our national defense to companies like Haliburton. Government can't work. Only capitalism works. (And no matter the disasters it perpetuates, capitalism can never fail; it can only be failed. That's how you know it's a religion and not an economic system.)

So with that as their life goal -- proving that government doesn't work -- how can we be surprised when members of the GOP get elected to government and set about making sure it doesn't work?

Stir in their faithful adherence to anti-intellectualism (which is why many of them voted for Trump, specifically because he knew nothing about how to run a government), and voila! Today's Republican clown show.

It would be hilarious if they weren't taking us down with them.

ETA: Democracy: Where the people get the government they deserve. We could have had a governor with a PhD in physics, but an educated black man terrifies people in Arkansas, so they voted for a Trump Mini-me.

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

Bread for the New Year

 Since I wasn't sleeping anyway, I mixed up no-knead bread last night, and baked it out this morning.

Here's the recipe, though I messed with it a bit -- added in some whole wheat flour, and let it rise longer than they suggested, once I took it out of the fridge. 

Happy Insomnia!

I am ringing in the new year with the worst insomnia ever. Last night I didn't get to sleep until dawn. 

Oh well. I'll sleep when I'm dead, I guess.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Bonne Annee!

Happy first day on 2023!

I took the kids back up the mountain and now I am going to make a grilled cheese sandwich and read for a while. 

Terrible news, though -- the library does not reopen until January 3. I am going to run out of books.