Friday, May 31, 2024

It isn't Easy Being Green

 Typewriter Monkey makes comics:

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Guilty on All Counts

Trump is now a convicted felon

Will this stop conservatives from voting for him? The hell it will. I've already seen radical right wing sites declaring this makes him a martyr, though to what God I cannot imagine. The Great Golden Trump Idol, I suppose.

My kid asked me how Trump could continue to run for president even if he's a convicted felon. "I thought you couldn't vote if you were a felon. Or is that just to suppress the black vote?"

Famously, Eugene Debs ran for president from actual prison in 1920 -- he'd been convicted of "sedition." So a little thing like a conviction on 34 counts of fraud won't stop Trump.

Here's what Trump had to say: 

“This was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who was corrupt,” he said. “The real verdict is going to be November 5 by the people, and they know what happened here.”


Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Summer in May

 It is still May here -- though, to be fair, almost June -- and we already have summer weather. In the 90s every day, damp and sunny at the same time. It's like living in a swamp.

However! I had purchased a fig tree and it has figs on it. It seems to like this horrific weather.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Joanna Trollope

Joanna Trollope's The Choir has long been a favorite of mine, but back when I first read it, the public library I had access to did not have many books by Trollope, and the other one I read by her (was it The Men and the Girls? I don't really remember) I didn't like, so I never went on to find her other books.

A few days ago, while I was wandering the aisle of my current public library, I found a bunch of books by Joanna Trollope, and took out The Rector's Wife, thinking it probably was in conversation with Orwell's A Clergyman's Daughter, and it kind of is. (Trollope, being the great-grand-niece of Anthony Trollope, is almost certainly up on her English novels.) 

Orwell's book, you'll remember, was a weirdly constructed episodic look at a few years in the life of the daughter of an impoverished clergyman, who Orwell posited was as stunted and miserable as she was because she was terrified of sex. 

Trollope's book is a look at about a year in the life of the wife of an impoverished clergyman -- a rector, who looks after 12 parishes for nine thousand pounds a year. This is 9000 pounds in 1988 pounds, and I have no idea how much that would be in 2024 dollars*. There is very little love remaining between the rector and his wife; and due to the social norms of their parish, she has not been allowed to have a job, outside of doing the work a rector's wife is expected to do. Basically, the story is about how the rector's wife breaks free from this parish and this loveless marriage, and how her kids grow up.

I've read a couple more of her novels since then, including a re-read of The Choir, which is excellent. They are hit and miss -- some of them are very good, and others not so much. There's almost always a romance happening as part of the novel, but -- like Angela Thirkell and D. E. Stevenson -- they are books about people in a community, and what happens during a given period of time. If you like Thirkell and Stevenson, you'll probably like (some) of these.

Start with The Choir!

*Having done the math, that would be around $15,000 in 1988 dollars, and so about $40,000 in 2024 money. Lower class money, especially since the rector and his wife have 3 kids.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Free Speech, But Only if You Say Things I Agree with

 Pharyngula posted this Pharyngula posted this today:

The outrage over "riots" at or near universities is very much like the outrage over Black Lives Matter, and the subsequent lies and excuses over the attack on the capitol on January 6.

Or, as Francis Wilhoit put it,

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Traveling to New Orleans

We're getting ready to drive down to New Orleans (a ten hour trip) for my father's memorial service. We'll hang out with the family while we're there, and I'm looking forward to that part of it.

I'm very much less looking forward to the actual trip. Remembering to take everything we need. (Medications, electronics, charging cords, the CPAP for Dr. Skull, all my various pairs of glasses, clothing for the service, shoes for the service....) The driving. The traffic. Finding the hotel. Honestly, leaving home, which is where all my stuff is and I can pretty much control the environment.

I used to love to travel. I guess, looking back though, that was mostly when I did not control my environment. Getting out of my parents' house (TVs always on, the AC set at 80 degrees, endless racket) in order to camp at state parks, even ones without plumbing, I guess that was an improvement?

Or maybe it's no longer being 22? Remember how bored we were in our early 20s? I haven't been bored for decades.

My trip checklist (so far):

Animals to vet 

  • insulin 
  • food 
  • blankets
Stop mail (this can be done online! So cool!)

In luggage
  • meds (mine, Dr. Skull's)
  • glasses (all five pairs)
  • CPAP and CPAP cord
  • Phone and phone chargers
  • Earbuds, headphones, chargers for both
  • Laptop and charger
  • wallets (both)
  • spare fob for car
  • Checkbook (jic)
  • Toiletries, including toothbrushes & floss
  • Clothing, including underwear and socks
  • Clothing for service, including fancy shoes
  • Pajamas 
  • Dr. Skull's nuclear socks
In Subaru
  • sunglasses
  • ice chest
  • trip folder with route and reservations
  • Pillows

What am I forgetting about? I know I'm forgetting something.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Science Fiction from the 1970s

I'm reading a paperback SF novel from the 1970s, and oh my god y'all.

Within the first 10 pages, we have a white guy setting a black guy straight about racism -- you'll be glad to know it doesn't actually exist, it's just that black people are too touchy.

Within the first fifty pages, we have a earnest explanation about eugenics and why this Utopian society had leaned into it -- they don't want people whose IQ is less than 130, see, or people with "physical defects," since those people would have to be "second class citizens."

Within the first sixty pages, one character explains to another that the great thing about this Utopian world is they have such delicious foods as corn on the cob and wild strawberries. Also, there is plenty of goat milk for the kids. And there is fishing and hunting!

Also, everyone has a lot of kids. Also, there is no such thing as marriage, so the women are delighted to sleep with anyone who asks. 

Also, we learn that this Utopian world "screens out" male homosexuality. Nothing about female homosexuality, so I guess that's cool.

Within the first 80 pages, we have yet another white character racesplaining to the (same) black character that this Utopian society is not, after all, actually racist. It is just that white people turn out to be better qualified for this Utopian world.

The 1970s, you will remember, is the same era that produced Le Guin, Butler, Joanna Russ, John Varley (at his peak, not the later John Varley), and Joe Haldeman. So writing good SF was possible. I don't know what the hell this is.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

J.D. Vance and Our Current Conservative Turnips

As this piece in the Washington Post notes, J. D. Vance is really all you need to know about modern conservatives. (That's a gift link, or it should be.)

I remember when Rod Dreher and the rest of the "deep thinkers" of the conservative pack discovered Vance's ridiculous book. They were so happy they were peeing themselves. Why? Not because the book tells the truth about people in Appalachia. It doesn't -- there have been by now literally dozens of take-downs of Vance's nonsense. 

These refutations of Vance's book were, of course, dismissed or ignored by the Right. Of course they were. Our current crop of conservatives could not possibly care less about the truth, or evidence, or facts. What they like is anything that "feels" right to them. And by "feels right" they mean anything that justifies their bigotry; or anything that justifies the status quo.

To be clear, Vance doesn't believe anything he's saying anymore than Trump believes the nonsense he spews. They both wants applause and fame, and don't care what they do to get it. Today's conservatives want to feel vindicated, and don't care what lies they have to swallow to get that feeling. 

True fact: More than once when I have provided evidence to a conservative that a given piece of information is false, or untrue, they have responded, "I don't care."  That's the crux of it. They don't care what is true. They care that they are being affirmed.

Why is this a danger? Well, that "doesn't care what he does to get it" bit. Neither Trump nor Vance is a true believer. But they will do whatever they need to do to get that applause, that fame, those $$$. Today's conservatives will do whatever needs to be done to get that affirmation, so that they can continue to believe in the lies* that build their world. 

It's practically the American way, so I don't know why we're surprised. But as Matt Bai notes in his opinion piece

History tells us that repressive movements enabled by cowards and hucksters are just as bad, if not worse, than those perpetrated by the legitimately hateful. You can wreck a country with cosplaying careerists just as easily as you can with bloodthirsty revolutionaries.

That's the sad truth.

*This is why Rod Dreher's book, Live Not by Lies, is so ridiculous. Every "truth" he lives by is a lie.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Kill (certain kinds) of People, Go on Fox News, Get a Pardon

Apparently in Texas it's okay to murder people at protests if they're the sort of people "conservatives" think should be killed. 

Daniel Perry "developed a hatred of Black Lives Matter protesters in 2020 and wrote to friends about how he planned to kill a few of them. Eventually he did. He deliberately drove his car into a crowd of BLM protesters, claimed that one of them had maybe raised a rifle in his direction, and then gunned him down before plowing through the rest of the crowd to make his escape."

The governor of Texas pardoned him today.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The GOP Platform

GOP candidate promises to burn books, and exhorts Americans not to be gay.

Stir in some anti-abortion and anti-trans rhetoric, and you've got the GOP platform.

Like many other short videos Gomez has made, the ad featuring her running included an image of her holding a large gun. Others show her firing guns, including at an inflatable Star Wars stormtrooper.

In February, Gomez posted a video in which she used a flamethrower to burn books with LGBTQ+ themes.

“This is what I will do to the grooming books when I become secretary of state,” she said. “These books come from a Missouri public library. When I’m in office, they will burn.”

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Trump's Solution for Immigration

Trump, apparently, thinks we should have immigrants for dinner:

“‘Silence of the Lamb,’” Trump said. “Has anyone ever seen ‘The Silence of the Lambs’?”

And here we go.

“The late, great Hannibal Lecter is a wonderful man,” Trump continued. “He oftentimes would have a friend for dinner. Remember the last scene? ‘Excuse me, I’m about to have a friend for dinner’ as this poor doctor walked by. ‘I’m about to have a friend for dinner.’ But Hannibal Lecter, congratulations. The late, great Hannibal Lecter.”

I look forward to turnip-headed conservatives explaining to me that that is not really what he said, and if he did say it, he was taken out of context, and if he wasn't taken out of context, everyone normal believes that anyway.


Monday, May 13, 2024

Happiness is a Choice

Over at Nicole and Maggie's, there was a recent discussion in the comments about whether happiness is a choice -- whether we can, whatever the situation, choose to be happy. 

This is something I've been thinking about for a while now, since 2014 at least, because my kid's high school principal used to start every morning by instructing the kids that they could "have a good day -- or not! The choice is yours!" As a kid with depression and anxiety, who hadn't yet realized he was trans and was suffering all kinds of ways from that, he was infuriated by this bit of chipper banality.

Is happiness a choice? In the long (long, long) run, a little bit, maybe. When you're caught in external events (a job you hate, financial and health problems, a government which is hell-bent on destroying your rights and also the climate), things are not all right. You can't just chose to pretend they are all right. (Though people do! So maybe you can?) You can, sometimes, work to change those thing, and get to a place that's happier. 

Though can you? Right now, I'm feeling both anxious and unhappy about what's happening in this country, and to the environment. The rights of my kid are under constant attack. The rights of people like me to control our our bodies is under constant attack. Those attacks tells us clearly that our country, our community, our government, doesn't think people like us should even exist, much less have the freedom to make choices about what our lives are like. In the face of constant belittling scorn from those around us, it's hard to keep going, never mind being happy about it.

And there's nothing we can do about the environment. I mean, we recycle. But honestly I couldn't even think about buying an electric car, because there's no infrastructure in my community for such a vehicle. I can't ride a bike to work or to the store because my town keeps voting down bike paths, in favor of building more roads; and the roads we have currently are not safe for people on bikes.

In any case, dutifully recycling my cardboard is not saving the planet and walking to work is not saving the planet. The vast majority of carbon and pollution comes from corporations and manufacturing, and nothing I can do will change that. I can't even vote them out, because here in this solidly red state my vote is pointless.

I do also think "happiness" is at least partly a genetic thing. My mother was happy, all her life. She didn't choose that, I'm pretty sure. I remember once talking to her about my suicidal ideation. She was surprised. "I've never felt like that," she said. "I've gotten, well, down, sometimes. But never like that."

Since I consider suicide when I get a flat tire, this was hilarious to me. 

I don't think that difference has much to do with nurture, since if anything my mother had a much rougher childhood than I did. Though it might! She was given a lot of independence as a kid, cooking for and raising her two younger siblings; and she had a vast kinship network around her, so she had people she could turn to for help. Maybe that matters. 

I think you can choose to do things that will improve specific problems you're having (work towards a new job, for example) but I don't know if you can choose happiness. 

I've built my life to be pretty much what I wanted it to be -- I'm a professor who teaches fiction writing, for God's sake, which looked like an impossible goal when I was 23 years old and I first wistfully thought that would be a nice job to have; I spend most of my time reading and writing, which are the two things I love best.  I have a wonderful kid. I'm even getting enough exercise. I even have enough money, at least right now. These are all things I wanted and worked toward. Am I happy?

Well, I'm happier. But I still have anxiety and long stretches of depression. 

The fact that I now have enough money means that I hardly ever think about the best way to kill myself, or at least for not very long. Instead I remind myself that I have the money to fix the flat tire, (or even just buy new tires if I want!). That's a big help, but is "enough money" something I could have chosen earlier? It really was not. 

I mean, in theory, I could have chosen a job that paid more money, but really, could I have? The job best suited to me, writing and teaching writing, is not one that society values, so it doesn't pay much. If I'd chosen a better paying job that I hated, would I have been happier? 

I could have been a little more frugal, sure, but what made me poor was not buying fresh fruit for my kid, but having cancer when I was 29, a financial blow I've only just recovered from. That wasn't anything I chose. Nor did I choose to live in a country where one single serious illness could destroy my financial stability for the next thirty years. In hindsight, obviously I should have declared bankruptcy right away, instead of paying hospital bills for twenty years. I could have chosen that, sure.

Anyway! My point, and I have one, is that "choosing" happiness is a simplistic way of looking at the complicated mess/morass that is actual life. Most of us are doing the best we can in a tangled mess of circumstances, and telling us we should just cheer up is not a useful tactic. And it can feel like an attack, to be absolutely honest. If we could be happy, we would -- most of us, anyway.

Friday, May 10, 2024

End of Semester

I have submitted my grades. I still have to go in next Monday and Tuesday for interviews -- we're hiring a poet -- but aside from that I am D-O-N, done.

Now I can get started on all the million thing I have put off for months (cleaning out our closet, culling books, doing laundry). Also, I have book reviews due and a book to write.

Summer stretches before me like a blissful meadow. Except that middle part there, where the blistering heat settles in. UGH.

Today I am making bagels, doing laundry, and reading Sinclair Lewis, Arrowsmith.

Thursday, May 09, 2024

 From Barry, over at Alas, A Blog:

See also:


 As long-time readers of the blog know, I have suffered from insomnia since I was literally a toddler. I can remember toddling around our house in the middle of the night when I was too small to see over window sills. It was worst in my adolescence, when I would frequently sleep only every other night; but it's still pretty bad.

I've been using a technique someone recommended here, listening to audiobooks until I fall asleep, and usually that works pretty well. Though not last night. Argh. It was too hot in the bedroom, and also my cat kept mewing insistently in my ear, until I got up and turned the water faucet on for them. They wanted a drink. No, they couldn't drink the water in their dish. Also, they wanted me to stand there and watch them drink the water. 

Anyway. One thing that has help me not suffer as much from the insomnia -- two things, really -- is research that shows even lying there away is helpful, since the brain gets some rest; and also another bit of research which says six hours of sleep is enough for a lot of people. (My pcp says at least seven and no more than eight.)

Last night it was about four hours of sleep, and about four hours of lying awake fretting. The audiobooks do cut down on the fretting, so that's nice.

Monday, May 06, 2024

Happy Birthday to My Kid

Twenty-six years ago right this minute, I was holding him for the first time. He looked like a little lobster.

We celebrated by taking him and his sweetie to Crystal Bridges to look at the art, including an exhibit of art made out of beetles and butterflies and rocks.

Outside Crystal Bridges -- the kid is the one in pink shorts

It was a splendid day, although the museum was also being visited by several high schools and a middle school. Still, you like to see that. Better than taking them to battlefields, which is what my high school did with these last weeks of school. 

Saturday, May 04, 2024

End of the Semester

Thursday was the last day of classes. I have about ten days of grading to do, and then I am done until August.

Honestly this is the best part of teaching. What I want out of life is day after day with nothing to do but write books, write about books, and read books, and academia's lengthy breaks give that to me. Back when I was poor, I would have to teach four classes, all summer long, so I didn't get this break. It's nice to be able to afford not to teach in the summer.

Friday, May 03, 2024

Games I'm Playing

I like to start the day with coffee and a few games, to sort of wake my brain up, if you see what I mean.

These aren't games like video games -- they're more like puzzle games.

Twodle, Threedle, and Fourdle: more complicated versions of Wordle, which has gotten too easy for me.

Sudoku, which I play through an app.

Connections, which is still pretty hard for me. It kind of wants you to think sideways, which I have some trouble doing.

And I also do a couple lessons on Duolingo, which taught me to read French (I still don't speak it) and is now teaching me Portuguese

By the time I'm through those, I'm mostly awake, though I don't know if it's the coffee or the games.

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

What I'm Watching Now

I started Fallout and really didn't like it, maybe because I know nothing about the video game and have no idea what's going on. But I also knew nothing about the Last of Us, and I loved that one. Anyway, I quit watching Fallout halfway through the third episode.

There's a new season of Call the Midwife, and I'm enjoying it, though the show is now in 1970, and in my opinion the 1970s through the 1990s were the worst decades in history. God, the 70s sucked. No computers, wild inflation, appalling interest rates, and here comes Ronald Reagan. Gah. The 1980s were even worse. Things started improving somewhere around 1995, I think, but that may be because 1995 was when I got my first university position, and my life improved.

I'm also watching Unforgotten, which is free with Prime on Amazon. It's a British police procedural, about a murder squad that (so far) deals with historical cases -- that seems to be the term for cold cases in Britain. Murders that are 30 or 40 year old, that kind of thing. I like the lead, and I like how the show gives us the people surrounding the crime, showing us how the crimes have affected the community. Also there are like six seasons, so it'll keep me occupied for a bit.

Unforgotten trailer