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.