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.