Wednesday, August 30, 2023

I Write a Poem

Meanwhile, in an Alternate Universe

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

Landscape gardener, Warehouse night clerk, baker’s assistant

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

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

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

finding lost packages and hidden treasures, going home

at dawn to my one-room apartment

Where my cat sleeps in the sun

And a chicken stewed with peaches simmers in a crockpot

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

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

My Kid the Poet

My kid publishes yet another poem.

You can read it here!

Tuesday Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Ugh, this WEATHER

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

Three more weeks of summer.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Being Able to See

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

10/10 would buy them again.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Yet More Glasses

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

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

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

One set of glasses for working on the computer.

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

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

Me in my reading glasses

Trump Surrenders to Authorities

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Heat + Class = Exhaustion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

3:30 and 101 Degrees

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

How tired am I? Really fucking tired.

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

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

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


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

Ron DeSantis at Guantanomo

Sunday, August 20, 2023


Record high of 106 degrees predicted for today.

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


Four more weeks of summer.

Friday, August 18, 2023

What I'm Reading Now

Ann Patchett, Tom Lake

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

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

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

Read this one. It's amazing.

Thorton Wilder, Our Town

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

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

Liane Moriarty, What Alice Forgot

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

Martha Wells, The Murderbot Diaries

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

Whining about the Weather

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

Four more weeks of summer.

Back to School

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

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

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

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

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

Hope your semesters are start well!

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Taking Care of Babies

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, August 15, 2023

What I'm Reading Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Here Comes the Fall Semester

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

Whatcha Eating?

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 06, 2023

No More Heat Dome?

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 03, 2023

Children's Books I have Known

This post is inspired by Nicole & Maggie's post on The Great Brain, a series which my younger brother Mike read when we were both around ten, and which I read also because I would read anything that was around the house (including my older brother's Sports Illustrated magazines). 

I remember liking the Great Brain books, while at the same time disliking the dynamics between the two brothers (the Brain was an intellectual bully, and his younger brother was a helpless victim, while the parents obliviously allowed all this to happen). I may be remembering this wrong, since I haven't read the books since I was maybe ten.

What other books did I spent my childhood on, which were maybe problematic, as we say today? Or not! This is just some of the books that shaped my childhood.

Ramona, by Beverly Cleary. I loved these books. All about Ramona and her family and their lives in a neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. Quotidian, realistic books. Ramona starts kindergarten. Ramona's father loses his job. Ramona's mother has another baby. Things like that. The first one was written in the 1950s, and most of the series is from around that time, though Clearly wrote one in 1999, long after I was an adult, which I admit I read. These are charming books of a middle-to-working class family doing their best while very much loving one another. By the way, in these books the family owns a house and a car and is supported entirely by the father's job at a grocery store. Later, after he loses his job, they're supported by the mother working in a doctor's office while dad goes back to school. In other words, a job as a receptionist at a doctor's office can support three kids and put dad through school at the same time. 

Little House books, Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read these over and over and over, all through my childhood, and even taught a Major Authors class on Wilder about ten years ago, here at the university. On the surface, and as I read them as a child, these are the story of a pioneer family making their way from homestead to homestead, trying to scratch out a living, before finally settling on the Dakota prairies in 1880. Beautifully written, with some mildly scary events from time to time, including the winter everyone almost starves to death because the trains can't get through. As an adult, reading them with the aid of critical studies, I can see that Wilder (with the help of her Ayn Rand acolyte daughter) deliberately crafted the stories as propaganda against FDR and the New Deal, but all that sailed over my head as a kid. Wilder and her daughter, for instance, eliminated details such as everyone in the town during the Long Winter pooling their resources and sharing out food as needed: from each according to their ability, to each according to their need. The books also make it seem as if Pa sends Mary off to college by just saving up enough money through the family's hard, hard work, when in fact the state sent Mary to college, through one of those horrible government programs Wilder and her daughter so despised.

 The series *did* instill in me the belief that if anyone ever needed help from anyone, they were terrible moral failures, so good job there, I guess. Also erases almost entirely what colonization did to the Native Americans. Still, I absolutely loved this books. They're VERY different from the TV series, which was propaganda for Ronald Regan's America, so don't get them confused.

From The Long Winter

Little Men, by Louisa May Alcott. I didn't read Little Women until I was an adult, but I loved Little Men to pieces. This is the school Jo starts at Plumfield for boys, though there are a couple of girls there as well. Lots of the class issues sailed right over my head. I just loved the school and the kids and their small adventures. Also Dan, the very bad boy who smoked and played cards and swore, fascinated me to no end.

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew: About a poor family rescued by a rich man, and their daily lives. These kids are so poor that their mother has to take a job! Things get better once the rich man hires their mother to be his housekeeper. I only read the first one of these, though apparently there are more of them. Nothing much happens, but I enjoyed reading about a happy-but-poor family.  

Madeline L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time + related novels and series. These are famous novels, and I loved them to pieces, though as with the Little House books I can now see that they have problematic subtext. A the time, I just loved the story of the families -- Meg and Charles, at first, and their scientist parents -- as well as the science-fictional elements. There's also a series about the Austen family, starting with Meet the Austens, which I loved just as much. The Austen have Christmas, go on a camping trip, adopt the orphaned child of one of their friends, that kind of thing. A clear theme throughout the books is that men are brilliant and women (even if they too might be brilliant) must be beautiful. Like, all the main characters who are girls despair because they're so "ugly," and are constantly reassured that they will be beautiful when they grow up. Also, brilliant, beautiful women, instead of using their mathematical genius, for instance, marry and keep house. This isn't always true in L'Engle's adult books, where at the (still beautiful) women have careers -- a doctor, a world-class pianist, that kind of thing. Anyway, I loved these books too.

Trixie Belden. I see there are 33 of these now. When I was reading them, in my early teens, there were only ten or twelve. A poor(er) girl Trixie and her rich friend Honey, along with Honey's adopted brother Jim and Trixie's older brothers (who are away at camp in the first book, which makes the books claim that the Belden's are poor a little unconvincing) solve unlikely mysteries. This was probably my start at liking mystery novels. I don't think these are especially good books, but I read them all several times.

The Bobbsey Twins. I see they are still being published. Two sets of twins, both fraternal, an older pair and a younger pair. The older pair, Nan and Bert, have dark hair, and the younger pair, Fred and Flossie, have blonde hair. This is an important detail, though I don't remember why. They have middle-class adventures, like going to the seashore and attending public schools. I have absolutely no memory beyond that. Did they solve mysteries? Maybe!

Harriet the Spy, Louis Fitzhugh. God, I loved this book. There are two sequels, but I didn't like them as much. Harriet is a rich kid in New York who wants to be a spy, and is being raised by her nanny, Ole Golly, who about halfway through the book leaves to get married, absolutely breaking Harriet's heart. She has no real relationship with her parents, so the loss of Ole Golly is like being orphaned, only worse, since she knows Ole Golly left her of her own free will. Also, Harriet keeps notebooks, writing down every single thing she sees as she spies on people, and every thought about her classmates, and one day those classmates find one of the notebooks. More trauma ensues! A semi-happy ending, but mainly I loved Harriet and this look at a world entirely alien to me (rich people, New York, private schools, subways).

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM, Robert O'Brien. Mice uplifted by a scientific experiment go to live with some rats similarly uplifted. Science fiction! I always remembered my first science fiction novel as being Have Space Suit, Will Travel, by Heinlein, but looking back, this was probably the first one. I also read a lot of John Christopher, though, so apparently I've been reading SF all along.

Taran Wanderer series, Lloyd Alexander. I only read two of these, though Wikipedia tells me more exist. Those two must have been the ones in my library. Taran is an assistant pig-keeper who goes off and has adventures, along with a creature named Gurgi, who as a kid I visualized as a kind of pig, probably because Taran was a pig-keeper. Wikipedia tells me he was actually a "man-beast." Gurgi's dialect probably started my love with dialects. Wikipedia also tells me these books are based on Welsh mythology, which also went over my head as a kid. I did notice the strangeness of the names, mind you, but that went well with the weirdness of the books, so.

The Black Stallion books, by Walter Farley. I have almost no memory of what happens in these books, except that (I think?) they started with a shipwreck -- a boy and a horse are shipwrecked on the same island, and come to love each other. I assume they get rescued, but I don't remember. (Check Wikipedia.) Yes, they did. I think I read all the books in this series, and I think I read them more than once, but I honestly remember nothing about them. Wikipedia tells me that the boy, Alec, was returning from India, where I guess his parents were colonizers for the British Empire, and he and the horse bonded on their island. I do remember wanting to live on that island, with or without a horse.

The Swiss Family Robinson, Johann Wyss. Another shipwreck story, on a preposterously unlikely island. Lots of religion, five kids, a sweet devoted mother, a stern patriarch. You can fill in the blanks. Much of this, especially the moralizing, went right over my head, but again, I very much wanted to live on a deserted island and have adventures. Also to live in a tree house.

Tarzan and sequels, Edgar Rice Burroughs. As with Oliver Twist, which I didn't read until I was an adult, the message of this book is that blood will tell. A nobleman's son is lost in the jungle as an infant and raised by "great apes." Because he is of noble blood, he conquers all adversity to become king of the jungle. Jane, his true love, gets lost in the jungle when she's 18 and he rescues her and then follows her out to civilization, which disgusts him, so he returns to the jungle, with Jane and their son. The point of the book is that white rich people are superior and will conquer all, whereas poor white people and Black people are little more than animals. Again, the subtext here escaped me as a child. My younger brother and I read these together too. (My older brother was not much of a reader, though he liked books about sports, as I recall, and later collected Star Trek novels.)

The Jungle Book and Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling. Another feral child, this one, Mowgli, raised by wolves. Since I always felt like I'd been raised by wolves, this one resonated with me. And of course I loved the Just So Stories, which purported to explain a world that confused me endlessly. I read these over and over as well. Interestingly, considering how conservative Kipling was, there's no "blood will tell" in these novels. Mowgli is an Indian child, very much like Kim in that other book of his, and nevertheless prevails, though only with the help of his (animal) community.

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Anything but That

Lately, whenever I eat meat, I feel queasy and my stomach hurts.

Am I going to have to become a vegetarian? Or even...a vegan

I mean, better for the planet, probably, but 

(This post is brought to you by the chicken sandwich I ate this morning which made me sick all day and the peanut butter I ate this evening which made me feel 110% better.)

Tuesday, August 01, 2023


I mean, I am very glad for August since it means we are that much closer to the end of summer, but it also means there are only 17 days left before I have to go back to work.

I think I've taken two summers totally off (this is my second one) since I was fifteen years old, so I've been enjoying it. It's amazing how much less stressful life is when you don't have a dozen things to juggle. This summer I had only three jobs: write my novel, write my reviews, and exercise in the afternoon.

Sometimes I also had to drive to Fayetteville for various reasons, but usually not.

And of course laundry, dishes, and buying groceries, but all those are negligible since Dr. Skull wears the same clothes for days on end in the summer (which is to say almost no clothing, shorts and teeshirts), as do I, and neither of us actually eats. I live on watermelon and popsicles, and he lives on chili, which he makes once a week in a big batch, and blueberries. 

I very much enjoy this life of leisure. The only flaw is insufficient books to read. I am hoping this is what retirement will be like.