Friday, August 26, 2005


Because Linkdump sounds kind of gross. So does "Linkshower," my first alternative.

The earth's core is spinning faster than its crust, says a joint NSF/NSF China study. (Yes, China has an NSF, only the "N" stands for natural. Apparently the core is also "a bit lumpy."

Hard to be sure if it's true or not, but over the past month I've seen a couple of different versions of the Bush is a foul-mouthed hothead rumor. As Doug points out, this sort of humanizes him. Although I would point out that the speculation is not simply that he's back to drinking, but that the described behavior is consistent with that of recovering alcoholics who have not dealt with the underlying reasons for their substance abuse.

Wes Clark has some suggestions for Dubya and his boys to try and leave Iraq better than they found it. Doubt they'll listen.

Last night on "The Daily Show" John Stewart jovially put the smackdown on Christopher Hitchens. The video is here.

Evangelicals are grooming congressional aides with political ambitions. They've been meeting for the last six months "to mine the Bible for ancient wisdom on modern policy debates about tax rates, foreign aid, education, cloning and the Central American Free Trade Agreement." I can't decide if this is funny or scary or both.

The networks won't air this ad. Color me unsurprised . . .

Pirate Booty! Want!


Hm. I downloaded that Google Talk thing that everyone loves so much. (It was so easy it's a little scary. Does Google already control my computer?) I'm not much of a chatter so far, but, you know. I'm snurri in case you want to, um, IM me. (snurri2000 on AIM, which I never use, but the little man is always down there, running towards nothing . . .)

Proof That Statistics Are Meaningless

Norway is the best place to live, according to a UN Development Program list. But according to this article from March, the World Database of Happiness ranks Norwegians as the saddest Scandinavians. Except that this article states that the European Social Survey (ESS) found that Norwegians are among the happiest people in Europe (they're also trusting of authority, intolerant of difference, and not at all religious).

Lies, damn lies, and . . .

You Can Do It When You Mumble Herder It*

Yesterday I said something not very well thought out about Freedom and Space having an inverse relationship. When you're elephant-sized, this creates even more problems.

Despite some troubles yesterday, Kenya is proceeding with its plan to relocate 400 elephants from Shimba Hills National Reserve (which is on the coast south of Mombasa) inland about 85 miles to Tsavo National Park. The Kenya Wildlife Service is calling it "the single largest translocation of animals ever undertaken since Noah's Ark." (Note the Engfish. That's what my high school composition teacher called it when someone used a big word that meant the same as a small word. His favorite example was "utilize" instead of "use," and I still make snap judgments about people who say utilize. It's particularly odd when they're people I've known for a little while, and then I hear them say "utilize," and I instantly think I didn't realize this person was an idiot. Not fair, I know. Anyway, "translocation" just means "move" or "transport," Mr. Patrick Omondi of the Kenya Wildlife Service.)

(I am extraordinarily digressive lately.)

As you might imagine, I'm very interested in all of this. I'm a bit leery, though, since from everything I've read in the last few months about elephants they're intensely social creatures with complex family and clan relationships. The KWS is moving them five at a time, which is a much smaller group on average than most elephant bond groups. I hope they will all find each other once they're moved and that they're not too traumatized by the move. (Elephants, particularly survivors of poacher massacres, sometimes suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.) Another concern of mine is that considering that elephants live long enough to pass on knowledge of migration routes and terrain to others, a little bit of elephant history may well be lost.

On the other hand, elephant management is a problem everywhere. They raid farms when they're hungry and attack villages when they're feeling crowded. (Or when they're drunk.) In Africa it's particularly complicated, because during the bad poaching years the elephant population dwindled so far that many elephants abandoned their usual migration areas, and people moved in to cultivate the land. Now that poaching is not as bad and the elephant population is rebounding, people and elephants clash every day.

Nonetheless, zoos are not the solution, at least not as they exist today, according to Joyce Poole (research director of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, also in Kenya). Dr. Poole happened to be in Chicago and testified at a city hearing about the Lincoln Park Zoo elephant deaths. (All three have died--of differing causes--in the past year.) She says--well, she says a lot, and it's all in the article, and she's smarter than I am so read what she said. And she's right. Some animals do all right in zoos, and some zoos make a serious effort to make them comfortable, and I think zoos have a legitimate function. Ignorance is closely connected to apathy, and if people never got a chance to see animals from all over the world it's difficult to imagine why they would care about endangered species and that sort of thing. But concrete boxes are no good. Safari parks like Disney's Animal Kingdom are a step in the right direction (hard as it is for me to give any props to Disney). But meanwhile, the animals have it tough at home, and so do their human neighbors.

In other zoo news, the cutest baby animal in the world needs a name. And check out this happy polar bear cub and her momma. Sure, she's smiling now, but what about once she figures out she's in a zoo and can't eat the seals? (Polar bears DON'T do well in zoos.)

Also, not really animal-related, but kinda: want to see something disturbing? Rhino-style kung fu! (Via Jeremy)

*Title via Gwenda and this site.

My Evening on 290

On the heels of my Jury Adventure, last night I was on 290 headed out to the 'burbs to meet with my writer's group when smoke started pouring out from under the hood in heavy traffic. It was like drag racing, only backwards and upside down and really slow. So actually, not very much like drag racing. More like a steam locomotive, because that's what the scary stuff turned out to be; steam, not smoke. I popped the hood and found a big nasty hole in the radiator hose. It looks like something hatched out of there, and there's a cloud of stuff pouring out of it which I didn't feel like putting my hand in, thank you very much. Called Marianne to see if she had the number of a good garage, but she was at a late meeting for work. Called Kiljoong for same, and he said he'd drive down and let me use his Triple-A. That's right, the Archangel Kiljoong. He rocks. So I waited on the shoulder and read a little of my book to keep myself from freaking out about how much this was going to cost me (not too bad, as it turns out; it was indeed the radiator hose, and the thermostat needs replacing too, but the guy quoted me a very reasonable and non-myocardial-infarction-inducing price) and how much I didn't want to miss the Semi-O's tonight since we're going to be discussing one of my stories and another by a prospective new member whom I actually think is quite good. But what's the deal with honking at someone who's parked on the shoulder with his hazard lights on and the hood popped? Do I look like I'm going to get out of your way, you speed freak? Pull the gear shift lever out of your ass. Damn it. Anyway, I waited for Kiljoong to arrive, and then we both waited for the tow truck to arrive, and all told this took probably an hour and forty minutes. Nice guy, though, that tow truck driver. On the way to the garage (Kiljoong's following in his car), he asked if I liked jazz, and when I said yes--imagining that he had some soothing Count Basie or Charlie Parker on the system--he cranked up the Smooth jazz station, which was playing Enigma's "Sadeness." Like I said, he was a nice guy and I didn't kick up a fuss. But good grief. And the next song was Janet Jackson's "Come Back to Me." Not jazz. Anyway--and I promise to end this paragraph before the end of your work day--by the time I got home it was 9:15.

Marianne got home a little while later and asked if I wanted to walk over to the porn/liquor store and get a couple of bottles of wine and watch some Coupling. Hell, yes.

So, I am hungover. But I have an excuse.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Mass Observation

via Ben Peek (Read about it; it's interesting)

1. Age?


2. Married, unmarried, divorced, other?


3. What are your superstitions, in order of importance?

Hm-wha? Um. I have no list for this. Sometimes I am a bit obsessive-compulsive, but rarely am I superstitious.

4. Do you pay attention to coincidences?

Yes. At times I feel like synchronicity is in operation, but likely it just has to do with awareness. Or apophenia.

5. What is your class?

Lower Middle Class, probably? Maybe lower, now.

6. What is your father's profession, and your own?

My father was a civil servant (he worked for the Minnesota Department of Transportation). He's retired; now he ushes at the Ordway and works the gate during the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

Myself, it depends on how you look at it. I'm either a student, a temporary office worker, a writer, or a bum.

7. Do you or did you hate your father, and if so, why?

I did, for a while, mainly because I was a teenager and I thought I was ready to be out on my own. We had some strong disagreements, mainly on religion, and it was hard for a while. But he's a good man and now I love him like crazy.

8. Do you or did you hate your mother, and if so, why?

I never did, no.

9. Do you or did you want to get away from home, and if so, why?

I did want to, and I did so, though never all that far. Why? Because it's healthy to do so, I think, at least for a while. It's good to go back once in a while, too.

10. Do you want to have a son, or a daughter, or both?

Either one.

11. Do you hate your boss; do you hate your job?

I'm not sure how to apply this to temping. I don't hate temping, although it can be dreadfully dull. The concept of "boss" in the temp world can be pretty nebulous, but there's no one I hate at present.

12. What is your greatest ambition?

To make at least half of my income from writing.

13. Did you want President Clinton impeached, and if so, why?


14. Were you glad or sorry when the World Trade Centre was destroyed and if so, why?

Sorry. (Not sure who would be glad?) Not because the building itself meant anything, but because of the lives lost. I was pretty freaked out by it, honestly, and the 9/11 attacks are a big part of the reason I wrote Superpowers.

15. Do you approve of the institution of marriage as it exists in this country at present? If not, how would you wish it changed?

I don't know that marriage is as important as people make it out to be, but it should be equally available to all; in other words, if gay people want to get married, there's no sensible reason to prevent them. On the other hand, if people want to live together and raise families without getting married, there's no sensible reason to prevent that either. Marriage can be a nice way to declare a bond, but the bond can exist without it.

16. Are you in favour of the disestablishment of the Church?

Church, smurch. I was raised Catholic, and there was a fuss when I chose not to be confirmed. (See above.) Turned out, I just should have gone along with it to get the cash. But that's me, always taking the wrong kind of stand.

17. Are you religious? If so, in what form?

I'm agnostic. I'm fascinated by religion, though not so much by Christianity, which has been more or less stripped of all the mystery and made consumable. I don't believe in anything in particular and don't expect to, but I like exploring belief and myth and all the ideas surrounding religion.

18. Do you welcome or shrink from the contact by touch or smell of your fellow humans?

This is a very strange question. I'm not that touchy-feely, but I'm not averse to it either. Human contact is good. Smells are good and bad. Are you implying that I stink?

19. Can you believe you are going to die?

No, because the world is a hallucination I am having. OK, not really. But really, no, I don't think I do grasp the idea of my own death, although I fear it. I like to pretend that I will live forever.

20. How do you want to die?

I don't. That's my answer.

21. What are you most frightened of?

Losing my mind. That would be worse than death.

22. What do you mean by freedom?

This deserves some thought. OK, I think that freedom is the right to live your life as you wish to, insofar as it doesn't impinge upon the right of others to do the same. In other words, do no harm; physical harm, or financial harm, or harm to the environment we share. It is the freedom to disagree AS WELL AS the freedom to be disagreed with, because without dissent and debate no one's beliefs have meaning. The main challenge to freedom, I find, is lack of privacy; and privacy becomes more difficult to maintain the more crowded and interconnected the world becomes. Sometimes we voluntarily give up some of that freedom--say, in a relationship--but everyone needs their own space. It seems to me that this is what we fight about, almost every time, on every level. Which probably means it's only going to get worse.

On that cheerful note . . .


Mumble Pimp.

Amboseli Park elephant expert Joyce Poole's got something to say about the Lincoln Park elephant tragedies. Yo.

Laura Miller gives Kelly Link her props.

Scott Westerfeld's new book Peeps is out today. It's only his third book this year. Check it out.

Is it me, or is the specficblogosphere kinda quiet lately?

A Review

Lois Tilton reviews Talebones #30, which contains my story "A Whole Man":

Schwartz's premise is not particularly original, but the voice of its unhinged narrator makes it entertaining.

Lois is a tough critic--I know this because I'm in a critique group with her--so I take this as high praise. She gives the whole issue a positive review; you ought to pick it up if you haven't already (hint, hint).

My Day in the Jury Pool

8:54 AM - I arrive at the Cook County Criminal Courthouse but can't figure out where to park. A homeless man points me to the special fenced-in "Jury, Employee, Police" parking lot. The sign at the checkpoint outside reads "You MUST Show ID," but the guard just waves me through. I can't think of a reason I would ever need to park anywhere near here if I weren't heading to court, but it's nice to know there's a free option.

8:58 AM - Security check. I empty my pockets and send my backpack through an X-ray conveyor. One of the guards gives me a funny look when he sees the elephant sticker on my Moleskine. I must look as clueless as I feel, because the guy who returns the contents of my pockets points me to the elevators and says "Jury room, third floor."

9:02 AM - At the table outside the jury room I line up with the other potential jurors and hand over my documentation. I am told to draw a number and get 26. This is my Group Number for the day. (I am not a number!)

9:03 AM - I put on my "JUROR" sticker and throw away the backing paper.

9:04 AM - I read the Juror's instructions sheet, which says to keep the backing paper for the "JUROR" sticker. Luckily the garbage can is pretty much empty.

9:06 AM - I sit in a theatre-style chair and look through my reading material. I've got Trash Sex Magic, Mothers and Other Monsters, Sybil's Garage #2, Boy Proof, and Journey Through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics. (I so would not be reading that last book if it weren't for research. I was probably the only kid in my high school who took AP Calculus hoping to test out of math in college so I would never have to take it again. (It worked, by the way.) And Geometry . . . don't even get me started on Geometry. I don't have a logical brain, as is perhaps obvious to those who read my stories. But then, the world is not a logical place. And it's an interesting book, even if it takes me an hour to get through one chapter.)

9:35 AM - I finish re-reading "Ancestor Money" just as a gravel-voiced man with saucers around his eyes tells us to sit in front of the TVs so we can watch a video. Oh, good.

9:37 AM - Our TV isn't on, and since I'm in the front row I stand up to turn it on. I sit down again before realizing that instead of instructional material on Our Jury System the TV is blaring out Jerry Springer. I stand up again and change the channel until a man in a black robe with an is-it-there-or-isn't-it mustache appears. Turns out this is the district judge or something. Like I would know?

9:38 AM - A tall black man does a Troy McClure stroll past a jury box. It's Lester Holt! He'll be guiding us through the jury process. Oh, good. My five hours of sleep is tapping me on the shoulder, asking me if I want another fix. "Chill," I mutter, and force my eyes open.

9:50 AM - After the video, Saucer Eyes gives us the skinny. They'll call us by group numbers when they need jurors. If they don't call us by the end of the day, we're done for the year. If they do call us and we're in a courtroom we're at the mercy of the judge. Saucer Eyes makes lots of jokes while he tells us this, and they're sort of funny except that it's obvious that he tells them every day and doesn't find them funny himself anymore. I wonder how he got those saucers around his eyes, and how his voice got so gravelly. I picture him lying on a bar with a cigar in his mouth and a lowball over each eye.

10:00 AM - Saucer Eyes lets us return to our day of idleness. He refers to one area of the room as the "Reading Seats" since there is no TV there. I'm surprised to see so many people head in this direction. I buy a soda before taking a seat with the readers and read a story out of Sybil's Garage before starting on Boy Proof.

10:12 AM - Saucer Eyes is ready to call some folks to duty. I'm sure I'm going to be in this group. He calls four groups, but none of them are mine. Huh. I go back to my book.

10:57 AM - I think I'm a little bit in love with Egg/Victoria. This Max guy, on the other hand, is a self-righteous schmuck.

11:58 AM - I finish Boy Proof (I liked it. I like that the Egg/shell/embryo metaphor is never stated explicitly, and I like that Victoria is stupid and brilliant and that she has no social skills. I like her parents and I love the way the movie stars were portrayed. I still don't much care for Max, though) just as Saucer Eyes calls three more groups right before lunch. I'm thinking this would suck. He doesn't call me. Five minutes later he lets us go until 1:30 for lunch.

12:05 PM - There is no place to eat around here except a Church's Fried Chicken and some place called "Jean's," so I opt for the cafeteria. This may or may not have been a mistake. I get a cheeseburger and call my mom. She's up at the lake, which is both nicer and less luxurious than it sounds. The lake in question is the one at the back of my grandparents' old farm outside Evansville, Minnesota. Most of the land has been sold by now, but Mom and my uncles have a couple of trailers on our stretch of it where they like to go and chill. Mom goes up there for about a week every year before school starts up (Mom works as a Special Ed teacher's aide) with the dogs and relaxes. Mom says the dogs are worn out. We bitch about Bush and she asks about Cindy Sheehan. We talk about how we hate the Bitch Sox and hope the Twins can sweep them again. (I miss Torii.)

1:00 PM - I decide to get outside and take a walk up the block, then realize that the building I thought was just a holding facility is actually a Maximum Security Detention Facility. Holy Barbed Wire, Batman. It's huge and my hands are bleeding just looking at the fence. I'm thinking about Oz and about the article on prison rape I read a few days ago. I'm wondering if it's possible to look at this on the satellite maps at Google or MSN. This is all rather depressing.

1:30 PM - I'm back and I'm sleepy. I read a story out of Sybil's Garage and a story out of Mothers and Other Monsters and I start on Trash Sex Magic. I don't have the energy to read about math or to work on stories right now. I'd rather read about fertility magic, thank you very much.

2:10 PM - A light starts flashing, and something is beeping. The fire alarm is going off. They didn't really drill us for this, but any excuse to get outside at this point is a good one. I pack up my books and head for the exit stairs with the rest of the remaining jurors. Once we're in the stairwell we can smell something burning. This is not good. At that moment a woman comes running out and tells us we can't leave. Um? Fire bad, lady. No, we can't leave unless we're escorted. I think this lady swallowed a book of regulations. I go back up, but if I see smoke she'll have to shoot me in the leg to keep me from getting out of here.

2:15 PM - Saucer Eyes tells us they're trying to find out what happened, but the Sheriff's office would call if there was a fire. He also mentions that the Sheriff's office is shorthanded today or we would have another deputy in the jury room. None of this is at all reassuring. He tells us not to worry, that he's here. I wonder if he is trying to tell us that he is a superhero under all that flab. I am skeptical.

2:20 PM - Saucer Eyes comes out and tells us the tar they're laying down outside the building got into the vents and set off the alarm. Which is good to know, because if it had been a real fire we'd all be dead already.

2:30 PM - The presiding judge stops by to let us know he's very concerned about what happened, and he's going to have meetings about it. I wonder if there are people in this room for whom the word "meetings" is a panacea. I doubt it, since in my experience "meeting" is pretty much an antonym for "accomplishment." On the other hand, Saucer Eyes lets us know that if there aren't any more jury calls by 3:10 we're out of here.

2:44 PM - Man, there is a lot of sex in this book.

3:10 PM - We're done. They call our names for our checks, which is sort of a token gesture; it's really a per diem, seventeen bucks to cover meals and transportation for the day. Thanks. Now we are free to live our lives for another year, at which time we may be asked to sit in a room for a full day again. Civic duty, don'tcha know. I'm outta here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I'm Not Going to Use the Word Slut This Time

They do want me tomorrow--G through S inclusive, is it too late to change my name to Underhill? Naw, actually I've never done anything of the sort so I'm curious to see the inner workings of justice. Oops, I mean law. Don't know how anyone could confuse the two . . . I will be bringing several books, and the SS Story, and the rewrite, and maybe a pillow. Anyway, I won't be around all day tomorrow, and I know you're all dying to hear how the reading went, so I'm posting this tonight.

Tip for travelers; it's not a long ride from home to Hopleaf, but when the wind is against you there is a fair chance of arriving sweaty. Be sure to order water with your Belgian ale (Delirium Tremens, this time; there's an elephant on the bottle).

Good crowd; standing room only, in fact. I'd estimate there were fifty or more. Jessa Crispin seemed very nice. She was polite, at least. (The sum total of our conversation was her saying "Excuse me." But not in a snotty way.) I sat with a fellow named Nick, and a couple, Neil and Susie, whom I've seen at WisCon but never met. We chatted a bit before the reading started. I also bought Mothers and Other Monsters from the nice woman from Women & Children First, and introduced myself to Maureen--we've seen each other but never properly met. I gave her David's message (she said later that the blog was to document her illness, and since she's no longer sick it's served it's purpose. But she said she would update anyway) and she signed my book.

Charles Blackstone read first, from his novel The Week You Weren't Here. Maureen read most of "Ancester Money," which I love even more now that I've heard her read it. There are two ways to read well, I think (at least, this is what I think tonight); one is to perform the work, and the other is to just read it like you would tell a story to a child. Not in a condescending way, but in the way that gives you to understand that this story is important, just as all stories are, and if you listen well you will be glad you did. Maureen read "Ancestor Money" in the latter way, and she was a big hit; at the end of the reading most of her books were gone, and hers was the most expensive of the three. Jennifer read the first and thirteenth chapters of Trash Sex Magic and a bit of the opening of The Brass Bed, part of an erotic romance duology she just sold to Del Rey. Jennifer is more of a performer than Maureen is, and this was perfect for the bawdy and comedic bits she chose to read. All in all, a great showing for the Small Beer authors.

Afterwards, a little more chatting with Maureen and Bob, a ride home in the cool air, the lights of downtown coming up as I crossed the Damen Avenue bridge, a quick stop for food and now home. Sleep now; maybe tomorrow night I'll post some book reports.

Slut Duty

Heading north tonight--about 5200 north--to attend the Bookslut Reading Series featuring Maureen McHugh, Jennifer Stevenson, and Charles Blackstone. Should be good beer (Hopleaf probably has the best selection in town) and good stories. If you're in town, you should go.

Tomorrow I may or may not have to head nearly as far in the other direction to sit in a room with a bunch of other potential jurors. I have to call a city hotline tonight to find out if they want me, need me, have to have me. Wish me either a pass or the trial of the century.

Other than this I have no content. School starts soon, and I am trying feverishly to get everything done before it starts. In the meantime, be excellent to each other.