Thursday, April 11, 2024

Review of My Clarkesworld Short Story

 It's a YouTube video review of the whole issue -- the review of my story starts at 34:47:

Spoilers: She likes it!

Reviews in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine

My reviews for the May/June 2024 issue are now live!

You can read them here.

Among other writers, I review Justin C. Key, and Martha Wells (her Witch King).

Also Aubrey Woods, Bang Bang Bodhisattva.

The Kid Comes to Visit

The kid and his fiancé are home for a short visit -- well, the fiancé is flying out today, to go to his brother's wedding, and the kid is visiting us while he's doing that.

I liked having a little kid, but honestly having a grown-up kid is better. 10/10 would recommend.

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

Autism is demonic, Just so You Know

It's not enough that they're demonizing trans kids, now these loving Christians are coming for autistic children. And, you know, any of the rest of us who don't swallow their particular splinter of Christianity.

“Let me repeat myself just so I am not quoted out of context: any philosophy, teaching, or program that teaches our precious children that their identity is found in anything other than Christ is idolatry and demonic. Period.”

So all those Christian nationalists who like to bray about how they're Americans, I guess they're demonic too. 

These people have serious issues and could use some therapy. But of course therapy is also demonic, so, well.

Monday, April 08, 2024

Eclipse Report

1:22 PM: The sun is about half covered and the light is noticeably dimmer, like when heavy cloud cover is over the sun, except there's still sunlight. It's like dark sunlight, if that makes sense.

I have viewing glasses, but I'm only taking tiny glimpses of the actual eclipse, because I'm paranoid about hurting my eyes.

No animals seem to be bothered -- my cats are snoozing, and birds are still singing.

Apparently some people are driving over to the 100% eclipse area:

Hwy 59 toward Barling, AR

1:36 PM: It's darker now, and the light looks so strange. It's sunny, but it's dark. And definitely cooler than it was -- temp has only dropped two degrees, but it feels like more. Sun is like a crescent with the moon covering most of it.

1:50 PM: Dark enough outside that the streetlights came on. The sun is very nearly entirely covered -- just a tiny chip at the top still shining. The birds are singing like they do at dawn, and the bees that live in my tree are very confused -- they're dipping and circling and buzzing loudly.

1: 53 PM: The sunlight is already beginning to return. The bees are still confused.

Eclipse shadows

2:00 PM: Much lighter now, though still the weird dark sunlight. The birds have calmed down.

2:10 PM: Except for the strange darkness of the light (I don't know how else to describe this light -- it's like sunny and dark at the same time), the world is back to normal. Even the bees seem okay now.


 It's clear right now and only going to be partly cloudy when the eclipse happens here (starts around 12:30). There's a big storm coming, but not until tonight. We may get to see the eclipse this time!

ETA: Apparently it's a thing in the Evangelical community that this eclipse will signal the coming of the Rapture. So good news, y'all, by this time tomorrow the world should be a better place!

(Thanks to Terry Bisson's The Left Left Behind for the joke.)

Wednesday, April 03, 2024


My kid's acceptance and funding for graduate school have officially been confirmed. He's in!

He's studying paleoecology with one of his favorite professors, so he's really looking forward to it.

ETA: My kid sends me this in response:

When I Said

When I said I had stopped reading conservative blogs and sites because they were so far from reality I couldn't even mock them anymore -- it's making fun of the impaired -- this is what I has in mind. 

The GOP in Tennessee and five other states are attempting to pass laws against chemtrails.

Chemtrails. The blue ribbon marker for tinfoil hat idiocy.

And they think they should get to make the laws the rest of us can be forced to obey. What the absolute fuck.

Monday, April 01, 2024

What's This?

My story is live at Clarkesworld?


Things That Make It Rough to Keep on Keeping on

(Obviously these are besides the death of everyone in my family of origin over the past ten years except me and my little brother.)

(1) Spring is here, which means summer is soon to follow

(2) No seasonal fruits are available at the moment. If I want fruit, it has to be dried fruit or imported grapes or extremely expensive apples. 

(3) When did apples get so expensive?

(4) The weather has been both hot and damp over the past few days. If I wanted to live in a city that felt and smelled like an armpit, surely I could pick a better place than Arkansas.

(5) Insomnia

(6) None of my favorite writers are publishing books fast enough. I can only re-reading their older works so many times.

(7) Pollen.

(8) Dishes and laundry have to be done over and over and over. See also: making dinner.

(9) I can't just exercise one day and be done, oh, no, I must exercise every single day

(10) Major papers are coming in, plus drafts of complete scripts for my script writing class. I do love my students but there are 23 in each comp class and ten in the script writing class, and that's 1156 pages of work to read over the next week, and not just read but think about and comment on.

(11) The GOP. What is happening with these people? They have lost their fucking minds. They have left reality. It's gone beyond disturbing and into the realm of "don't they have loved ones who can get them some help?"

(12) There's nothing I really want to eat anymore, except coffee. Ugh.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Happy International Trans Day of Visibility!

Since 2009, March 31 has been the International Trans Day of Visibility.  In 2021, Biden appointed March 31 as the Trans Day of Visibility here in the USA. 

The day was created in 2009 to make the point that not everything that happened to trans people was tragic, and that trans people have an identity beyond being oppressed. This day exists to celebrate trans people and their accomplishments.

Not every trans person can be visible, even now, sadly enough. Too many have to hide their essential selves, at least for large portions of their life. 

This day exists, in part, to hope for the day when all our trans friends, colleagues, and loved ones can live visibly, without having to worry about backlash, bigotry, or violence.

My own kid is out to everyone in his life, but he's told me that he's glad he can pass as a cis man to strangers. Here's hoping a time will come, and soon, when such a sad commentary on our country and its communities will long be extinct.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Games I'm Playing

I used to play Wordle every morning, but now there are these games, which I'm finding more challenging.

Also Connections, which I find a little harder, since it requires you to think sideways. I've never been good at thinking sideways,

I also continue with French on Duolingo, which has gamified language learning.

I don't play games instead of writing; I do them while I'm writing. Somehow they help me think of the next bit I need to write, maybe by distracting my problem-solving mind so that my creative mind can fool around.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Sleep, Beautiful Sleep

I made a list of everything I had to do, dealing with my father's death, and everything I had to do, dealing with the new vehicle, and I am crossing them off, one by one. 

In related news, I slept a solid eight hours last night for the first time in I think two weeks? More of this, please.

However, I forgot this weekend is Easter and that because of the holiday the trash guys will not be picking up on Friday, and so bin night was last night instead of tomorrow. I woke to the screech of the trash truck brakes, coming down the steep hill by my house, which was too late to do anything about it. Ugh.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

What I'm Reading Now

I kind of feel like the main character in Among Others, by Jo Walton, who decides against death because if she dies, she will miss all the novels not yet written, or at least not yet read by her.

I don't mean I'm suicidal -- I'm not -- but I'm not quite falling into despair, because there are so many good books to read.

Here's two good ones I read over the past few days:

Natasha Pulley, Mars House

I've seen comments on the web about how the science in this is not legitimate. That may be true, but honestly I didn't care. The book reads more as an extended metaphor to me in any case.

Climate change ravages Earth, and climate refugees are fleeing to Mars. There is already a settled population on Mars, seven generations of them, who are beginning to diverge, evolutionarily, linguistically, and culturally, from the population on Earth. Pulley has a great deal of fun with all these changes by putting one of the refugees, January, into an arranged political marriage with one of the rulers of Tharsis (the city on Mars), and then putting that arrangement, and Tharsis, under stress as a giant dust storm makes it likely that Tharsis will run out of  power, leaving everyone to freeze and die of thirst, unless a nuclear explosion kills them first.

At the same time, another huge population of refugees is heading toward Mars, and Gale, the politician January married, is opposed to allowing them to land -- they will outnumber the people already living on Mars, for one thing; and for another, their greater strength (compared to the "natural" citizens of Tharsis) make them potentially dangerous to the city's occupants. 

This is both like and unlike Natasha Pulley's other words, which have been historical fiction set in fantasy universes where people can see the future, or travel through time gates. It's more science fictiony, or maybe science-y fiction. 

But I liked it a lot. The cultures in collision sort of story is always fun to read, and while there is a romance sort of thing happening here, it doesn't have your usual romance tropes.

One reviewer I saw disliked it because Pulley isn't doing queer relationships right, apparently? I didn't notice that either, but then I'm a straight cis person, so maybe I wouldn't notice it.

Anyway, this is a great read, and if you're not reading Natasha Pulley yet, what are you waiting for?

Tana French, The Hunter

Also a great read. This is the sequel to French's The Searchers, and if you haven't read that one, you should start there. This is a sequel, and one that depends upon the first novel pretty heavily. Cal, an ex-Chicago police officer, has become a surrogate father to the disaffected young teen, Trey, from the first novel. When Trey's actual father shows up, Cal is worried his role (Cal's role) in Trey's life might cause some problems. It does, but not those that Cal was expecting.

French usually writes mystery novels; and there's a kind of mystery here, but it stays in the background, letting French explore characters and their life in this tiny Irish town. French is great at this kind of thing, so if you like that, you'll like these books.

This second one has not one but two very good dogs, and one slightly less good dog.

Thursday, March 21, 2024


I have a new kind of insomnia, where I fall asleep just fine, but then I wake up a few hours later and cannot get back to sleep.

Stress-related, probably. 0/10, do not recommend.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Vehicle Acquired

We drove up to Fayetteville and bought the new car yesterday. As a activity to do when your father has just died, I kind of recommend it. It's boring, it's directed mostly by others, it occupies a long stretch of your time, and when you're done, you have a new vehicle.

We went for the Subaru Forester, Ltd. It was on sale, plus we traded in the Mustang, which honestly we got more for than I expected. 

the new vehicle

It's probably the nicest vehicle we have ever owned. I haven't done much with the touchscreens and other tech yet, but I love the back-up camera and the lane crossing warnings. (When you get too close to the other lane, the car cheeps at you sorrowfully. It is very disappointed in your driving.)

I also hung out with my family up there, which helped with the anxiety and depression which I am feeling, apparently, instead of grief. Or maybe this is part of the grieving process? It's definitely different from what I felt when my mother and brothers died.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

William Allan Jennings (1939-2024)

My father, 2019
My father died yesterday, from complications from COVID and dementia. His condition had been worsening over the past few years; and he was at the stage where he knew almost no one, or where he was, or what was happening.

He still missed my mother, though. Every time I spoke to him on the phone, he would tell me how lonely he was, how much he missed her, how when he woke in the night, he would reach over to the side if her bed, and it was always empty.

They had a long relationship -- meeting when they were 20 years old and 22 years old, and marrying three months later. They drove out to Seattle, Washington together a few days after that, where my father had just been hired as a chemical engineer at Boeing. They had to marry beforehand, because in those days a man and a woman could not rent a hotel room together unless they could prove that they were married.

Once in Washington State, they lived in a tiny pink trailer in a trailer park in Renton, Washington, where over the next five years they would have three children -- my brother Scott, me, and my younger brother Michael. My memories of my father from these days are few and fleeting. I remember him taking care of us one night when my mother went to play bridge, and falling asleep on our couch, waking up briefly to tell me to make sure the trailer door was locked. I had to reach up the lock the door, so I would have been two, I guess, which would have made him around 23.

And I remember him holding me up in the hospital so I could look at Michael, newborn, in the hospital nursery. 

When I was four, he was transferred to New Orleans, where he helped build fuel tanks for the Apollo missions. I remember visiting the plant, and seeing the tanks, which were impossibly big (especially for my four year old self).  We were living then in the trailer in a trailer park in Gentilly, near a coffee plant. (Community coffee, I think.) I remember waking up to the rich smell of the beans being roasted.

I remember when he and my mother bought a house being built in a new subdivision, out in Metairie. We would drive out to the subdivision (Willowdale) on Sunday afternoon to see how the new house was progressing. He would walk us through it, pointing out where the rooms would be. And he found and planted a swamp willow in the backyard, which would grow into the tree I spent half my childhood climbing.

He was never really a hands-on sort of Dad. Taking care of the children was my mother's job. But I remember he built kites for us (using his engineering training). We drove to Florida a couple times a year, so he could go to the races (car races, at Daytona Beach, I think? I don't actually remember that) and we could play in the ocean. Every year, in the summer, we drove to Indiana so we could spend a week with my grandparents in Andrews, Indiana, and a week with my other grandparents, and bunches of cousins, in Richmond, Indiana. That was our big vacation. 

When I was 13, my mother turned up pregnant. She was 34 then, and he was 32, and it was a shock to both of them. But after a few days, my father was delighted. "When I'm in my 40s," he would say, "I'll have someone to take to baseball games, and fishing." My youngest brother, born when I was 14, was his favorite of all of us, I think.

I don't know much about my father's childhood. He would tell us how he had to live on potato soup during his early childhood, because his family was so poor; and how his father bought a farm when my father and his brother were in their teens, so that my father and his brother could learn responsibility -- they took care of a small herd of dairy cattle, milking them, feeding them, keeping the milk cans sterile, and selling the milk to a local dairy. Only when I was an adult did I learn he could imitate the bawl of a young calf -- he did it for my kid. It was hilarious.

He also told us once about how when he was little, five or six, he had a terrible case of boils, so bad that he couldn't walk; and how the doctor have him a shot of penicillin, which cleared them right up. Google tells me penicillin did not become available to the public until 1945, so I guess he must have been six, at least.

I know he graduated from high school at sixteen, and went to college on a scholarship, finishing his degree in three years. This was how he was able to marry my mother when he was 20. Later, when we were in New Orleans, he got an MBA from Tulane.

He worked for NASA until I was 13, when he was transferred to Wichita, Kansas, a place he hated so much that he quit NASA and went to work for Louisiana Off-Shore Oil Port, or LOOP, as Vice-President of Operations and Construction. That was the job that made him rich enough that he was able to retire at 55 -- though he kept working as a consultant after that.

He and my mother spent the next twenty years traveling the world. He ran marathons on every continent, including Antarctica. They went to China. They went to Australia. They took boats up the Rhine. 

When I was living in Idaho, they came out there and we went to Yellowstone Park. The most excited I had ever seen him was when we hiked down to this immense waterfall together. That and the buffalo. It wasn't the buffalo he liked so much as how furious my little dog Spike got about the buffalo. Whenever we drove past one, Spike would go nuts, baying and slamming himself against the car window. That cracked my father up.

The last time I saw him in person was just before the pandemic, when he and my mother drove up to see us. He was already affected badly by dementia, and kept asking me where this was I lived, and what was it I did for a living, again? 

"Do you see?" my mother asked me, when we went out to Wal-Mart together. "Can you tell he's different?"

He hadn't had the diagnosis yet, but he would within the year.

"I don't know what he's going to do, if I die," she told me. "What's going to happen to him without me?"

He missed her, that's what happened. He missed her to the end. Even when he could remember nothing else, he remembered that.

"We were married for sixty years," he would tell me, when I called him. "I miss her every day."

He was the last of my parents, and the last of my childhood. The last person to remember the bicycle he gave me for Christmas when I was ten, or the puppy he gave me when I was eleven. The last person to remember the house I grew up in, or what those vacations to Daytona were like. The last person to remember my brothers when they were babies, or birthday parties, or how I learned to ride a bike.

I'm the oldest in the family now. That's a weird feeling, I have to tell you. Me, the elder.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

New Washer Acquired

It's a Maytag, and according to the internet it should last at least 15 years.

Here's hoping!

Fate Laughs (LOL LOL)

I ordered a washing machine online (who knew you could do that?) from a local hardware store and it is scheduled to be delivered today.

At the same time as the tornados arrive.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Tana French!

 Tana French has a new novel out, and I scored first in line on the library hold list.

This is a sequel to her Searcher, about a Chicago cop who has relocated to a small town in Ireland, which I re-read in anticipation of this novel. I can't wait!


My washing machine (which I bought from a second-hand shop) has finally quit working entirely. Formerly it would stall, and I'd have to kick it or bang the lid hard, and it would start working again. Now it's totally and finally dead.

We're going to look for another eventually, but for now it's back to the laundromats for me.

Meanwhile it is spring in Arkansas. Everything is blooming and I can shut off the heat and leave the windows open. My cats are very pleased.

Saturday, March 09, 2024

Dogs in Arkansas

 This hefty bulldog came to visit me today:

He and his little French bulldog friend were trotting briskly about, entirely unsupervised, neither wearing a collar, and both what we in the dog-owning circle call "intact males." 

This is entirely normal behavior for dog owners in this city -- their animals are left free to wander at will. Luckily these two were very sweet, but I've been rushed at by loose pitbulls and yappy little furballs too often to greet this practice with equanimity.

If you don't have a fenced yard, supervise your animals, and preferably keep them on a leash. Please.

Friday, March 08, 2024

Seven Days Until Spring Break

...but who's counting?

This isn't even such a stressful semester. I'm teaching two comp classes, one scriptwriting class, and an introduction to creative writing. About 75 students. True, it's a lot of writing to read, comment on, and eventually grade, and true, it's a new prep; but it's no more work than I usually do per semester.

I did get made chair of the committee to hire the new poet for our writing program, but I won't do any actual work on that for another month or so. Maybe it's anticipatory stress. 

Maybe it's just midterm. Midterm always leaves me feeling exhausted.

Whatever, though, I'm counting the days.

Tuesday, March 05, 2024


All I have eaten today is sugar -- a free donut from the breakroom for breakfast, a bag of M&Ms at noon, and two sandwich cookies before my night class. I also drank like fifteen cups of coffee. This is hardly the Surgeons General's recommended meal plan.

Though the M&Ms were peanut M&Ms. So, you know, protein.

My Kid Does Comic

 My kid has drawn a comic I suspect we can all relate to:


Friday, March 01, 2024

What the GOP has Planned

They're not keeping this a secret -- these are the things they plan to do, if they get control of the country back.

(1) Deregulations -- let corporations police themselves

(2) Strip the EPA of power

(3) Increase drilling and fracking

(4) Do everything they can to punish the poor, especially the homeless

(5) Round up immigrants and deport them. (Recently it's been a talking point on the Right that 10% of the population of the USA is "illegal" immigrants. This is so laughable I don't even know what to say. The actual number is more like .03% of the population, but it's pointless to argue. They left facts behind long ago.)

(6) Strip away any regulations surrounding guns. An armed society is a free society, I mean, unless you're a kid cowering under your desk waiting to see if you're the one who gets shot this time. Also, let's put more police officers in schools. That's the hallmark of a free society!

(7) Heavily regulate public school teachers and librarians, up to and including prison time for librarians who allow "children" to access "porn." (By "porn" they mean books that include LGBTQ people, or acknowledge that some families are not the nuclear model, or books about "Critical Race theory," which is to say books that contain actual history, rather than the Klan-version; or books that are simple about black people doing things.)

(8) Make trans people illegal. Not just trans kids, though yes, trans kids too. Trans people.

(9) Make birth control illegal. It's abortion, they've made the case for that, and now that abortion is illegal, birth control is next.

(10) Repeal Marriage Equality. Sure, it's settled law. So was Roe V Wade.

(11) Massively increase tax cuts for the wealthy.

(12) Stop feeding poor kids. Poor adults too, of course, but right now they're taking aim at poor kids.

I'd say Americans won't stand for this, but the past decade has shown most American will stand for almost anything, so long as it lets them feel superior to someone, somewhere. So long as it makes them feel like they're privileged, and better than those people.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Sunday Links

Watching all the reactionaries scramble to deal with the Alabama ruling has been, what's the word, a mix of depressing and hilarious, delarious? Clearly the leopard wasn't supposed to eat THEIR faces.

They're pro-life except what they mean is pro-what-they-think-is-life

Nazis are welcome, but trans people aren't. Pretty much all you need to know about conservatives in America.

When a culture is actually pro-life and pro-child 

Trans People Don't Exist, So It's Fine to Beat Them to Death in a Bathroom

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Blade Runner

I'm watching Blade Runner with the aim of maybe showing it to my screenwriting class, and at the start it tells us LOS ANGELES 2019.

Which is funny. What's NOT funny is that almost none of my students have even ever heard of this movie.

What Kind of Judges

In case you weren't alarmed enough about Alabama's Supreme Court ruling that frozen blastocysts are children, here's who made that ruling (Via PZ Myers).

During a recent interview on the program of self-proclaimed “prophet” and QAnon conspiracy theorist Johnny Enlow, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker indicated that he is a proponent of the “Seven Mountain Mandate,” a theological approach that calls on Christians to impose fundamentalist values on all aspects of American life.

This is what our "conservative" party has become. That's not actually conservative, obviously. It's reactionary, and it's radical. I would have hopes that this decision would be overturned by a higher court, but thanks to Trump voters, our higher courts are very nearly just as reactionary, radical, and bigoted.


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Perils of the Modern Age

Or, password blues.

So, not only does my university now require multi-multi factor authentication to let me access my university stuff, it is now changing the rules for passwords, making them longer, requiring them to have more weird characters and numbers, and not letting us reuse a password for 24 months.

Also, we're not supposed to write them down, ever.

Given that I have like SEVENTY passwords to various sites, how

Re-Reading Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Disturbances in the Field

This is a book I first read years ago, I think in the 1990s? I've re-read it every so often. (In fact there is a bookmark in it of one of the kid's early drawings, dated 2003.) Anyway, I wanted to share this passage:

I watched Victor Rowe. In his light eyes was the most critical expression I had ever seen. Anyone who scanned the world that way, I thought, must be the most clever, the most supercilious. And if he knew how striking he was, it would be so much the worse. He was tall and rangy and moved with the coordinated, weird grace of a giraffe. 

This is the man she will marry, but the book is not about romance or any sort of love affair -- though she and Victor do seem to love each other. She's a pianist and he's an artist and they have four children and live in Manhattan in the 1980s, and it's about their lives in college and their lives in the 1960s and 1970s, and their friends and families and one terrible event that smashes into that life. It's not about the terrible event, either, exactly, it's about the life that collides with that event. Oh, and Greek philosophy. It's also about Greek philosophy.

I was in graduate school when I read this book, and just after I finished it I saw it on the desk of a fellow grad student. "Oh, I love that book," I said (which parenthetically is the worst thing you can say about any book if you are a graduate student in English).

"Did you," she said. "I got a little bored with all the philosophy."

I was a young grad student and had no rebuttal. What I should have said was, but the philosophy is the most essential part of the book! I should have said, but what are you reading it for, then? The fucking daily life in Manhattan?

(To be clear: I love the daily life in Manhattan part. 1960 through 1980 in New York was such a different world, this might as well be science fiction.)

What I did say was, "That was my favorite part."

We stared at each other as though across an abyss. I don't know what became of her; I don't even remember her name. I think maybe she was a translator? Or a New Critic. Who knows.

Bored with all the philosophy indeed.

Anyway, you should definitely read Disturbances in the Field, though I haven't like any other of Schwartz's books nearly as much. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Random Stuff

I do not have Covid. I think it was just a cold, because I'm much better today.

We've hit summer already here in Arkansas. High near 80 tomorrow.

I read Laurie Frankel's new book, Family Family, between naps while I was waiting to see if I had Covid. It is just excellent. Highly recommend.

Half my time in online classes is spent reminding students that if they just read the directions and look at the example I have given, they would be able to answer their own questions. Only I'm way nicer than that when I say it. But UGH.

My students are much more receptive to the idea of Universal Basic Income than I expected them to be. Only a few students have sternly explained to me that we should be against UBI because it's immoral, or liberal. Honestly I was expecting that reaction out of most of them.

Even so I think next semester I will have them write about extinction events instead. Or maybe plastic, though oh my God researching plastic is so depressing.

My kid got into graduate school. He's waiting to hear about a (real) job, but if he doesn't get that, he'll almost certainly go to grad school. His ultimate goal is to be a scientific illustrator and also draw comics.

I am craving cookies like you wouldn't believe but all the cookies available at our local grocery stores are disgusting. Also I don't really want to bake my own but it may come to that. UGH.

There's another local Chinese takeout I might talk Dr. Skull into trying, since I am not happy with the one we're using now.

How's things with all y'all?

Sunday, February 18, 2024

True Love Has Its Limits, You Know

I've had a mild fever, a headache, a sore throat, and achy bones; plus yesterday I slept for about 20 hours.

Me: Ugh. I think I might have Covid again.

Dr. Skull: :(

Me: Come see if I have a fever.

Dr. Skull: I'm not touching you if you have Covid.

Me: Fine, just leave me here to die.

Dr. Skull: (retreats into his office.)

Me: At least bring me a Covid test!


(The test was negative, but the directions say I should test again in 48 hours. Ugh.)

Thursday, February 15, 2024

What I'm Reading Now

Jane Gardam, A Long Way from Verona, Old Filth, The Hollow Land, Faith Fox

To be honest, Jane Gardam is mostly what I am reading now. I discovered her via Dame Eleanor Hull's blog, and although my library only had two hard copies (my preferred method of reading) they have bunches of e-copies, and I am working my way through them. 

Gardam is a delight -- lucid, lively writing, and a huge backlist, so she can keep my reading appetite satisfied for awhile.  

A Long Way from Verona, which is about an adolescent girl, Jessica, in England during WWII, whose father has quit being a headmaster to become a curate in Yorkshire (the vilest part of England, according to Jessica's mother). It's Jessica's voice that carries this one -- she's tough, hilarious, and unstoppable. This is supposed to be a children's book, but as an adult, I loved it.

Old Filth is one of her adult novels, about a British judge (retired) whose wife has just died. The novel moves back and forth in time, from the death of Filth's mother at his birth (in Malaysia), after which his father neglects him entirely until he is five, and then sends him home to England to board with a woman who keeps "Raj orphans," which is to say children whose parents send them back to England while remaining in East Asia or India themselves. Apparently Gardam bases this part of the story on Rudyard Kipling's life, which honestly explains a lot about Kipling. Filth stands for Failed in London, Try Hong Kong, by the way. Apparently this is a trilogy, but I haven't gotten ahold of the others yet.

Hollow Land is a collection of what read almost like short stories, set in Cumbria, which is apparently part of the Lake District, tracking the lives of two families and their general community from the 1970s until 2015, which makes it technically science fiction, since it was originally published in 1981. Gardam's 2015 is a much more interesting and appealing one than the one we have, I'll add.

I've just started Faith Fox, and I love it to bits already.

Highly recommended.

Carolyn See, The Handyman

Carolyn See was also recommended on Dame Eleanor Hull's blog. This is the only one the library had in hard copy; I'll look for e-copies next, because See is also great. The Handyman is about a guy who wants to be an artist, but can't seem to find his material. It's kind of how he finds his material, but mostly about how he becomes a humane human and how he learns about community. I could not stop reading this one; I read it all in one day, finishing about two in the morning even though I had to be up at six the next day. I'm very much looking forward to reading all her other books.

J. G. Ballard, Empire of the Sun

Someone left this book on the leave-one-take-one shelf in the English department hallway, and since I'd wanted to read it since seeing the movie, I took it. I didn't leave one, but I took several of my excess books the next day, very penitently. 

This one, as you probably know, is about a British boy who gets separated from his parents in China during the early days of WWII, and spends the war interned in various camps, surviving by attaching himself to adults who both exploit and look after him. Ballard himself was interned in China during the war, though I am pretty sure he was with his parents the whole time.

This is an interesting but not great book. If you liked the movie, it's worth looking at; but I don't know that I'll seek out more Ballard. Apparently he wrote science fiction, but I've never read or even seen any SF books by him. Wikipedia tells me he wrote a SF book called Crash, which the movie of the same name is based on, but I haven't seen that movie either.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

God Never Makes Mistakes

PZ Myers discusses a Christian bigot making the claim that trans people shouldn't exist because it's wrong to change what God creates.

Myers rebuts her claims, but I'd just like to add that it's kind of telling how many of these bigots make that claim while, say, wearing makeup. Or eyeglasses. Never mind how many of them have had plastic surgery or gastric bypass surgery or fake tans, in the aim of gender-affirming care (so that they'll look more like they think a person of their gender should look). Or wear heels. Or dye their hair. Or pluck their eyebrows, shave their legs, put on perfume, hell, fucking bathe. God wants us to be smelly, after all, that's how he made us. 

And if God never makes mistakes, then I guess we should leave kids born with heart defects or cleft palates or club feet as God made them. We should let Type I diabetics die. People with high blood pressure, no help for them. If you get a cavity, why, God wants your teeth to rot, that's how he made them.

Oh, wait, it's only TRANS people we should keep from getting the medical help they need. I keep forgetting.

You can tell these people are creating God in their own image, because he always believes exactly the hateful bullshit they believe.

Spring Already in the Fort

We had a brief cold spell in January, which is apparently all the winter we will have this year. Next week, the highs are going to be near 80, heading into the last week of February.

Meanwhile, the GOP is pushing the notion that climate change is a hoax, so that they can give more money to their owners, the oil companies. Maybe the planet will become unlivable, but hey, at least a few rich men will get a tiny bit richer. And the GOP can maintain power. Win-win, am I right?

 ETA: This study shows that only 15% of Americans think Climate change is a myth. I would have thought a lot more than that. What's the odds that on a Venn diagram the overlap between this lot and the Magats is a circle?

Friday, February 09, 2024

Teaching Script Writing

I'm teaching a script writing workshop for the first time this semester. Since I have never written a screenplay or script of any sort in my life, it's an adventure.

I'm using Syd Field's Screenplay and Blake Snyder's Save the Cat as texts in the class, and I am also writing my own screenplay, for the experience more than anything else. Also watching a lot of movies and applying what I have learned from Field and Snyder to those. 

One category of assignment I've done so far is to watch movies with the class (Cast Away and Contagion) and have them "map" the movies to the model Field gives, the three act structure that is the classic screenplay form.

It goes like this:

Act I: Set up
        Plot Point One: propels the viewer into the story
Act II: The body of the story
        Plot Point Two: propels the viewer into Act III
Act III: Conclusion

Act I is about 20 pages of script; Act II is about 70 pages; Act III is about 20 pages.

I also had them read the Contagion script and compare it to the movie, which was probably the most useful assignment we've done so far.

Then there's the whole screenplay format, which frankly is turning out to be the hardest part of teaching the class so far. Only about half the students will follow the format. The rest are kind of making something up and using that. AARGH.

I think I know my mistake, though. I just told them where they could find the guide, I didn't build an assignment around it. I need to do that.

Anyway, teaching the class is turning out to be interesting. Plus, an excuse to watch movies!

Thursday, February 08, 2024




    [My kid looking over my shoulder while I sign an email]

        Kid: You're not a Dr!

        Me: YES I AM! What do you think I was studying for all the time when you were little?

        Kid: Oh, I thought you just liked reading books and crying.)

Sunday, February 04, 2024

New Recipe at Cooking with delagar

 If you've always wanted to make excellent French baguettes at home, now is your chance!

French Baguettes

Friday, February 02, 2024

Tom Cotton, Y'all

I assume Tom Cotton isn't this ignorant -- he was smart enough to get into Harvard, as well as Harvard Law -- so these questions probably signal something else. 

The Right is applauding him, for "unrelentingly grilling" the CEO of TikTok, but the rest of us are bemused and a little queasy.

He's also a little confused about the post hoc ergo facto hoc fallacy.

Bear in mind, these are supposed to be hearings over child safety.  He doesn't ask anything about that; instead, his aim seems to be to blame TikTok for teens who shoot themselves. It's not the easy availability of guns that lead to that, Tom wants us to believe, but TikTok videos.

Which is an argument I'm seeing a lot on the Right. Nothing the GOP is doing, or conservative parents are doing, or religious parents are doing, is leading to depressed or distressed children. Laws, no. It's them Chinese comnist and that libral media!

Tom Cotton is a real prize, by the way. He's one of our senators here in Arkansas. 

He -- of course -- rabidly opposes SNAP; he denies that systemic racism exists -- even though he has benefited from such racism -- and he supports putting even more people in prison. He rabidly opposes marriage equality and Obamacare. He opposes stem-cell research. He opposes closing Guantanamo Bay, and in fact thinks we should send more people there to be held indefinitely and tortured.

He's pro-religious liberty, so long as it's his religion people belong to, and so long as he can use the religious liberty argument to hurt LGBTQ people and liberals in general.

He thinks slavery was a necessary evil. (I don't need to point out that Cotton's ancestors held slaves, and that at least some of his generational wealth is derived from slavery.)

He wants journalists who write articles that support Palestinians over Israelis investigated by the Justice department, to see if they're committing "federal crimes." This is especially hilarious given his actions in 2015, writing a letter to people we were then at war with, telling them not to trust the President. 

He also supports waterboarding, claiming it is not torture; and -- here's something scary -- was considered by Trump as a potential nominee for the Supreme Court seat eventually given to Amy Coney Barrett.

It might be he's hoping for Trump's re-election, and a second shot at a Supreme Court seat. It might be he has bigger plan. He has ambitions to be president someday, I do know that. Since he's about as charismatic as a Q-tip, I cling to the hope that no matter how xenophobic he is, that won't ever happen.

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024


It's 66 degrees here, sunny and crisp, at the end of January. Forecast calls for 68 tomorrow, on the first day of February.

Perfectly normal, nothing to see here, move along please.

Friday, January 26, 2024

What I'm Reading Now: Agatha Christie

Right now, I'm reading books to review elsewhere and lot of Agatha Christie -- Murder in the Vicarage, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Crooked House, and several others. 

(1) She's uneven. Murder at the Vicarage and Crooked House were both very good. Towards Zero was okay, with a nice twist, and then a rushed and somewhat unbelievable ending. Though I did enjoy it when the detective pushed a suspect overboard to see if he could swim. That was pretty funny. And Then There Were None was tedious, besides featuring some blatant racism. I'm trying to track whether the earlier work is better or the later work is, but so far I'm not seeing a pattern. I guess sometimes she had good ideas and sometimes she didn't? Maybe she had deadlines and had to put out substandard work on occasion.

(2) There's casual racism and casual sexism throughout the work, usually by characters we aren't supposed to think of as reliable narrators, but sometimes by those we are. I guess know this going into the books, if you're planning to read them?

(3) Miss Marple is a lot of fun. Kind of like Columbo, frankly, if you know that TV character. Everyone expects her to be dithery and inept, but she's extremely ept. Of all her reoccurring characters, Miss Marple is my favorite. Murder at the Vicarage is the first book she's in, and one of the best by Christie I've read so far. The other characters are Hercule Poirot, Tommy and Tuppence, and a few others. I've only read one with Inspector Battle in it, so far; and half of one with Tommy and Tuppence. I really disliked that one, The Secret Adversary; but it was one of Christie's first books. Maybe Tommy and Tuppence get less annoying later. 

(4) She reminds me of Angela Thirkell, a bit. Same class issues, same ability to create that between-the-wars culture which is so much fun to read about. (So far I've only read the books that were written from 1921 through the the 40s.) Dorothy Sayers is better, and less racist. Still, there are dozens left I haven't read at our library, so I'll probably keep reading. 

They're lightweight reading, which is something I need from time to time.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Seen on Social Media

"Wokeness is the GOP substitute for higher wages."

Which, yeah. That's legit.

The GOP isn't going to fix anything, or God Forbid conserve anything. Instead, it's going to give its voters something to be angry about. Increased levels of hate and bigotry = votes for GOP candidates.

A sad commentary on contemporary politics.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Ice Day

 My university shut down again today, this time due to ice. 

There is indeed a lot of ice out there, so it makes sense.

I remember in my first year teaching at this university, when I was teaching six sections of comp and working nine or ten hours a day, I'd get to work at six a.m. Back then, this was before the university cancelled classes the night before. So I drove to work one morning over sheer fucking ice -- like two inches of ice on every road -- and got to work and sat shivering for about an hour, before a passing fellow instructor informed me that classes had been cancelled due to the ice.

So then I had to drive home again, still over ice, with two huge hills between me and the campus.

It was delightful.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

My Streak on Duolingo Is Now 1367 Days

...and not only did I read this comic when it showed up on my FB, I laughed afterwards.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

The Semester Commences

It is still extremely cold here, plus there will be an ice storm on Monday, but my online classes and the online portion of my F2F classes have begun submitting work.

As has been true for the past six or seven years, I am pleased at how literate and willing to work my students are. I allow them to revise work that's below an A if they want to try for a higher grade, and most of them jump at the chance. They're good at reading and -- mostly -- pretty good at writing.

That's not every student, of course. But it's so many more of them than it was when I first started teaching. Our public schools must be doing something right. 

Of course, at this point, I've taught a sizeable percentage of the English teachers in those schools. Maybe I'm just impressed because they're good in the areas I care most about, which is to say evaluating sources for credibility, writing coherent grammatical sentences, and building good paragraphs.

ETA: I'm also surprised at how technologically inept most of them are. The online generation has to be walked through so many aspects of everyday technology. We should be teaching that in school, not how to do taxes or write cursive.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Highs in the...40s? NO WAY!

Forecast calls for a high of 42 today. Maybe the ice on my road will melt.

I hope so, because I am nearly out of butter. Note to self: next time we have a snow emergency, buy milk, bread, and butter. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Still Effing Cold

 I'm waiting to hear if the university is going to be open tomorrow. I hope it is, mostly because my university laptop is refusing to connect to the internet. (I am writing this on my ancient personal laptop.)

Meanwhile, have some links!

Comic about dealing with life when everything is terrible

Why Americans are Getting Shorter

Leftists Who Turn Right

Snowday Gingerbread 

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Interzone 297

 I have book reviews in this issue:

Reviews of

  • Fortune's Favor, Jo Graham
  • The Jinn-Bot of Shanitport, Samit Basu
  • Atoms Never Touch, micha cardenas
  • Getting by in Tligolian, Roppatucha Greenberg
  • These Fragile Graces, This Fugitive Heart, Izzy Wasserstein
  • Floating Hotel, Grace Curtis
  • Generation Ship, Michael Mammay
Lots of good fiction in there too!

Still Frozen

Record lows here today. Right now it's nine degrees.

It's certainly cold inside the house, though I have two space heaters running and the split unit and the gas furnace. Outside, snow everywhere, including on the road that leads out. 

Yesterday I saw the fox trot across the snowy yard, very beautiful in red, gold, and back against all that white.

Ice on the Inside of my Windows

Monday, January 15, 2024

More Snow

Il neige.

And it's ten degrees. 61 degrees inside the house.


So Cold

 It's five degrees outside right now, at midnight. 

That's -15 for you non-Americans.

Or too fucking cold, even for me.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Snowy Day

When I woke up this morning, it was 10 degrees outside, and 58 degrees inside. There was ice frozen on the insides of our windows. 

I kicked up the heat and added my space heater. Soon it was 64 inside. I drank coffee and wrote wearing my fingerless gloves and my thermal hat.

Around noon, it began to snow. Snowed all day, and it is still about 12 degrees outside. The state police are begging people to stay off the road.

Fine with me. I made black beans and then later oatmeal cookies, and also drank a lot of hot tea and milk.

The cats are quite displeased with me. Surely I can manage the weather better than this?

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Snow and Ice

Today is a high of 55, and it's sunny and clear out there.

But Friday we get ice and snow; and Sunday more snow, with a low of one degree; and Monday a low of negative six. 

I anticipate consuming a great deal of hot chocolate and potato soup.

Maybe I'll talk Dr. Skull into teaching me how to make French bread.

ETA: I forgot to say, I took the Kia Sportage back today and the Enterprise guy says they sell their cars off after a year. He's going to hook me up with their guy. It's very nearly within our price range, so I'm thinking about it.

Monday, January 08, 2024


 It is cold and rainy here and supposed to snow tomorrow, also on Friday, and also next Monday. Plus very low temps in between. 

We rented a Kia Sportage, which Dr. Skull has no trouble getting in and out of, and I like driving. The little dashboard computer gives me frequent advice, pointing out when I'm speeding, or too close to the car in front of me; and about every 30 minute it suggests I have been driving too long, and maybe I should take a break. Plus a back-up camera. Plus SO MUCH ROOM. We hauled a desk up to the kid that I'd been promising him he could have as soon as we figured out a way to get it up there. It's my old writing desk, but now I write with my feet up and my laptop actually in my lap.

Desk in the Kid's Apartment

The Mustang has a bad thermostat, which is why the check engine light was on and why it was running cold. Cost to repair: somewhere on the wrong side of $400. 

I opened a savings account with the money from my mother, and it's already earning interest. Plus this gives us time to look around before we buy the new car.

Friday, January 05, 2024


 This is the first snow of the year -- just enough to cover the ground, and it's already melting.

I think this might be the earliest we've ever gotten snow here.

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

What Car Should I Buy?

We got a payout from my mother's estate and I am going to use it to buy a new car. I haven't bought a car since 2003, when we bought a used Mitsubishi from Hertz. Our 2008 Mustang, which I inherited from my brother, still runs, but it has frequent problems -- right now the Check Engine light is on, for instance, so we're having to rent a car to get it looked at.

It seems I can buy a new Kia Soul for about $25,000. My main aim is finding a car Dr. Skull can get in and out of easily -- he has knee and back problems. But I'd also like one that will last about 20 years.

Anyone have any advice?

Monday, January 01, 2024

Happy New Year!

Here we go again.

Inspired by Nicole & Maggie's post: my top five posts in 2023. Top five = those the most people read, or at least clicked on.

Just Saying

Children's Books I have Known

Pride Month Continues (an anomaly, I think, and also its link is no longer active)

Post-Racial America (from 2009!)

American Health Care (also from 2009)

If we restrict ourselves to 2023, I'd add these two

Robots and Mean Teenagers (Link is also not active anymore)

The Kid Gets Published

If we eliminate posts connected to my appearing in the Pride Storybundle, we'd add these:

Ugh, Cars

Side Effect: Exercise

This is an improvement, since for literally years my top post has been that one about Dennis Prager getting a divorce, and yet continuing to tout himself as the moral expert on marriage. I think he's actually gotten several divorces at this point. Anyway, I suspect that one has fallen in the stats because people who follow Prager no longer read anything written by non-MAGA Americans.

Anyway, happy new year!