Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Passover Has Been Held

 We did our Seder last night, with just the four of us. The original Seder would have had more people, but it could not be held.

The menu was roast chicken, potato kugel, matzoh ball soup, and various sweets of affliction (cake made with matzoh meal, those little KFP fruits slices, macaroons). We had to take the kids home directly after the Seder, since they're both working today. I took a picture, but it did not come out.

We're going up to spend the kid's birthday with him. That's the next event!

Monday, April 29, 2024


Why people are leaving the academy

Imagine that you’ve got a budget that can’t cover the cost of four tires on your car, so you decide to maintain three, but the fourth one…well, we’ll just let it wear out, go bald, go flat, maybe shred itself to pieces as you drive down the freeway. The car still runs, it’s maybe just a bit unsafe and kind of inefficient and making horrible noises while you drive. Is that a smart move?

MAGA Americans are doing their best to convince us that the student protests are violent, and that this violence is Biden's fault. (Why are you asking about January 6? What does that have to do with anything?)

Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) have demanded that Biden mobilize the National Guard to protect Jewish Americans on campus. 

Like Tom Cotton gives a shit about Jews. This is exactly what the GOP is doing with trans people -- oo, we need to protect women, oo, what about women's sports? They don't care about women or women's sports, except as a cudgel to attack trans people. They don't care about Jews, except as a way to attack Biden. 

Also, check JD Vance, who is using the same rhetoric that got four students at Kent State killed: these protestors are dirty, so we should shoot them.

Of course, all this will work with our reactionary conservatives, since they don't care what's true; they just want some way to justify their bigotry, and today's GOP works hard to give them that.

Cat tricks

If you're not reading Jo Walton's columns, do you even SF, bro?

So there's this poem I like to assign to my students:

[you fit into me]

you fit into me
like a hook into an eye

a fish hook
an open eye

They never understand it, which puzzled me, until recently, when I realized none of them know what a hook-and-eye is. Dead metaphor kills poem.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

What I'm Reading Now

 Not much that I can share with you, because I'm reading for reviews. But here are a couple!

Michiko Aoyama, What You Are Looking for Is in the Library

This is a short and charming novel, translated from the Japanese, about five characters who separately interact with a local librarian and have their lives changed. The characters interact with one another occasionally, but their stories are more like short stories, all connected through the library and the librarian.

Besides being five stories with five different happy endings, this novel also gives a fascinating look at life in contemporary Japan. Obviously I don't know how accurate the portrayal is, but we're shown a culture and a civilization that works, with trains that come every three minutes and libraries as well as community resources that are well funded, and people who are able to start small businesses without worrying about things like health care costs and paying back student loans.

Aoyama Michiko's work reminds me a bit of the novels written by Fredrik Backman and Alexander McCall Smith -- kind of sweet, maybe a little sappy, but wonderful characters and careful observations of how people live and function, without any high drama or murders or abuse. If you're looking for a pleasant read on a rainy afternoon, you'll like this one.

Percival Everett, James: A novel

This is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, told from the point of view of Jim, who you will remember is the slave Huck ends up rafting down the Mississippi with. I'm a sucker for novels which retell other novels, giving us a new lens with which to read the source text, and in that regard this one succeeds.

It doesn't really bring much new to the table, though. Though I may just think this because I know so much about the history of enslaved people in the U.S. Consider, in contrast, Jo Baker's Longbourn, which retells Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of the servants in Longbourn. I like that one a lot, because it shows me things I didn't already know about working class life in England at that date. Here in Everett's novel, I know most of the things he's showing us -- code switching; why black people at the time acted stupid around white people; how enslaved people were treated; what Jim might have felt in dealing with young white boys in that place and culture. So none of that really felt fresh or interesting to me.

Also, I really don't like the original source text, Twain's novel. Despite Hemmingway's claim that this is the first American novel, it's badly structured and most of it is just Twain amusing himself at the expense of the actual narrative. Also I don't think Tom Sawyer is cute or funny, so it always annoys me when he shows up on the page. 

Still, this is an interesting and readable text, and if you want to look at Twain's novel from a new perspective, this one is worth your time.

Funder, Anna, Wifedom: Mrs. Orwell's Invisible Life

Here, Anna Funder writes about the wife of George Orwell (Eric Blair), demonstrating that Eileen O'Shaughnessy was instrumental in the creation of Orwell's major works, not just in editing and reading and typing drafts, but in supplying many of the ideas and passages that end up in Orwell's work. Despite this, O'Shaughnessy has been -- continues to be -- nearly erased from any biographies and critical studies of Orwell and his work. Using tactics borrowed straight from Orwell's Politics and the English Language, the biographers and critics manage this by using passive tense, and by simply omitting to mention that, for example, O'Shaughnessy was in Catalonia with Orwell while he was writing Homage to Catalonia.

Funder intersperses her observations about Orwell and O'Shaughnessy with observations about her own life, and the lives of the woman around her, demonstrating how women are encouraged to erase themselves in favor of acting as support staff for the men in their lives. This is an interesting read, with lots of chewy points to consider.

George Orwell, A Clergyman's Daughter

I read this after I read Funder's book. Except for Animal Farm and 1984, this is the only book my public library has by Orwell. It's from 1935, and so an early book. His second novel, Wikipedia tells me. It's very odd, though you can see the influence of his research for Down and Out in Paris and London. There's a whole section where the daughter. Dorothy Hare, spends part of a summer with hop pickers, living like a migrant worker. And an overarching narrative has to do with why Hare never marries: she is terrified of having sex. (According to Funder's book, Orwell disliked and was disgusted by sex.) This terror limits her life. 

Structurally, the book is a mess. If I were his editor, I would have made him cut the entire hop section, and make that a different book. He would have had to think about Hare as a character, though, and I don't think Orwell thinks women are really people. Anyway, the book is really two separate tales: the one in which Hare runs her father's house and deals with church affairs, all the while being kept criminally short of money by her father. Then there's a section about Hare after she has a sudden and unexplained bout of amnesia. She wanders the countryside, takes up with the hop pickers, returns to London and lives on the streets, finds and takes a job as an underpaid instructor in a dreadful girl's school, and eventually returns home to take up life as her father's daughter once again.

Orwell shows us the life of migrant workers, of homeless people in London, of how terrible small schools run for a profit can be, and how grim the life of a technically upper class but actually impoverished clergy can be. The only thing holding all this together is the putative main character, who doesn't really take action so much as she is acted upon.

I mean, I read the whole thing. But it's a mess.

Monday, April 22, 2024

New Fridge

 Delivery was right on time:

It's a little smaller than our old one, but there's only two of us now, if you don't count cats and the little dog.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Ugh, Our Fridge Died

 To be fair, it was 30 years old -- we bought it before the kid was born -- but we were planning to celebrate Passover tomorrow, and Dr. Skull had already started the elaborate process which leads to his amazing matzoh ball soup. The process requires a working fridge, since the broth has to be chilled overnight and then cooked again, with a "raft," which is made of ground chicken, various vegetables, and eggs.

Anyway, I ordered a new fridge online (we're living in the future!) and it will be here tomorrow. We've moved the actual Passover celebration until Friday.

The fridge was $200 off, so that's nice. Plus they will haul away the old fridge.

ETA: I forgot the worst part. I had already cleaned house for the celebration. So now I have to clean house TWICE.

ETA Two: We have moved everything we're hoping will survive the night into an ice chest with plenty of ice. Fingers crossed. We found ever so many unexpected things in the way back of the fridge, including two bottles of wine and a bottle of Granny Smith hard cider, which I am consuming as we speak.

Delivery of the new refrigerator is scheduled for "first available time" tomorrow. I'm hoping before noon.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Work Is Eating My Life

I'm chairing the hiring committee for the new assistant professor we're hiring in Creative Writing/Poetry, which is a lot of reading and evaluating of CVs, letters, and transcripts. As usual for my university, we're hiring at precisely the wrong point in the semesters. There is pretty much no way we can bring someone on campus for an in-person interview until after the end of Spring Semester, is what I'm saying.

But we're doing Zoom interviews this week, which should help us winnow down the candidate pool.

Also everyone's big papers (40 of these) and the finished scripts from the scriptwriting class (ten of these) are coming in this week.

I haven't mentioned this, but I am retiring next spring, May of 2025. This past week has cemented my belief that that decision was the right one.

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.