Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Not Actually Cooking

      Last night, I wanted something warming and easy for dinner, and resolved to see what was in the hot deli case at our neighborhood grocery.

      Got there a little after seven last night.  The parking lot was full and the deli case--  Was not.  Four little chickens with various seasoning profiles and no hot side dishes.  Plenty of nice cold sides, including my favorite vinegar-pepper coleslaw.

      So: One butter-garlic roasted chicken, two cans of Amy's low fat* Barley Vegetable soup and one can of their Southwestern Vegetable soup.  When I got home, after getting the groceries put away, I poured one can of Barley Vegetable and one of Southwestern Vegetable  into a large pot, and proceeded to disassemble the roasted chicken, skin and all, adding everything but the bone and gristle to the pot.  Almost everything -- Tam is fond of drumsticks, so I saved one back for her.  The meat fell right off the bone of the other drumstick!  In it all went, making a very thick stew.  I had saved the third can of soup back in case it needed more liquid, but it didn't.  A little dehydrated onion for luck along with parsley, sage, rosemary and za'atar (I know the thyme is somewhere on the shelf but the other spice showed up first), put the lid on and set a timer for ten minutes.

      Ten minutes later, chicken stew!  Is it as good as a slow-roasted chicken with fresh vegetables, simmered for hours in chicken stock?  Nope.  But it's pretty darned good, pretty darned fast and very little work.  I'll take it.  Especially with slaw on the side.
* Look, there's all kinds of chicken skin and bits of fat going into this.  You'll never miss the soup fat.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Caveman Food!

      It appears that Neanderthals and early modern humans cooked up similar meals, back when chipped flint was high technology --- and it wasn't always great hunks of roasted meat.  Nope, it looks like lentils and beans with some herbs were on the menu and, for the Neanderthals at least, mustard greens as well.

      Picture me less than surprised.  The natural world, even "wild" lands, has plenty of things to eat besides critters and hominids are great opportunists.  In particular, humans appear to have an eye (or a palate) for flavorful combinations and a knack for figuring out interesting things we can do with food and fire.  We were harvesting green (and red, purple, etc.) growing things long before we were planting them and may even have been casually tending natural patches of edible growth well ahead of the emergence of large-scale agriculture.  Our teeth tell the story: we're omnivores.  Having evolved to eat whatever we could find, we still eat whatever's good.  In fact, I'll just park this recipe here for future reference.

Monday, November 28, 2022

"What Is This Job For?"

      So, Red China's being rocked by protests over their draconian "Zero Covid" policy.  Vaccination rates haven't been great in the country and their own COVID vaccines aren't among the most effective, so they're still doing actual lockdowns -- lock-ins -- over outbreaks that would barely rate mention in most of the rest of the world.  These aren't polite requests to avoid social gatherings and shut down non-essential businesses, either; it's fences and cops and people getting hauled off to quarantine for trying to get around them.

      The Chinese people seem to have become fed up with it after two and a half years.  The story made the front page of the big newspapers here (and people I know who make a point of never reading the New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post, etc. have been asking "Why isn't the MSM covering this?" which looks pretty silly).

      One place you might go look for coverage of these protests is Twitter.  What you'll find instead is nonsense spam and porn links.  Red China has long had a policy of trying to bend social media their way.  They've used bot farms and half-renminbi-a-post workers (the "Fifty-Cent Army") for years, and they've been, well, flooding the zone with crap over their COVID-policy unrest.  So fat chance trying to find any coverage of the protests on Twitter -- MSM or otherwise.

      You see, Twitter's staff has been cut to the bone and somewhere in all that "nonessential" and even "woke" staff were the people whose jobs it was to yank the rug out from under Communist China's clumsy efforts to control information when they acted up.  Oops.

      In the early days of broadcast television, "Madman" Muntz built the most affordable TVs around, in part by a design process that was said to consist of removing components until the the prototype stopped working, then putting that final part back, and removing parts elsewhere in the circuit until it conked out again.  A critical step was backing up and reinstalling the removed part when the TV set stopped working.  Eventually, they'd get to the bare minimum needed to still have a functional device.

      I sure hope Elon Musk doesn't skip that step.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Lazy Day

      Pretty much all I did was laundry and a little writing.  Working a long Friday around people tired me out.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Off To Work

      The day after Thanksgiving isn't an official day off for me, and it never has been.  A few times, it's been an unofficial day off, but that ended as my peers quit or retired.  Now it's a workday with a few extra hours.  So off I go.  It's not the most fun I have, but the extra pay helps.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

What I'm Thankful For

      I'm thankful for a lot, but most of all, I'm thankful things haven't been any worse.

      I'm thankful Russia hasn't managed to start World War Three, at least not yet.

      We had a horrible global pandemic and a lot of people reacted to the whole thing in suboptimal ways, but it could have been a lot worse.  I'm thankful we were as lucky, clever and occasionally wise as we all averaged out to be -- and luck was certainly not the smallest element in that.

      Despite a period of national-level political conflict not seen since the Civil War, we managed to not start another one, in the face of very strong emotions and considerable physical conflict.  It wasn't good, but it could have been a lot worse.

      So here's to not screwing things up past the point of recovery.  Let's aim higher in the future, while being grateful we've got a future at all. 

      I'm grateful for good friends and good food, too.
      Here's the traditional Roseholme Cottage Thanksgiving feast, turducken roll, mashed potatoes (from scratch), bacon gravy and roasted vegetables.  Not shown, apple compote: half a large tart apple, diced, with a little sugar, butter, cinnamon and cloves, plus a handful of unsalted fancy mixed nuts, put in a covered grill pan and allowed to simmer for over an hour while the turducken and vegetables were cooking.

Quick Post

      I'll work on something longer and more suited to the day later.  For now, I'm thankful to have gotten past 20,100 words on my NaNoWriMo project.

      Speaking of women and writing, here's a lady author whose work was used in schoolbooks (well, clay tablets) for centuries and now hardly gets any credit.  (If that sparks your interest, you might enjoy this British Museum piece, which includes a video with a scholar who appears to be on loan from Discworld's Unseen University.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Nature Of The Problem

      There have been a couple of headline-grabbing mass shootings over the last few days.  These are always tragic, dominate the news cycle to an unhealthy extent and they result in the old familiar tropes being trotted out by the usual players, opinion pieces on "America's Gun Problem," "America's Mental Health Problem" and others, plus a degree of victim-blaming from whichever side sees advantage in that.  The far Right's been all over the Colorado Springs mass shooting, as if that kind of horror is something any group of law-abiding citizens deserves.

      Well, they don't.  Even if you find the LGBT (etc.) community personally loathsome or an offense against your religious beliefs, they're no less citizens than yourself, no less human, and have the same reasonable expectations of being left alone as, say, a church group or people inside a big-box store.

      Guns and access to mental health treatment, "Red Flag" laws and their enforcement, involuntary commitment orders: every bit of it is political hot-button stuff, over which we shout past one another in debate mostly composed of bumper-sticker slogans and carefully-sifted statistics.  At heart, our opinions about these things are emotional beliefs and rarely susceptible to any amount of rational argument.

      But when it comes down to it, one of the big contributors to this kind of stochastic violence, which is nearly always caused  by someone with a history of troubling incidents and/or mental health challenges, the actual big problem that we have is a "It's not my job to watch my disturbing relative or neighbor" problem; we have a "It's someone else's job" problem.

      The dithering police officers in Uvalde had a "It's someone else's job" problem.  The retired Army officer who and patrons who took down the killer in Colorado Springs did not.  But other people in that person's life had, and probably over and over.

      The majority of people with mental health problems are harmless.  So are most gun owners.  Most of the people around you, from a pew full of deacons to the people at a nightclub, from duck hunters to people who compose angry Letters To The Editor or post on social media, are harmless and well-intentioned.  But they're uninterested in being their brother's keeper if it is in any way messy or inconvenient -- and that occasionally results in messes that are much larger and deadly. 

       Afterward, watch for interviews with people who knew the perpetrator.  See how many of them found him (very rarely her or, most recently, singular them) worrisome -- and kept it to themselves until afterward. 

       In a country of over 330 million people, one-in-a-million bad outcomes aren't that uncommon.  And opportunities to head off bad outcomes before they occur are even more common.

      Maybe we'd be better off with a little less overheated debate, online and elsewhere, and a little more personal involvement with those immediately around us.  Yes, yes, they're messy and awkward and oh, heavens, their opinions on issues of the day might not be in lockstep agreement with your own!  But there they are, real human beings, as vulnerable and as dangerous as anyone.  They're not caricatures inside your phone or computer or on your TV.  Get to know them.  You might be able to do some small-scale good -- and prevent large-scale harm.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022


      A little over 18,500 words as of last night.  I won't reach 50 k by the end of the month, but I'm making progress. 

Hooray! The New Calendar Is Here!

     Calendars frustrate me these days.  Not the ones on my phone or computer, the paper ones.  The modern trend is for teeny-weeny numbers, in wispy fonts that vanish at any distance -- especially for my 64 year old eyes.

     I have shopped and shopped, without much success.  I've made my own, which is fun and not as much work as you might think.  But I'd just as soon buy one.

     Several months into last year, I found a calendar that suited me fine.  It's an import from Japan but labelled in English, and it's just what I've been after: 
     They did a 2023 edition and I ordered mine last week,  It arrived last night, in just the same style.  (Yes, the holiday's on the wrong date and has an odd name; I'll take that to be able to read the numbers from across the room.). The nice folks at Hightide Store DTLA stock them -- it's not inexpensive, but you get what you pay for.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Plutonium Bacon?

      The headline went splashing though social media last week: World Health Organization Says Bacon As Deadly As Plutonium.

      It sounds awful.  Did they really say that?  Not exactly.  The report does classify processed meat  as carcinogenic in their highest-danger classification, Group 1, along with asbestos and plutonium.  But it's not a scale of deadliness-per-unit volume, only of how well-linked a substance is to causing cancer.  It's confusing and has prompted articles trying to explain what it means and generally succeeding.

      Here's the thing to know: "The dose makes the poison."  Paracelsus wrote that in 1538 -- and he was right.  A cross-grained iconoclast after my own heart, he valued practical experience and rigorous experiment as pathways to accurate knowledge.  Plutonium has an LD50 -- the amount that will kill half those who ingest it it -- of 0.00032 grams per kilogram of body weight; if bacon were composed of pure sodium nitrate (it's not), its LD50 would be 0.18 g/kg (source).

      I'm using toxicity as a crude proxy for carcinogenic qualities; this is fast, sloppy and inaccurate, but it lets us compare orders of magnitude easily.  A speck of plutonium with your breakfast is a very big problem, while a speck of bacon is not.  It appears there's a threshold level for processed meat: eating too much bacon is indeed bad; eating a little bacon, you can treat as a manageable risk, the same as driving a car or hanging out with your friends and family. (Not everyone agrees how much bacon is too much or how little is just right.)

      If you're having bacon bits for breakfast in place of oatmeal and washing them down with hot bacon fat, you're in trouble.  If you're averaging one strip of bacon or less in the morning, you take far higher risks every day in the shower.

      (Details for geeks: most risky activities have a linear relationship between increasing frequency or volume and increasing risk -- except at the very low end, where things get nonlinear: maybe even a tiny dab will do you in; maybe mitigating strategies work up to a point [sunscreen/hat]; maybe the risk goes to zero ahead of the volume, or the slope even reverses [water intake, for example, where too much can eventually be as deadly as too little].  Understanding these low-end-of-the-curve behaviors is essential to managing risk intelligently.) 

Friday, November 18, 2022

Answering Machine Greetings

      "Thank you for calling.  Your message is important to us. Please wait patently to be ignored."

      "Hello.  Please leave a sausage after the drone."

      "Hello.  This is not the number you were calling.  Please do not try again."

     (Sound of distant explosions, fully-automatic weapon fire, shrieks.) "Firebase One.  We are falling back.  I repeat, we are falling back."  (Loud explosion.  Call terminates.)

      "Mommy?  Mommy?"

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Post-Modern Jukeboxing The News

      Scott Bradlee, who you may remember from Post-Modern Jukebox's jazzy (and related genre) takes on pop music and the like, is still doing that musical alchemy -- but he's left the noise and confusion of big-city life for a farm of his own, and a remarkably sane substack.

     His thoughts on the modern media environment are insightful, useful -- and non-partisan.  It's worth reading.  Here's a taste: " is completely reasonable to not have an opinion on something that you aren’t fully caught up on, or to prefer to wait until the facts are in before weighing in on the latest current event or controversy."

     Reasonableness tends to get drowned out these days.  His shouldn't be.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022


      There's about enough time to say Howdy.  I have a dentist appointment to get to.  Still doing the NaNoWriMo thing, as time permits.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Over 12,000 Words

      Twelve thousand words, a little more, is nowhere near on pace to complete NaNoWriMo's fifty thousand word target by the end of the month.  I'm nevertheless not unhappy about it; this is as much as I have written in so short a time for years.

      Chugging right along.  There's no prize for "winning" NaNoWriMo other than a lovely certificate and your own stack of pages; it's not a high-stakes contest.  It's a way to get yourself writing, if that's something you want to do, and to find out how it goes.  And it's a way to find out how you work at longer lengths.  Short stories are often drafted in a single sitting: you get an idea and put it down on paper, then go back later and polish.  Novels don't work that way, not for most writers, and there's no way to learn it except by doing it.

      About polishing: The Indiana Writers Center is running a short fiction contest and I wanted to enter a story I wrote awhile back.  The contest had a 1000 word limit, and my story was 1068.  Yikes!  How could I possibly?  Surely every word was necessary?  But I sat down and gave it a couple of passes, tightening up language and eliminating excesses, gritting my teeth when I had to, using the running count in my word processor, which includes things like the title.  It ended up at 990 words of story and I think it's better for it.  It'll be some time before the judging, but the exercise was worth it.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Two Things That Go Together

      Snow and "red stew," a/k/a Midwestern-style chili.

      Must admit, I started the chili on the basis of the forecast and made a pot big enough for leftovers.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Veteran's Day

      I didn't post anything about Veteran's Day yesterday.  I usually write a little about the history of the holiday, which has gone through quite a few changes since the guns fell silent at the end of World War One.

      Instead, I thought about the people we're thanking.  It gets to be a little too pro forma, a bit too much influenced by movies and TV, bullets flying and noble sacrifice on one hand, and a brusque "Thank you for your service" on the other.  Service members are real men and women, working long hours for pay that varies from a bit low to, well, is there really ever adequate pay to jump out of an airplane at night into unknown and possibly hostile territory?  Because some of those movie scenarios do happen for a few Service personnel.  Others -- a lot of others -- do the dull, difficult stuff that it takes to keep a modern military on the job, in facilities that vary from cutting-edge to field-expedient to "should have been bulldozed long ago."  And they do it.  Not uncomplainingly; griping is an essential lubricant for the work.  But they show up and they get it done, day after day.

      Militaries don't run on BS and PR.  It takes hands-on work and I am grateful to the men and women that do it.  Taking one day a year to say "Thanks" feels preposterously inadequate.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Decisions, Decisions

      There's a comment in the waiting-for-approval queue that I wouldn't mind publishing.  Not because I agree with the opinions expressed; I mostly don't.

      The commenter mostly retells recent GOP worry beads about the economy, riots, military operations and medical misinformation, and if I publish it, I'll have to fisk it.

      If I fisk it point by point, it's going to anger the guy who made the comments.  He's pretty invested in his beliefs and I doubt I'll change them.  But if you put "vaccination" in scare quotes when talking about COVID-19 (they're actual vaccines, and they work), or bemoan the botched (and I don't think anyone believes it wasn't screwed up) withdrawal from Afghanistan under President Biden's Administration without noting that President Trump wanted to do the very same thing only quicker and with even less preparation (and according to people who were in the room, it was hard going talking him out of it), then you have not done much homework other than ingesting one-sided partisan media.

      The United States was supposed to be a country where you didn't have to do much homework.  You were supposed to be able to mostly ignore the Federal government, and count on them to return the favor.  It hasn't been that way since at least 1913.  You do have to do your homework.  You ought to know by now the the Feds have only the crudest and most indirect control over the economy -- and that, in a mostly free-market economy, is a good thing.  You ought to know by now that you can't just throw around sloppy labels without taking a genuine look at the thing you're labeling, whatever it is.

      And you ought to know by now that political polarization is not a simple red/blue binary.  The Proud Boys, Oathkeepers, Roger Stone, Donald J. Trump, Mitch McConnell, Mike Pence and Elizabeth Cheney may all be on the political Right, but they're not the same.  Joe Manchin, "Blue Dog" Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, the BLM protesters and Antifa are all on the political Left, but they're not the same. It doesn't take much nosing around on social media and the Web to figure out that the very far Left is particularly hostile to the moderate Left, even more so than the far Right is to "RINOs" on their side.  It's possible to vote for the "wrong" party without voting for the worst excesses of that side's extremists.  Conversely, a candidate too inclined to wink at dangerous actions by putative allies is someone to watch out for -- and vote against.

      Don't live in a bubble, where you look at the side you disfavor and cannot see any reason for any citizen to ever vote for any of their candidates.  Our modern media environment magnifies extremes, from the legacy oldstream channels to the edgiest of social sites and apps.  Most candidates are not out to eat the rich or push crazy conspiracy theories about stealing elections.  Nearly all of them aren't inciting riots.  The overwhelming majority of candidates and officeholders aren't out to undermine or destroy the United States.  The vast bulk of 'em (apologies to certain Governors and Senators for the phrase) treasure our history, our Constitution and our institutions, and have not set out to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids.  Some of them have foolish, impractical notions, full of unintended consequences, but by and large, they're honestly trying to not screw up.  All of them want to be elected or re-elected, often more so than prudence would prefer.  They're human.

      You are not living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and staggeringly few of your fellow citizens want you to.  Give 'em a little credit, willya?

     Edited To Add: a previously-banned commenter is getting after me for not publishing comments.  Go cry in your own beer, bub.  This is my blog, not a public square or a debating society.  I explained in the second paragraph why I probably wouldn't publish the person's comment and it's not because I dislike them or their expressing their own opinion; it's because I'd have to fisk it, in detail, with examples, and I don't feel like getting out the big guns this morning, especially against a guy who was probably just riffing.  Don't like that?  Then start your own damn blog.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Normie Wave

      Another day on, it appears that the crazier a politician was, the worse they did in the general election.  In "safe" states or districts, it meant a smaller margin of victory; anywhere there was much of a contest, victory has mostly gone to the most normal.  Election conspiratists -- including Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams alongside a herd of Trumpist Republicans -- generally did not do as well as candidates who appeared to trust the election system.  Not being a loon was the margin of victory for many winners, who I hope will be a good influence on the rest of 'em once they take office.

      (All this outside of Florida, where the main current-issue zaniness isn't about the 2020 election but the rights of sexual minorities, a group that is still pretty safe for politicians to demonize.  So far, this is paying off for the state's GOP, and I guess we'll find out if that approach has legs.  Historically, finding an unpopular minority to blame and/or pin on one's opposition works until something goes wrong that they can't plausibly be blamed for, and then it's a mad scramble to find the next scapegoat before the bottom falls out.  This is entirely aside from the merits and/or social ills of the scapegoated group, which in other times and places has been everything from organized crime to organized religion.)

      And about that election system: didja notice how all those new poll watchers, poll workers and observers....just went and did their jobs?  How no giant secret system of sneaks and cheats was revealed?  That's because it was never there.  The new workers got inside and found out how things worked in their precincts, townships, counties and states, and the extent to which everyone watches one another, usually in one-from-each-big-party teams; they got to observe and maintain the chain of custody of computer drives and paper ballots.  We don't run elections like a giant, opaque corporation in this country; we run 'em like a collection of church suppers and barn-raisings, with volunteers and low-paid help until you get to the smallish staffs of the elected officials in solemn (and largely supervisory) charge of the process, and there is no large-scale cheating.  Who're you gonna believe, the PTA ladies from right down your street who are hands-on with the process or ranting, mostly out-of-office politicians that spend election night partying?

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Purple Wave

      Predictions for the 2022 midterm elections varied from early Democrat optimism for a "blue wave" to later Republican predictions of a "red wave."

      What we got was purple.  As I write this, there is still no clear majority for either party in the U. S. House or Senate.  There are enough results in to show that whichever one come comes out on top in either or both bodies will have a slim majority at most.

      I think there's a message to our Congressthings in that, and I doubt any of them can discern it: don't get too far out of the mainstream.  It's endlessly appealing to the ego to stand up at campaign events and say things that energize the partisan base, to pursue the pet issues that result in cheers -- and to forget that the people who show up at rallies for both parties constitute only a fraction of the voting public.*  Most of 'em don't have time for that; most of them don't want sweeping change. They want their costs for heat, light, food and fuel to stop rising; they want low crime and smooth roads.  Lose sight of that and you'll lose elections.  Scare 'em too much and they'll dig in, returning incumbents, going for familiar names and patterns.

      Things are still getting sorted out.  It'll be awhile before we'll know which party's going to get saddled with the responsibility for getting things done in Washington.  It may turn out to be split.  The one clear reality is that however it is, the majority's going to have an uphill time of it and they're going to need to make nice with the party across the aisle.

      It'll be a new experience for a lot of 'em.
* Interesting factoid: Pundits like to decry the way U. S. voter turnout is pretty low as modern democracies go, despite a steady upward trend.  We managed around 66% in 2020.  But turnout among registered voters is unusually high, over 94%.  Registering to vote in most states -- other than North Dakota, where you only need to show ID that confirms you live there -- is a little more effort here than in other democracies, and it may be that citizens who were sufficiently motivated to register are also motivated to vote.  Whatever the reason, that third of the electorate who don't bother to show up also never bothered to get a ticket for the ride.

Monday, November 07, 2022

Lawrence Block On Writing Fiction

      Some novelists write historical fiction or contemporary thrillers filled with a wealth of meticulous detail, all carefully put together from genuine sources.

      Others handwave their way through with such entertaining verve that you never notice. 

      Lawrence Block, a prolific and entertaining guy, has written complex crime fiction about a burglar who keeps having to solve murders in order to keep himself out of jail; stories about a clever, unsleeping operator who specializes in crossing tricky international borders, usually not by legal means.  It's all very convincing stuff.  And here's what he says about research:

      "I don't enjoy it and don't do a very good job of it.  I force myself when I have to, and I've become better about this in recent years, less given to slipshod fakery, but the idea of deliberately setting out to write a book that requires a vast amount of academic research is anathema to me."*

      This is well and good if you're reading or writing fiction.  It's entertainment!  But be on lookout for it in commentary.  A lot of what passes for news today is some pundit or another, holding forth on events of the day and speculating on what the future may hold.  Most actual newscasts are news -- but the cable networks tend to fill prime time with commentators, not reporters.  Know the difference.

      It's even worse when it comes to politicians, and that goes double at rallies and campaign events.  "Slipshod fakery" is the order of the day.  Keep a notepad handy, or use a handheld device to make notes when they share facts and figures and supposed history or poll results.  Look it up.  Get back to primary sources if possible.

      Life is not a novel and speaking for myself, I'd like to avoid the drama and sweep from a novel in my own life.  Grand events are too often meatgrinders for the people who have to endure them.
* Page 40, Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel, 2016.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

Why Do We Have Two Words For Bear?

      In fact, we have three words for bear, which holds part of the story: bear, bruin, and (when speaking of things pertaining or similar to bears) ursine.

     The last word goes back to the Indo-European root word, and versions of it show up in the languages of European countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea: places that are not, generally, bear country.  Go wandering through Northern Europe and towards Russia and the words they use are euphemisms, most of which mean either "brown" or (if you're speaking a Slavic language), "honey-eater."  Both of the common English words trace back to "brown," though by different paths.

     How come?  Up in bear country, places where the animals fatten up before winter and emerge ravenous in the spring, bears are a particular and well-known terror, far more so back when humanity had only spears, knives and axes to use against them.  An animal like that, you don't want to use its right name: it might show up when called.

     A powerful superstition back when fire and chipped flint were high technology.  These days, we've made it real.

     A friend I won't name on a social media platform I won't name came up with a cutting insight into a well-known and polarizing figure (not a politician).  A very well-known commentator with a lot of followers shared my friend's analysis -- at which point my friend suggested to me that a pile-on was inevitable.  The nature of social media is such that to mention a well-known figure by name is to summon them, along with their fans.

     We've made our own bears, dangerous creatures -- and we've given them the magical power they were only feared to have back when social media consisted of telling stories around the fire in the dark of night.

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Recent Reading

      Having finished William Gibson's Agency yesterday, I turned to the next book on my pile, Joe Steele, by Harry Turtledove.

      In this alternative history, Stalin's parents emigrate to California before he is born.  The child grows up, becomes a labor agitator under a pseudonym and moves into politics, challenging FDR for the Democrat nomination in 1932.  It promises to be interesting, though the normally-meticulous Turtledove jarred me in the first chapter by having a reporter disliking his Remington portable typewriter for its weight and musing that it would make a hole in the sidewalk if he threw it out his seventh-floor window.   --Nope, sorry.  This would be the era of Remington's "crank-up" portable, low-profile four-row machines that weighed very little more than the competing three-row Corona and Underwood portables and were easier to type on.*  To minimize the bulk when stored, the striker arms laid flat and a quarter-turn crank on the side brought them up to the ready position for use when the cover was off.

      Right before rereading The Peripheral and Agency, I read Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, another alternate history novel, this one set in a world where Charles Lindbergh runs against FDR in 1940 and wins.  (It was later made into an HBO series, which I haven't seen.)  The viewpoint character is an eight-year-old boy living in Newark, New Jersey and he is essentially autobiographical.  Events take a turn for the worse in the book's timeline, though it is not as heavy-handed as you might expect -- and all the more chilling for it.  I thought it was well worth reading.
* In fairness, the contemporary and nominally portable Remington Noiseless is quite chunky, a result of the mechanism that makes it much quieter than most typewriters.

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

So I'm Doing NaNoWriMo This Year

      What I am writing for NaNoWriMo is probably not publishable.  It's certainly nothing in my usual line: different genre, a protagonist who isn't like anyone I know and who is not a hands-on technical geek, with a story set in a place I generally avoid, roughly the here and now (maybe early 2010s) in an analog of the small city where I spent a little over a decade from third grade through a year of college.

      But it's been an interesting ride so far.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

This Is Annoying

      I've been sick the last couple of days, with something that has symptoms that aren't typical of flu, COVID-19, a head cold or allergies.  I'm waiting to hear test results from the doc-in-a-box I visited yesterday evening.

      For now, back to bed.