Monday, July 31, 2023

Tips for Surviving the Heat Dome

Live on popsicles and watermelon. Frozen bananas and frozen peas are also good. (You eat them frozen!)

Never leave the house between one o'clock and seven o'clock. (We violate this one by going to exercise at 3:00 p.m., but we tried going at 5:00 a.m. and I was wrecked for the rest of the day, because insomnia.)

Get one of those re-usable cold packs for putting on injuries. Freeze it and put it on your neck and down your back and on your feet. Three cold packs is obviously better, you can do all three places at once, but they're pricy.

Move your workspace directly under your AC vent, or (in my case) your heat pump.

Take cool showers.

Don't cook. Don't cook ANYTHING. See living on popsicles, up there. (Dr. Skull violates this one at least once a week, making chili or a pizza, and I am SO HOT.) 

Don't eat big meals, since eating means digesting which means your body is working harder which means it's running hotter. One popsicle, and then two hours later some watermelon, and then maybe a piece of cheese a couple hours after that. Yogurt is also good. Have iced coffee in the morning, and iced water with lemon in it after that.

Wear almost no clothing. (I have a spaghetti strap shirt and very loose, very thin shorts.)

Count the weeks left until mid-September, when maybe things will cool down. (Seven now.)

Whine a lot.


Sunday, July 30, 2023

More Whining about the Weather

This heat is just exhausting. Even inside, with the AC on, it's 80 degrees in here until maybe midnight, when it gets down to 78. (By "AC" I mean window unit and heat pump.) Next five days, the highs will be over 100 here. 105 on Thursday. 

It's too hot to do anything or go anywhere, though we do exercise every day at around 3:00. The hottest part of the day, but it's an indoor gym, which helps a little. Their AC is better than ours, so it's usually 74 degrees in there. But still by the time I'm done, I'm soaked with sweat.

I've cut all my hair off again, for the sake of coolness. 

Meanwhile, we had a big storm here a couple weeks ago, and apparently the building on campus where my office is was flooded. They're replacing the carpeting. I got an email saying we should all come in and pack up our offices so that the carpet could be laid. Boxes and dollies are being provided. Mind you, we don't get paid in the summer, so this would be us doing moving for the university -- in 100 degree weather -- while off contract. And while we haven't had a raise in over three years. 

Seven more weeks of summer.

Friday, July 28, 2023

What I'm Reading Now

Richard Russo, Somebody's Fool 

This is a sequel to Nobody's Fool, my favorite Russo book, and Everybody's Fool, which I didn't like as much. This one is better! It's set maybe 25 years after Nobody's Fool. Sully is dead, but he haunts both the town and his son, Peter, who fears he is becoming Sully. Those of you who are Russo fans remember that Peter, while he kept his oldest son Will, more or less abandoned his two younger sons, who were raised by their impoverished mother and a series of abusive boyfriends. Well, now one of those sons, Whacker, has shown up on Peter's doorstep. We also see what's going on with Tina, Janey's kid, and my favorite character, Rub.

There's also a murder mystery, and Russo finally takes a look at race. (He kind of did in the previous two books, but the use of the n-word in the first was treated as a joke, and though we saw Black people in the second book, their race was treated as incidental, not as something that might affect their lives.) I like this one better than anything Russo has written in the last decade or so, though Nobody's Fool remains his best book.

Adrian Tchaikovsky, The Doors of Eden

I've been hearing about Tchaikovsky's Children of Time series on the SF blogs for some time, but our library didn't have the series. It did have this one, though, and when I was hopelessly trawling the shelves for something new to read, I picked it up. 

I see why people like him -- he's an engaging writer with a compelling storyline and some plot surprises. I read the whole thing, which was like a billion pages long (597, in fact), and enjoyed everything but the last fifty pages or so. That's the part where Tchaikovsky had to draw together all his plot lines, and he does, mind you, but at this point he has so many characters that he can't really spend enough time with each one, and it all starts to blur together. Also, he doesn't really do much to develop the characters. He's all about the ideas, which is a feature of hard science fiction, to be fair. 

Still, if you like hard science fiction plus multiverse fiction, this is definitely worth reading. If he were in my workshop, I'd advise him to cut about six characters, but I liked it well enough that I'll probably try the other Tchaikovsky novel the library has in its holdings.

Natasha Pulley, The Lost Future of Pepperharrow

This is a re-read, because the library won't get new books fast enough, and when they do, they are mostly books I don't want to read. Anyway, I love Natasha Pulley. This is the second book about Mori and Thaniel. If you like KJ Charles, you'd probably like these books. Mori remembers the future, the way the rest of us remember the past, but he also remembers all possible futures, and can do things to make specific futures more likely. In this one, Mori pulls hundreds of strings for decades in order to have one specific thing happen, which I won't reveal, since spoilers.

Set in 19th century Japan for the most part, it's full of wonderful details about Japanese life as seen, mostly, through the eyes of Thaniel, but also through the eyes of Takiko Pepperharrow, Mori's wife. I've probably read this book six times now, and I love it more each time.

Ellen Gilchrist, I, Rhoda Manning, Go Hunting with my Daddy

Gilchrist lived in New Orleans and attended the workshop at the University of Arkansas, just as I did, so in a lot of ways it seems like I ought to like her more. Every now and then I check a book of hers out of the library to read and try to decide what it is about her writing that hits me wrong. She's a very readable writer, and I am frequently caught up in her fiction. So it's not that.

This one, frankly, got a little boring. Most of Gilchrist's fiction is autobiographical, and it's all about how wonderful her father was and how special she herself is. That might be what irks me, because she's not special, just rich, which she has mistaken for being special. Anyway, this is a collection of stories about how wonderful her father is and how wonderful she herself is. A little of that goes a long way. Also, there's a lot of panic about teenagers smoking marijuana in the 1970s, which comes off as ludicrous, frankly. Oh no, teens smoke dope! Catastrophe! And there's an incoherent story about Middle Eastern men being terrorists. I'm not sure what to make of that one. Maybe Gilchrist trying to write about something other than her daddy? (Now I'm being mean.)

This one was from 2002. I might try one from later in her career -- I stopped reading her sometime in the late 1990s, as I recall -- and see if she gets any better. The library seems to have every single word she's ever written, so.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Ignorance is Conservative

 Bless Heather's ignorant little heart.

I can't imagine why none of her classmates confided in her. It's a mystery.

For the record, I went to school well before 2000. None of my classmates ever admitted to being gay, or lesbian, or bisexual, much less trans. Why? Because the stigma against LGBTQ people was so harsh that admitting such a thing was unthinkable. I remember when I first put a gay character in one of my stories, my readers were appalled. Why would you write about this? (It wasn't gay sex, just an openly gay minor character.) No one will publish a story with this in it.

Anyway: all of this to say that when I was 20 years old until I was about 22, I dated a guy with a motorcycle. Tall, gangly, moody, very hot. I say "guy," but she was trans. I don't know if she knew it then -- we never even came close to talking about it -- but I do know when my mother called me to tell me that she had come out, I wasn't even a tiny bit surprised. 

Why are kids more willing to come out as trans now? For the same reason they're much more willing to tell people they're gay, or Lesbian, or bisexual, or pansexual, or any of the rest -- because mostly people aren't as ignorant as Heather, or as bigoted, or as mean-spirited. Because when people are openly LGBTQ these days, it is -- for most of us -- no big deal.

That's why a certain type of conservative is seizing on trans people to use as a way to gin up hate. They know no one will support their disgusting bigotry against gay people anymore. Maybe, though, they hope, they can still use trans people to inflame the rubes. 

The GOP has to get votes some how. God knows they can't do it with their ideas -- those are non-starters. (Give more money to rich people. Let people die of preventable illnesses. Keep destroying the planet to make a few rich people a tiny bit richer. Solve the labor shortage with child labor.) So whipping up their base by encouraging them to hate trans people, and immigrants, and imaginary pedophiles -- that's all they have. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Heat Dome

For the next ten days, the highs here will be between 99 and 103 degrees. Also, no rain.

And has everyone seen this cheery forecast?

The Gulf Stream system could collapse as soon as 2025, a new study suggests. The shutting down of the vital ocean currents, called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (Amoc) by scientists, would bring catastrophic climate impacts.

Amoc was already known to be at its weakest in 1,600 years owing to global heating and researchers spotted warning signs of a tipping point in 2021.

Oh, well, humanity had a good run.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Mes Bulletins

My SIL, who just went down to New Orleans for a visit, brought back my childhood report cards. (My brother is cleaning out my parents' house.) 

I remember almost nothing from elementary school, except being sick most of first grade (chicken pox, then measles, then mumps, then strep throat -- I see that, according to my attendance records, I missed 31 days out of the 177 that school was in session). I do remember my second grade teacher, who for some reason disliked me intensely. Maybe because I spent a lot of class time not paying attention? I mean, that was probably it. School bored me non-stop, I remember that. 

I remember I started writing novels in class in third grade, but I don't actually remember much else about third grade. And I remember fourth grade mainly because I refused to learn to spell or do the multiplication tables, which annoyed one of the two teachers I had that year.

Notes from various teachers say things like, "For someone who can read as well as delagar, it's a shame she will not complete any assignments." (Any is underlined twice.) And "Unfortunately, delagar does not seem to grasp long division." And, "delagar is a charming child, but does not put effort into her work." And, "delagar has not done a single homework assignment this grading period." That's from fourth grade, my second teacher, the one who made me take the same spelling test over each Friday from December through May. At the end, I was still spelling every single word wrong. (I remember spelling Australia as Alstrayah.)

I also couldn't write legibly, but I received straight A's in citizenship. I have no idea what that means. Did I not talk back, or could I converse legibly on the meaning of democracy and how nation-states work?

I received A's and B's in everything except math (B's and C's in those), spelling, and handwriting, right up to sixth grade, when I began failing everything, even English. I think that was because that's when my vision went. I could not see the board, so I never had any idea what was going on in class. 

I also remember that I got sent to the principal three times: once for refusing to nap during nap time in kindergarten, once in the fifth grade for wearing pants to school instead of a dress, and once in seventh grade, when a teacher accused me of smoking in the bathroom. (It wasn't me, it was another kid, but of course I couldn't say that. Rat someone out? Never!) That's not in the report cards, though, where all my teachers characterize me as a wonderful but lazy child.

Saturday, July 22, 2023


I've just realized that I must return to teaching in less than four weeks. I have been deeply enjoying doing nothing but writing and reading novels, and am frankly not attracted to the idea of returning to the classroom.

My sister-in-law says I should retire. I could just barely do it, but I'm a little worried about trying to live on my (reduced) social security income + TIAA-CREF funds. I'm probably going to hold out for a few more years.

In better news, it's been relatively cool here lately -- highs in the 80s. Next week, back to summer hellscape, though.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

What I'm (Re)reading Now

I mentioned that my library isn't buying enough new books lately, or at least not enough books that I actually want to read. I keep forgetting that I can download books from my library's e-book collection and also from such sites as Gutenberg. Clearly I need to start looking into those options. Meanwhile, what am I re-reading?

Georgette Heyer, Frederica, The Grand Sophia, Arabella, Friday's Child

These are books my library has LARGE PRINT versions of. Large print helps me at night when my eyes are tired but my insomnia won't let me sleep. These are two of my favorite Heyers. I also re-read A Civil Contract, which they only have in regular print. Heyer changed my mind about romance novels. If you like Jane Austen, you'll probably like Heyer. I do not like her mysteries, but you might!

Frederica is about a young woman who must marry well to provide for her siblings; A Civil Contract is about a young man who marries a rich but not noble woman to provide for his family. The Grand Sophia is about a young woman raised abroad by her father during the Napoleonic wars who must marry so that her father is free to marry. No novelty in the plotlines, but Heyer's characters are charming, and she writes very compelling prose. TW for classicism and anti-Semiticism.

Anne McCaffery, Dragonsinger

This was the first McCaffery I ever read, back when I was like 14, and my library had a LARGE PRINT, so I re-read it. So light it is almost vaporous, but I read the whole thing. This is set on Pern, which is a world in which dragons exist because of genetics and magic, and have to defend the planet from "threads," which is to say a toxic lifeform that leaps from one planet to the next, devouring everything it touches. But this novel focuses not on the threads but on Harper Hall, a guild of musicians responsible for carrying culture and news over the planet, and on Melony, who is a musician on a world in which women are definitely second-class citizens -- indeed, barely human. Very much a novel of its times (the 1970s).

M.R. Carey, The Book of Koli

Not large print, but I never finished reading it the first time, so I re-read it. Carey wrote a novel I recently read to review it, Infinity Gate, and I liked it a lot. This one was just okay. Set in a future England, after civilization collapses, maybe because humanity destroyed themselves by getting hubristic when it came to technology. There's a hint that genetic engineering might have been one of the causes, but there's also a lot of left-over policing robots and drones. Koli is a kid in a village which is slowly dying out due to inbreeding, as are most villages, because it is too dangerous to travel from place to place, so the genetic pool is whatever six or seven hundred people your town happens to have available; and that's not enough, obviously.

I like what this one is doing with genetics, which is also what I am doing with genetics, sort of, in my novels, so I bought the next two book via Thriftbooks. (The library does not have them.) We'll see how they hold up.

Joe Haldeman, Infinite Dreams

Not large print, but my library had it, and I hadn't read it for about 30 years. Science fiction short stories, not that good. Everyone is male, and they have science-related adventures. Unless you're a Haldeman fan, you can skip this one.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

A Visit to the Kid

We drove up the mountain to visit the kid and my SIL, also to buy fancy groceries at the Whole Foods. We had breakfast a local diner, also. Drove home before noon, reaching here at 12:30.  It is a trip we have made a hundred times, but today was so exhausting, due to the heat and blazing sunlight.

I have to go up on August 7 for medical reasons, otherwise I would huddle in my writing chair here in the living room, directly in front of the heat pump, for the next nine weeks.

God, I hate summer.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Aw Geez

 It's going to be 103 here today, and 102 tomorrow. 

I suppose I shouldn't complain, since in AZ it's been over 110 for like 20 days, but I am complaining. God, I hate summer.

This was supposed to be a capture of today's weather at the weather channel but I am having no luck so have a cat instead

Uploading: 1255478 of 1255478 bytes uploaded.

Meanwhile: eight and a half more weeks of summer

Saturday, July 15, 2023

My Kid's Comic

 The kid is doing a traditional-style comic on the side, by which I mean that besides his regular comic, which you can find a link to over there on the side, he's doing one with paper and ink and water colors, as if this were 1988. You can link to that one here.

Anyway, I just like this page

Friday, July 14, 2023


It was murderously hot yesterday, with air like soup. Just taking the trash to the street left me covered with sweat.

Then this morning, apparently around dawn, a massive storm blew in, flooding the city and knocking down trees and powerlines. Wind gusts of nearly 60 mph. 

I slept through all of that (yes! I finally slept!) but my yard is filled with torn down branches and leaves, and the yard shows signs of a mini-flood pouring through -- gullies cut in the lawn, piles of dead leaves and trash caught around trees, that kind of thing. No major damage, though, and we did not lose power here. I have air conditioning, coffee, and the internet, the three necessities of life.

More rain on the way, weather guys say.

This is what's coming tonight!

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Anxiety and Depression

I'm having a lot of anxiety and depression lately, which is leading to some stellar insomnia. I'm not sure what's going on, but honestly, it could stop any time now, please.

It might be the heat. It's been really hot here, and nothing but more high temps and high humidity in the future. I did manage to cut my power bill by over $100 though, by signing up for Smart Hours and not using electricity as much between 2:00 and 7:00. 

Exercise helps a little. We've been going to gym at 2:00 pm every day, and exercising for an hour (okay, 50 minutes, usually). I feel better afterwards, but am still having insomnia. Whyyyyy.

Also the library isn't buying enough new books, or rather enough new books that I want to read. I've been rereading a lot, but I can't hold out forever. And I've also discovered that my library doesn't keep old books -- like books I know they had ten years ago aren't on the shelf anymore. Which is depressing. Maybe scarcity of future reading material is making me depressed and anxious.

It could be because I'm going in for a colonoscopy tomorrow. Medical stuff always makes me anxious, every since the weird thing in my throat when I was 29 turned out to be cancer.

I think it's just how much I hate the hot weather. Every year I hate summer more. Maybe we should have stayed in Idaho.

Ten more weeks until fall.

Friday, July 07, 2023

What I'm Reading Now

A lot of books for review, and one proofing job.

For fun:

Arkady Martine, A Memory Called Empire, A Desolation Called Peace

I reread Memory so I could have context for Desolation. These are both excellent, complicated, brilliant books, about a colonizing empire which is nevertheless very attractive. Also (more important in the second than the first) some strange, deadly, fascinating aliens. Highly recommend both of these, but save them for when you can spare a lot of brain power.

The title of the second novel makes it sound like Martine is basing these on the Roman empire, but that is not at all the case. I don't recognize the empire she *is* basing them on, though. Maybe one she invents? The court politics and the culture of the empire are both fascinating.

Jess Ruliffson, Invisible Wounds

This is a graphic novel/oral history of veterans, mostly those who fought in US wars during the past two decades. A lot of PTSD, as you would expect. I recommend this, though I don't know that I enjoyed it. If I ever teach a war & literature class, though, I would include this one. Ruliffson includes a trans soldier, and also a victim of sexual assault, so content warning there. Content warning for the entire book, I guess -- there's also suicidal thoughts, violence, racism, all that. 

R. P. Lanza and Nancy Kress, Observer

And here we have real science fiction, rather than science fantasy. I love Nancy Kress, so I checked this out from the library on the strength of her name -- I had never heard of Lanza. Wikipedia tells me he's a physician and a scientist, and that this is his first novel.

It starts with a woman neurosurgeon getting cancelled by Twitter, which nearly put me off; but that is done with careful realism, not your usual propaganda. Caroline Soames-Watkins is compelled (by various circumstances) to then take a job offered by her famous great-uncle, at a shady research center in the Caribbean. The research turns out to be a way to allow subjects to access other universes in the multiverse. The science here seems accurate to me (a non-scientist) and is explained clearly enough that I (a non-scientist) could mostly follow it. The characters are a bit two-dimensional, as is also traditional in real science SF, but not all the characters are straight white guys, so that's a nice change.

I enjoyed this one a lot. The parts about the multiverse are particularly good, and there's some heart-tugging passages. The opening is pretty grim, so maybe skim through that part? Get to the science on the island.

George Eliot, Middlemarch

The best novel in the English language. I've read it like a dozen times, despite it's massive length, and am now listening to it while I exercise. This version. It's excellent, and also 35 hours long, so it's lasting me awhile. Listening to it rather than reading it makes me pay more attention to the language, I'm noticing, and especially Eliot's metaphors, which are wonderful. 

If you haven't read Middlemarch, you should read Middlemarch. Eliot lets us spend a year or so with the intertwined lives of the inhabitants of Middlemarch, a city in the English midlands, and its environs. We also make a brief trip to Italy. Also this is the book in which Will Ladislaw, my fictional boyfriend, is a character. Honestly, this is the only book by Eliot I actually like, though I've read or at least started all the others. But this is a perfect novel. Everyone should read it. And listen to it.

There was a BBC series made of the book, but it is awful. Don't even look at it.

Stephen King, Duma Key

To be honest, I mainly read this one because my library has a large print copy. At night when my eyes are tired I need large print. I remember reading this once before, some time ago, but I didn't remember much about it. The first half is pretty good -- a building contractor gets badly injured (as King did) in a a vehicle accident, and as part of his recovery (he's wealthy, as King is) rents a house in the Florida Keys for a year. While there, he returns to his first love, which is art, and (via supernatural means) turns out to be a brilliant artist. All that kept my exhausted interest well. The last third of the book is the artist and his buddies fighting a supernatural evil demon, and that part got a little tedious. King should try writing non-horror books, in my opinion. He'd be good at it.

Faith Addis, Butter-side Down

Another large print, about a woman and her husband and her mother who are small-holders in the west of England. It's non-fiction, of that genre of books about quotidian life which were popular in the 1960s-1980s. They keep pigs, goats, and horses, and grow flowers and veg to sell. The horses are used to give kids riding lessons. I very much enjoyed having a mother in a novel who wasn't a villain or an idiot -- in fact, this mother is a font of wisdom about surviving in the country and on very little money. Nothing big happens in the book, which is kind of the point, but it was a charming read. If you like the Miss Read novels, you'd probably like this. Apparently there are several of these, charting Faith and her family's life through the years, though my library only has this one -- I may seek out others via Thriftbooks.

Oh, and apparently there was a TV series on BBC?


Thursday, July 06, 2023


It is finally raining here, and the forecast for the next ten days includes a day with a high of 79. Yes, please!

Meanwhile my anxiety is worse than ever, even though most of the proximate causes have been dealt with. I recently re-read the entire Murderbot series (prep for reviewing the new one, System Collapse, and one line sticks with me, about how SecUnits are given organic brains so that they can make crucial security decisions, and the depression and anxiety are a side effect. Ugh, yes.

Saturday, July 01, 2023

Trauma Responses

I actually don't know if this is a trauma response, or if my depressing childhood counts as trauma, but anyway, the trauma response I really hate is when something goes wrong -- something minor, like a stopped up toilet, or when the tire low pressure light in the car comes on -- my internal alarm sensor just keeps screaming at me to PANIC PANIC PANIC because we are going to DIE NOW.

And even though I know the problem is minor -- the low pressure light is constantly coming on in the car and it means absolutely nothing, and even if this time it means something, we are perfectly able to afford getting a tire repaired these days -- even though I know all that, my internal alarm just keeps on wailing.

Is this organic? Is it just how I'm wired? Or is it because in my childhood sometimes very minor mistakes were met with screaming and over-the-top violence? Like for instance spilling your milk at the table -- that level of mistake. (Sometimes even major mistakes, on the other hand, were totally shrugged off. It was not an environment where the adults around me regulated their emotions well, I guess you could say.)

Anyway. I hate it. 0/10 do not recommend.

Every Year

Every year I can't believe how much I hate summer and every year I hate it more.

It was 101 degrees yesterday evening around seven when I took the dog out and the air was thick and hot as the steam room at the gym and smelled like an outhouse. UGH.

Plus, the air conditioning cannot keep up with this heat, so it's too hot to sleep until at least two a.m. That's okay, though, since I elected into the summer power scheme, which means I have to do laundry in the middle of the night.

Happy July 1.

A gratuitous picture of my cat