Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Somebody Stage An Intervention

I'm over there on FB picking fights with strangers again. WTF. Not like I don't know better.

My kid is always coming to me -- she has a Deviant Art account -- saying, Ma, Ma, this idiot says this about Furries, this troll says this about women, Ma, you won't BELIEVE what this ridiculous, he says this about, what should I say back?

And with her, oh, I'm so Socratic, I'm so reasonable. Darlin', I say, someone is wrong on the internet? Really? That's what you want to waste your afternoon on? Please. Read a book. Draw something. Let's make some bagels. Arguing with a troll? Not so much.

But when it's me -- oh, the shoe is on the other keyboard then, I see.

Monday, June 27, 2011


I took Athena's suggestion (from comments, here) and suggested to IT that maybe they could give me a loaner craptop with my data mirror'd up; which they did, over the weekend, and called me this morning, telling me I could come and get it whenever.

Now I am back in business.

Yay me!

(TNX, Athena!)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

On The Other Hand...

One bit of good new: less than a month until the official release of my lovely first novel, Broken Slate, on July 15.

The cover art, I have to tell you, is perfect.  

(Not to mention smoking.  I knew Martin was hot, but my.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Purpose of NCLB

Over on Language Log, Mark Liberman has a post about the latest fuss over Kids Today -- that NYT article which you have probably seen, which claims standardized tests show that 4th graders don't know who Abraham Lincoln is, and high school seniors don't know what Brown v Board of Education did, and so on.  Liberman doubts the veracity of the test, and shows us why.

I doubt the value and benefit of standardized tests and assessment in general, frankly, and always have.  Assessing art or novels or movies doesn't work (this film tests well with teens in Peoria!); you get crap art.  Assessing students -- at least with standardized tests -- does not work either.  (How to assess them, then?  Well, the way we did for centuries.  Put a professional teacher in charge of the classroom and let that teacher say whether the student has learned or not.  Does this always work?  No.  Does it work better than NCLB?  My shit yes.)

But!  Here is why I am posting about this!  A comment, made over at LL:

"The point of the exit exams as they exist in the US today is not to assure that students are emerging with what they need to know in order to take up their next task in life, but to sell tests and programs and charters and other crap to schools which are not being funded for their actual purpose."

And this, I think, is true.  The real aim of Mr. Bush's crap plan is not to hold teachers or schools accountable, and that is not why the Right likes it, either, as you can tell if you hang out on their blogs when they are discussing teachers or public schools for the ten minutes you can stand to do this.  They hate public schools and public school teachers with a passion.  Their aim is to destroy public schools and the teachers who work in them.  NCLB is a tool that will do this.  If we stop viewing it as an assessment tool that, bewilderingly, doesn't seem to be working very well, and start seeing it as a tool to destroy public education in America while making some friends of the Republican very rich along the way, well, everything becomes very much clearer.

It's like the Voter ID bills, and the drug testing for Welfare and Public Worker bills, and the Union busting bills, which all work hand in hand, notice.  The poorer you get, the less likely you are to have the time or energy to be invested in voting, or have the means to vote or the means to be politically involved.  

So it's not that Right is actually worried about voter fraud -- they're fine with that as long as it's fraud that aids them, as the 2000 election showed.  No, they want to disenfranchise certain segments of the population, and if they can make their friends rich while they do that, hey, that's a bonus.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


My craptop broke.  I am sad.

Good news: the machine is the property of the university, not me, so I do not have to pay for its repair.  (Yay!  Because as always, we are broke.)

Bad news: the guy at the Help Desk says it will be either days or weeks before I get it back.  He does not know which.  

Since I do most of my writing and academic work on the craptop these days, due to my busted metatarsal (it's mostly healed, but it still hurts if I don't keep my foot propped up) you can see why I am sad.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

They Get Richer, We Get Poorer

And, as Echidne adds, at her post here, showing how the income share for workers has been steadily declining for workers since 1948, that is probably a feature, not a bug, in the system.

Nor are the rich who own this country now happy with -- what is it? I forget exactly --- earning 250 times as much per hour as the average worker in America. No. They have to buy people like Gov. Walker to break the unions and destroy health care and get rid of minimum wage so that they can be even richer and own even more.

The fact is, the rich in this world will not be happy until we are serfs and they own it all. That's how they thought in Rome, and that's how they think now.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Ignorance, It Burns

This piece, in Slate today, about the misinformation / disinformation propogated by Shelby Foote (well, by Foote and Burns) in Ken Burns' Civil War, made me a little happier -- until I started reading the comments.

Apparently my student from a few semesters back is not the only one eager to erase slaves and PoC from "the late unpleasantness," as well as from history and modern life entirely.

Yeah, honor and glory, that's what everything is about.

Honor and glory and white guys.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


So we're poorer than usual these days.  Everyone is, I know.

It means I'm working two classes in Summer I, Bible as Lit and an intensive (High-school students) 1203 class, because these were the classes I could get, and I have to have this work, or we can't make rent and pay the power bills and pay the other bills.

It's not exactly that I mind the work.  I'm glad to get the work, frankly, because we'd be seriously fucked if I hadn't gotten it, one, and (B) both of these classes are excellent classes.  I'm especially enjoying the Bible class, if you couldn't tell.


Labor intensive?  My Christ.

I'm working from nine in the morning until midnight, or sometimes one a.m., Monday through Thursday, just doing prep work and teaching and grading. (Summer classes meet every day, Monday through Thursday.) This is just on the classes.  Not doing anything else.  I put in four or five hours on Sunday afternoon, too. 

This leaves me, as you will see, two and a half days to write in.  Sometimes I spend part of Thursday writing too.  And sometimes, after I am done prepping (like now) I stay up late and write for a couple hours; except that means I go short of sleep.

WTF, though, right?  We'll sleep when we're dead.

But crap, I keep thinking, when I drag myself out of bed at 8.30, so tired I can barely move, and knowing it's for a paycheck that will just barely cover the bills, and I mean just barely -- there won't be a fucking nickel left over on August 31st: this ain't right.

Something has to change in this country.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Teaching The Bible

Teaching two classes a day in summer session is eating my life.  It's worse than having a toddler.

This is especially true when one of the classes is Bible As Lit, since I am not only assigning massive chunks to be read every night (which I then have to re-read as well), I am having to do mountains of research for every class.  (Yes, if I had been wise I would have done the prep work over the three weeks I had off between classes.  But I was very busy writing short stories then, so.)

I did some of this research the last time I taught the class; except that was five or six years ago, and lots of new research has been done.  I am keeping like a day and a half ahead of the students, if that.

Still, it's a great class, one of my favorites.  We're on the bit of I Samuel with David and Jonathon tomorrow.  That's always a delight to teach.

One of my sources for that one tries to claim that the love between D&J is only a political love.  I suppose I'll pass this theory on to my students.  And then I guess I'll roll my eyes.  Um, yeah.  Okay.

The reason this theory isn't total nonsense is that I Samuel can be read as an apology, or a defense, of David's usurpation of Saul's throne.  In which case all of Jonathon's protestation's of love for David and his you-take-the-throne, I don't want it, are put in there to defend the idea that David doesn't take the inheritance of his own will:  It's Jonathon's idea.  

But that's not incompatible with D&J being lovers, either.  And so many other things indicate that their relationship is more than just buddies: what each of them says about the other's love being better than the love of women; what Saul says to Jonathon, about him "uncovering his mother's nakedness" in his relationship to David; the oath they make to one another at that very odd ceremony during the New Moon (shooting arrows by a sacred stone -- that looks very much like some buried religious thing to me).  

The kid is auditing this class, btw.  Part of home-schooling!  She's doing very well so far.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Well, Rats

Angry Robot Books rejected my novel.

I am sad.

But I finished another short story.  So that's something.

Wikipedia has this cool new feature -- probably all y'all all know about this -- little tiny embedded movies.  So if you should happen to want to know how, say, a hay baler works (my new story has hay baling in it) you can go on over to Wikipedia and look up hay baling and click on the tiny embedded movie and there you are, you are soon informed.

Don't I love living in the future?

There is also, of course, google video.  Even more useful. 

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Sunday, June 05, 2011


We had a big party yesterday, saying goodbye to one of our friends / ex-students who is going off to Minnesota to an MFA program. Now it is raining (again!) and I am working on editing stories.

And my child has an ear infection.

Now you may think this is no big deal. What kid does not have an ear infection from time to time?

Well, mine. That's what kid does not.

She has hardly ever been ill, per se, in her life. Not that she hasn't been sick -- from age seven to about ten she was sickly, as the 19th century used the term. Failure to thrive, as biologists might call it. Once we determined she was allergic to something about corn syrup -- which this is as far as we ever got, thanks to my useless clinic and even more useless health insurance, which did about thirty thousand dollars worth of tests while discovering nothing at all -- but once we, by which I mean I, took her off all foods containing corn syrup* her symptoms disappeared and she began to thrive at last.

Where was I? Sorry. I'm still miffed about the corn syrup issue. They didn't even test for allergies. Gah.

Okay. So except for that, she's hardly ever been sick. Bronchitis when she was two. The flu when she was six. Croup at eight. A stomach virus at eleven. I can literally count the number of times.

The effect of this is, whenever she does get sick, it's full mode panic on her part. A fever, to her, literally means she's going to die. "What's wrong with me?" she cries. "Does any terminal illness start with an ear ache?"

"It's an ear infection," I said. "We'll go to the clinic tomorrow."

"Am I going to die?"

"You're going to take some Tylenol."

"And then I'll die?"

"And then you'll go lie down. Ai."

I'm not even sure it's an ear infection, frankly. I think it might just be the weather. Another big front is coming through, and my bones feel like someone's been hitting me with sticks all night anyway.

Meanwhile! I'm reading a book Dr. Skull brought home, Earth Abides, written in 1947. Sort of a mid-century The Stand. Only without the religious whackatude. A super-measles wipes out 99.99% of the population, and...absolutely nothing happens. At least so far. I'm about halfway through the book. It's very well written. And historically interesting. Not sure it's any good yet. But it is making me feel very feverish.

*It was the blogosphere that helped me diagnosis her! When the useless clinic was doing no good at all, and she had lost 12 pounds (at nine years old) and had chronic stomach pain, and would not eat anything, and could barely move around most of the time -- she spent all day sitting in one chair in our house -- I put out a blag, even before blags existed, and got all sorts of excellent suggestions, and that was one of them, that she might be allergic to corn syrup. We had already taken her off wheat and red dye, so taking her off corn syrup was, frankly, a snap.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Oh God

It's June.

It's summer in Arkansas.

Weather guy says we're heading for 98 degrees this week.

Four more months of this.

Do you see why I want to move to Barrows, Alaska? How would that be worse than this, exactly?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Okay, Maybe It's Just Me...

I've been seeing this study popping up in a lot of blogoports lately: confused Americans, who confusedly thinking that 25% of America is gaygaygay, when the actual percentage of Americans who are gayoramic is 3.5%, or thereabouts.

Explanations for confusions? Maybe people can't count. Maybe people don't know what 25% means. Maybe those gay folk are just so sassy and flamboyant, you know, and in your face, that one of them SEEMS like several of them, and SO... well, we get confused. Whereas nice quiet straight people who don't make a fuss, who notices them?

Whatever. All I know is I started counting gay, lesbian, and bisexuals I am acquainted with, and while it is true it is probably not 25% of everyone I know, it is a pile more than 3.5% of people I know.

And it's not like I live in San Francisco, either.

Is what I'm saying.