Saturday, September 30, 2023

I Talk to Martha Wells

 And you can read it here!

My favorite bit:

What really informed Murderbot’s experience was creating a database according to what the users said they needed, and then finding that what they actually needed it to do was something else, and instead of asking for it to be adjusted they cram extra information into the fields and are then surprised when it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to anymore. And being yelled at by people who don’t know how to turn their workstation on. 

Midnight Pals

If you're not following bitterkarella on tumblr, what are you even doing with your time?

Here's her latest:

Midnight Pals: The Running Grave

[mysterious circle of robed figures] JK Rowling: hello children Rowling: i have a new ssstory for you tonight Rowling: a new ssstory of cormorant ssstrike Jesse Singal: wow mommy it's great! Maya Forstater: the greatest story ever told Rowling: Rowling: well i haven't told it yet

Helen Joyce: i'm not exaggerating when i say that this is 100% the best story ever written in human history Rowling: you haven't heard it yet Joyce: i don't have to hear it to know it's better than any other story in the world Rowling: Rowling: oh

Joyce: i don't need to know anything about it or even hear it to say that jk rowling is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life Rowling: Rowling: i dunno Rowling: for sssome reassson thisss jussst isssn't ssatissfying

[midnight society] JK Rowling: hello children Rowling: i have a new cormorant ssstrike ssstory Barker: don't you have your own group to tell that to? Rowling: no all they do isss praisss me and tell me i'm great Rowling: it getsss tiring Rowling: you all wouldn't underssstand

Rowling: sso cormorant strike is an ugly detective with a terrible personality who also reeksss of cigarettess and fartss conssstantly and also his hair lookss like pubess Rowling: naturally the women are all hungry for hiss D Patricia Highsmith: crazy dames, who can fathom them

Weather Report

Ugh, it's highs in the 90s again today and tomorrow and tomorrow and...

Right now the weather report is saying we'll be halfway through October before we actually get any fall-like weather. I don't like climate change. 0/10 let's not do it.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Utter Exhaustion

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

Here's what I did today:

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

7:15 a.m. Left for school

7:30 a.m. Arrived in office

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

9:30-11:00: Taught Comp I

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

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

2:00 - 3:15: Taught editing

3:15- 4:00: Whined

4:00-6:00: DEI Workshop

6:00-6:30: Went to library

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

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Myers says,

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

 See also this:  

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

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

Sunday, September 24, 2023

As the Kids say, LOL

 I mean, this is accurate as well as funny:

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

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

Ruminating on Conservatism

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

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

Hottest September on Record

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

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

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

Also, see this.

Friday, September 22, 2023

TERFs and Bigots...but I repeat myself

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, September 21, 2023


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

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

DEI Workshop

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2023


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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 17, 2023

What I'm Watching

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 15, 2023

What I'm Reading Now

Anne Leckie, The Long Game

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

Stephen King, Holly

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

Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kate Atkinson, Life After Life

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

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

Dorothy Sayers, Busman's Honeymoon

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

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Covid on Campus

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

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

Fucking Trump.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Endemic on Campus

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

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

We'll see how many students show up.

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

C'est un deluge

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

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

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

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

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

Hard at Work

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Is this Fall?

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 09, 2023


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

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

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

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

Friday, September 08, 2023


I feel worse today. Is that possible?

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

Thursday, September 07, 2023

COVID Update

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 06, 2023


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

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

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

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

COVID Update

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

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

Monday, September 04, 2023


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

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

This is great

From the indomitable Ursula Vernon, of course.

Sunday, September 03, 2023


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


Saturday, September 02, 2023

Symptoms on Day One

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

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

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

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

Me: I'm dying

Dr. Skull: No you're not.

He hates it when I'm sick.

He did come bring me another blanket, though.

Is This COVID?

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

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

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


Update: Fuck me:

Friday, September 01, 2023

Thank You, Whoever You Were

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

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