Friday, March 20, 2009

Best thing ever.

It's kind of gratuitous, and old news, but Neil's throwdown with Colbert makes me happy. So.

Long Slience

Well, longish, anyway, for the blogosphere.

I've been mourning the passing of Ms. Lucky, and trying to pay more attention to the remaining two cats, and just generally muddling along. I've got about five or six potential blog posts queued up in the back of my brain, but they aren't happening just now. So. Bear with me. They involve dirigibles, desert islands, AIG (how could they not?) and other random shit that's floating around in my brain. And they will come, eventually.

Not tonight, though. This is more just a placeholder, "No, really, I'm still here" post, than it is anything else. But I am still here. I'm just sayin'. Hopefully we'll tack on back to all that this weekend (I'm also working for a living, which is time-consuming and which often sucks). Who knows, there may even be writing afoot...not that I'm being terribly good with that these days, but the Emilyon is doing her best to support and goad me in that, which is enormously appreciated.

Anyway. More on this as it develops. Which makes a nice throwaway line, if nothing else. Cheers.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Rest in Peace, Lucky the Little Black Cat.

Sadly, my littlest little one didn't have it in her to overcome her ailment. She died in my arms at the vet's at about 5:55 this evening. She wasn't getting any better, and when I got there she seemed like she was pretty much done. I am very sad, but putting her to sleep was the right thing, I think. She's in a better place now, I where her legs work again, and there are fields of catnip and plentiful small rodents that are easy to catch and good to eat, and about a zillion secondhand couches lying around so that she can pee wherever she pleases and not get yelled at.

Rest in peace, little one. You will be missed.

Lucky Reynen Pinney
July 2005-March 4, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Light a Candle for Lucky, the Little Black Cat

So one of my little ones is ailing. I got a phone call yesterday afternoon from my roommate, who had come home to find Lucky dragging herself around the apartment with her front paws, because apparently her back legs had ceased to function. I left work and took her to the vet, who diagnosed her with a blood clot that was obstructing the flow of blood to her lower extremities. It turns out that this is not terribly uncommon with cats of her age and lineage--it is a consequence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is a sort of congenital circulatory disorder. It's the sort of thing they can try and treat, but there's not a great deal that can be done with any certainty.

So she's been at the pet hospital since yesterday, and they're pumping her full of fluids and pain meds and stuff that they hope will dissolve the blood clot, but while she's shown some slight signs of improvement, she still has not regained the use of her back legs. The vet told me this afternoon that if this state of affairs doesn't improve by tomorrow, I should seriously consider putting Lucky to sleep. And sadly, I am. All I can really do right now is hope that things improve for the better between now and tomorrow.

So please, one and all, light a candle and think good thoughts at Lucky, the little black cat. She's a sweetheart, and she's only three and a half years old, and I'm not really ready to say goodbye to her yet. All good wishes will be greatly, greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Alternate History/Weird Science

So the apparently lengthy research/learning curve process proceeds apace for the "Percival Lowell Goes to Mars" story. It's an interesting process, and an instructive one...I've never tried to conceive of a viable alternate history/alternate science story, and what all seems like it needs to go into the preparatory research process is interesting, and daunting. First I had to get a sense of the physics and energy requirements of achieving escape velocity from Earth's atmosphere. Then I needed to look into the existing (or almost existing) technology of the time--in this case, the time period between 1900 and 1915 or so. Then I needed to think about other things, like how such a craft might be powered, or propel itself, if it did indeed escape the gravity well and get into interplanetary space. And I needed to consider how things did actually go in history, and look for moments or instances where something might have gone differently, and then begin to postulate the consequences of such a divergence, to see if the posited diversion might be useful to the story I want to tell and and to support the alternate future I want to explore.

One odd consequence of my somewhat random and haphazard research into various things is that I increasingly believe that it was at least technologically possible that we could have launched a viable spacecraft in 1915. The theory and the rudimentary implementation of the necessary technologies was there...nobody was taking the next necessary steps in that research yet, and wouldn't ultimately do so for a number of years, but a whole lot of the shit that might make such an endeavor work was already on the drawing board, at least implicitly.

So then the question becomes, what would have to have happened differently to persuade people--scientists, financiers, etc.--to make it possible for something else to have happened. I've been looking at the beginnings of rocketry theory, Tesla's crazy experiments with electicity and magnetism, Modernist poetry (Amy Lowell, the Imagist poet, was the sister of Percival Lowell, as it turns out), as well as early attempts at viable solar power and Robert Goddard's positing of the viability of ion drives for space travel in the interplanetary vaccuum.

Thing is, the more I look at all these disparate bits, the more I see possibilities regarding how it could have happened differently. Roundabout the time Percival Lowell decided to build his observatory in Flagstaff, Nikolai Tesla moved his center of operations to Colorado Springs--in the American southwest of the 1900's, they were practically neighbors. Tesla was also inspired by Lowell's writings about the canals of Mars to work toward a way of communicating via projected energy with Mars. Likewise, while the Lowell Observatory was under construction in Flagstaff, there was a solar energy concern that sold its first photovoltaic electricity-generating apparatus to someone in Mesa, AZ (which was subsequently destroyed in a windstorm). Most all experimentation into solar power at the time was focused around the discovery that selenium gives off electrons, thus producing electrical energy, when exposed to sunlight, and it turns out that selenium is most easily obtained as a byproduct of copper refining--and Arizona was, and is, one of the biggest producers of copper in the United States. Also, Lowell was of the Boston aristocracy, and one of the early pioneers of rocketry theory was a guy named Goddard, who was very much embedded in the Boston academic/intellectual scene. I'm pretty sure that Lowell and Tesla never met, and that Lowell and Goddard never did, and that Tesla and Goddard didn't, but maybe they did, and even if they didn't they could have, had things gone a bit differently.

That seems to me, at present, to be how the alternate history thing has to work. It's like, maybe it didn't happen, but it could have, and if it did how would things be different? And to build the alternate present and future one has to ascertain what could possibly have happened differently, and then think through what the consequences for future time would be had those things actually transpired in a different way. It's a fascinating historical scavenger hunt to try to build a story from those sorts of considerations, and there is a huge learning curve, but it's sort of awesome and a whole lotta fun to try it. I'm also enjoying the way it seems to boil down to issues of plausibility--the more things one finds in the historical record that suggest that, well, it could have happened, the stronger the spine of the mooted story winds up being. So. Good times.

And somewhere in the SF Metro area, Emily J is laughing at me, no doubt, because once again something that seemed at the outset like a more-or-less innocent and manageable story idea has swelled into something that probably could, and maybe should, be a novel.

Tra la. We shall see. In any event, it's good times. And my Percival Lowell books about Mars should probably be arriving in my mailbox sometime this week. Yay.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Keep marching.

I dunno. I suppose that's been my mantra, or my catchphrase, or what have you, for a long time now. Something I told myself, and something I managed to do, even when I didn't want to and even when I didn't believe in it. The notion is, in essence, that if you're in a bad place, and you don't know how to get out of it, just keep moving, keep walking, and eventually you walk your way to a better place. Maybe.

Well, it turns out that the bullshit that I've been telling myself to keep myself getting up out of bed every morning for quite some time turns out not to be bullshit after all. That's kinda cool.

I'm in a Ph.D program now, and it's paid for if I want it (assuming I don't fuck it up in the process of doing it, but I'm reasonably confident that I won't), and so my future is sort of secure for the next few years, at least. That's the best, it seems to me, that one can hope for, and I actually got there. There was a plan, and directed intent, but I am honestly kind of shocked that, even given that, it seems to have worked. But it did, goddamn. Not by some stroke of master strategy or cunning badassness, but by doing the business, showing up, tossing what I have out there into the world to the extent that I've been able on a given day. A repeated and repetitive act of faith, really, in a sense. I've kept marching. And here I am.

Pretty awesome. The next chapter of this particular novel is almost nigh. Yay.


Well, the happy news the other week was that I got accepted into a Ph.D program at the University of Southern Mississippi. The happy news tonight is that I came home from work to find that USM had decided to offer me a TA position which will pay for much of my stay there, if that's where I wind up going. So. Yay. BIG yay. Yay. And I get to teach again, beginning in the fall. So once more, yay. Yay yay yay. That's all.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bad tactics.

Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not going well? Gee, go figure.

Lind gets it right again, I think. Tra la.

Obama/Jindal, in brief.

So I was out last night, seeing Sherman Alexie speak truth to vegans and commit completely valid and reasonable rhetorical atrocities on a member of my former graduate program, so I didn't see the Obama speech until I got home tonight.

I dunno. I haven't watched a president talk since something like 2004. I was inclined to be cynical, and to an extent I was, but it was so fucking refreshing to see someone who actually has something of the statesman in him, and who actually thinks and cares about policy and about trying to level with the people who elected him, that I was genuinely moved in places. I even cried. And even when I wasn't, well, it was really good to hear someone saying things that weren't Karl Rove talking points or empty flag-waving pap, cynically delivered. It was also really good to feel like I was being talked to with the assumption that I wasn't stupid, because I'm not. I found the whole thing inspiring, actually, and while I feel weirdly uncomfortable saying so, I am also glad to be able to make myself weirdly uncomfortable by saying it.

And then, of course, there's Bobby Jindal, the Great Brown Hope of the GOP. Wow. What a jackass. If that's all you got, enjoy a decade or three in the political wilderness. I actually had the same response, upon seeing the beginning of that, that Chris Matthews did. After watching the whole twelve minutes or so, I could totally see what Gawker was getting at. Jesus. This guy and Michael Steele? Good luck, you pieces of elephant dung. Gah.

Anyway. That's all. Cheers, and God help us all.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fun with Orbital Mechanics

On the upside, I have a new story on the brain, and I actually spent a large portion of my hours at work Wiki-ing all that shit. I love it when I get to Wikipedia articles that feature, front and center, a math equation. As the Emilyon put it this afternoon, I don't speak that language.

Happily, however, my downstairs roommate does. He's a physics guy, and so I went downstairs when I finally got home tonight, and picked his brain about viable means of achieving escape velocity in a slightly alternate year in the 1910-1915 range. And he actually explained the shit I'd been reading on Wikipedia in terms that made sense. I sort of get the ion thruster now, and I understand the minimal thrust/high potential energy thing that is sort of encompassed there. And the fact that I can put Percival Lowell, Robert Goddard and Nikola Tesla together in the same historical moment, place and context, makes me very happy. It's gonna be another story that winds up being way too long, and it's one that also has six or seven relatively steep learning curves attached to it, but it's good times. We also chatted about old Apple II games we had known, and Jack McDevitt, and we drank inexpensive beer out of aluminium cans and other good stuff. I love having a goodnatured physics geek living downstairs. Yay.

Gotta get up for work tomorrow, though, and shortly. So that's all for that, right now. The neighbor thought the story had legs, though, which is heartening. So. We shall see, hopefully soonish. Tra la.

One Outta Three Ain't Bad.

Sigh. Got home and checked the mail, and found that University of Kansas said no, too. So no from UIC, no from UK...the two nos being my two top choices. I'm trying not to be too demoralized about that...I got in somewhere, and so I will go somewhere in August, and that's all good. But there is also a certain little bit of "What's wrong with me?" running through my head just now. Of course, there are a lot of valid answers to that particular question, but at the same time not many of those answers should be available to the people judging my Ph.D applications. So it's a bit demoralizing. Still and yet, though, I'm going somewhere, even if it isn't one of the places I really wanted to go. So. Anyway. That's all, with that. Fuck ''s their loss, whether they know it or not. So.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Catching up with the teevee.

Well, I spent the evening catching up with last week's illegally downloaded television, which was relaxing.

Burn Notice was a pleasure, as always. Kind of a nice departure, too, from their usual episode formula.

24 was, as usual, rather disturbing in its endemic contempt for civil liberties, though this season it seems to be trying to tack toward addressing that issue, and the complications of it. Still manages to be terribly addictive, though, simply because of the faux-real-time format. I dunno. I feel dirty watching this every week, and yet I still watch it.

Dollhouse was...mmm. Definitely had a certain Joss Whedon feel that makes me happy, but also felt like it was him trying to make the TV execs happy so that they wouldn't cancel and/or torpedo his new show before it got off the ground. Also kind of cool in that Eliza Dushku will probably get a chance to act a lot more than she did while playing Faith. I loved Faith, don't get me wrong. But still. And that scene toward the end where she's lying down to sleep and a panel slides over so that her sleeping cubicle becomes coffin-like...nice touch. Joss always seems like he runs afoul of TV network execs sooner or later, so I'm not terribly optimistic about this show, but I will keep watching it, I think. And keep my fingers crossed.

Termintator came back last week, too, after an annoying hiatus. Good episode, though the guy they found to play Reese (from the first movie) was kinda lame and he had unfortunate sideburns and facial hair. I sort of wonder if they're ramping up to close the series out, because there's been a death watch out on it since about six episodes into the first season. I hope that Fox makes an emphatic decision, one way or another. I also hope that they decide to keep it going, because I like the show a lot, and I think it does a nice job of maintaining and developing the storyline that the T2 movie laid down. If they don't, though, I don't want the season finale to be one of those half-assed things where it's like "It could be the end of the season, it could be the end of the show. So we're going to give you a cliffhanger that might never get resolved." I fear that they will, however. That would be sad.

BSG. Hmmm. There are only five or so episodes left. I hated the first two, this season. I was sort of okay with the mutiny episodes. I am cautiously optimistic, too, after "No Exit," though Tigh's wife being the uber-Cylon (and even more uber than was hitherto expected) still doesn't work for me particularly, and the structural problems with Galactica totally came out of nowhere. Like nobody ever noticed those cracks in the wall plating before now? C'mon. Anyway. As always, from week to week, I will give it the benefit of the doubt and trust it until next Friday. I dunno. I think it's probably good that it's ending soon, much as I loved it the first couple of seasons. It's telling that I'm not even expecting greatness at this point--I'm just hoping that they retain their dignity, and dot most of the i's and cross most of the t's, as they wind it down. They seem like they're doing that, at least provisionally, so far.

And then there's Chuck. I love Chuck. I root for Chuck. Along with Ash from Evil Dead 3 and Benjamin Braddock from The Graduate, and Tom Regan from Miller's Crossing, I think Chuck Bartowski makes a valuable role model. Of course, he's far younger than I am now, so I wouldn't really consider him as such, but if I were in my early to mid-twenties, I might. In any event, there's interesting things afoot for Chuck, and I do continue to appreciate that there is a constantly developing throughline from episode to episode, despite the fact that the show doesn't rate "serial drama" status. Not sure I like the turn that his relationship with Sarah seems to have taken, but the fact that he now has crazy Fulcrum shit in his head as well as crazy CIA shit is kind of awesome. So.

And yes, for someone who doesn't have a functional television at this point, I do seem to watch a lot of the teevee. I'm honestly not sure how that happened. Ah, well. That's one of the things that the internetz are for. Tra la.

Monday, February 16, 2009

It's the end of the world as we know it.

And here's the somewhat bleak instuctional manual for what we stare down the barrel of, going forward. I'm tired and I'm drunk, so I'll spare you the commentary on this shit at present, because I have a feeling it would be deeply compromised. But per "Candide," we must all tend to our gardens. So. Drink up, because the next X years are probably gonna blow. Tra la.

Neither rain nor snow nor fog nor the idiocy of California drivers...

...will keep me from my duties at the crystal factory, it seems.

Well, I'm back from my weekend in Los Angeles. The person that I was mainly going to visit intervened, apparently, with the weather gods on Friday, thus saving me from anything but about fifty miles of obnoxious, blatting rain just west of Needles and then some fog that made me tap the brakes to slow down maybe twice as I snaked my way down the Cajon Pass to San Bernardino. For the way home, well...not so much with the intervention. I-15 was actually closed for awhile at the Cajon Pass while I was heading out of LA, where they were also having torrential downpours that were making LA drivers actually go below the speed limit on the freeways. There was intermittent rain all along I-40, as well, and some snow in the heights between Kingman and Seligman. There's actually a winter storm warning in effect for Kingman, but I made good enough time after the Cajon Pass business that I got through all that before the rain actually turned to snow. I got snowed on for maybe about a mile and a half, which I consider a win.

So I dunno. Maybe all that is the intervention of the weather could conceivably have been far worse than it was. In any event, I am home safe, and sitting in my bar away from home, having a couple of beers before rolling through the last mile or so to my domicile.

It was lovely being away for a few days, and lovely seeing some very dear people who I haven't seen in a long time. I also found myself oddly charmed by Dave Eggers's Time Travel Mart in Echo Park, even though I have something of an aversion to Mr. Eggers himself. My souvenir from the weekend came from there--a 1986-87 State Department report on Soviet propaganda and disinformation operations. Awesome. It is, however, nice to be home, too, and to be home safely, despite all the fucking weather. Tra la. Cheers.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Dollhouse" tomorrow.

Are you excited? I have to say that I'm kind of excited. Not that I will actually be watching it--I will probably be somewhere just south of Barstow on I-15 when it airs. But the return of Joss Whedon to the teevee makes me happy. Though why he's doing it with Fox (again) causes me some bafflement--they pulled the plug, arguably prematurely, on "Buffy". They shot "Angel" in the head by announcing its cancellation some six episodes before the end of a season that they had led him to believe was the penultimate one. "Firefly"? Don't even get me started. And now they get "Dollhouse". Mmmm.

Still, Joss making teevee again is a happy thing. Go Joss!

Ph.D Land

Well, happy news in the mailbox when I got home today. Like my friend Sacha, I have been formally accepted to the Ph.D/Creative Writing program at the University of Southern Mississippi. So I will not be laboring in the crystal mines this time next year, even if none of my other applications bear fruit. It's sort of astonishing, actually, how much a load that is off my mind. Part of me was sort of dreading starting to receive response letters--"What if they're writing to say no?" and all that--but now it's all good, even if the rest of them do say no. I kind of hope they don't...USM isn't my top choice, and the thought of living in Mississippi scares me somewhat. But getting into a Ph.D program was the next logical step in my diabolical plan for world domination, and that step has now been completed. So. Yay.

I almost typed something about banshee season being kind to me thus far, but then I caught myself because I realized I would be asking for trouble. And February isn't even half over, so the banshees can still be counted upon to put in an appearance. Hee.

Anyway. Cheers, and probably some days of silence, as I'm off after work tomorrow for a weekend in Los Angeles. Woo and hoo.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The news scares me.

So I've been dealing with an acute work-related stupidity disability in recent days, but I suppose that I also haven't been blogging current events too much because it's sort of depressing and/or horrifying to survey said current events. Case in point: I got home tonight, after another stupid day and a somewhat rejuvenating stop at the bar, and for whatever reason I looked in on my Yahoo! mailbox. Here were the news headlines that were thrust at me upon login:

That's not a heartening list. 'Nuff said. I think I'm going to go and hide in Hulu for a little while. Cheers.

Monday, February 9, 2009


So I finally seem to be showing signs of recovery from the reading-related burnout that was one of my souvenirs from two years of grad school.

This is a happy thing, but it's taken an awful long time to get here. In addition, I still find myself limited in what I can actually bring myself to read. I read a couple of books while I was at Clarion, and then I think I read maybe one between September and November.

I think maybe what's going on is that I have to work back up to relatively worthwhile fiction. I started with Spenser novels, which are like TV movies on the printed page. I read three of them over the course of a week sometime in December--each one takes maybe three and a half hours, and they are never at all demanding. After that, I took a break for awhile, and then went on a small Elmore Leonard bender after the new year. I also read a charming bit of Michael Lewis business-porn that had been sitting on my shelf, untouched, since I left NYC.

For whatever reason, I've been disinclined to read any SF/F in a long while now. There might be a bit of Clarion hangover as well, I don't know. But I managed to consume David Brin's The Postman (because I was in a post-apocalyptic mood, and, well, it's David Brin and I've never actually read anything from him), which was kind of useless but charmingly so. Unfortunately, the copy I was reading was the movie tie-in edition, so it had Kevin Costner's mug staring meaningfully out past me into the middle distance every time I picked it up. And then, over the weekend, I wasted long and glorious hours with a Harry Harrison sci-fi trilogy from the dawn of the 1980s. It was weirdly satisfying, though frankly it wasn't very good, even for Harry Harrison. It wasn't, for instance, The Stainless Steel Rat.

I dunno, though. I've got a pile of scifi books that I've been really wanting to read, and which are more respectable and demanding (and, to me, of interest) than 80s-era pulp. Ken MacLeod's Newton's Wake, Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky, Iain Banks' Consider Phlebus, Charlie Stross's The Atrocity Archives. The other week I even found a copy of Matt Ruff's priceless Sewer, Gas and Electric: The Public Works Trilogy, which I've been meaning to reread for years. For whatever reason, though, I just can't do it yet. I don't know what's wrong with me, really. I do feel like maybe I'm getting better, though.

So. Soon, perhaps. One can hope.

Not tonight, though, I don't think. I think I'm going to wander downstairs, where my roommate and our downstairs neighbor have announced that there will be movie watching. That's a good thing to do on a snow night. So. That's all. Cheers.

Gotta Love a Snow Day

Well, Flagstaff is a winter wonderland. Which is to say that, on my way home today, I got temporarily stuck twice, and skidded into a right-hand turn that left me with no traction, sliding into the lane where oncoming traffic typically is. Thankfully, not too many people were driving, and none on that particular road at that particular moment. I was only doing 15mph, though...such things should not happen when you're going that slow. I'm just sayin'. Fuckin' winter wonderlands.

Anyway. The happy upshot is that I am home, and hunkered down with a fresh 30-pack of turtle beer, and for the last several hours I've been sitting around drinking beer and doing work that I brought home with me. It's sort of awesome, drinking beer and doing work that one is going to get paid for, at the same time.

And since the snow probably isn't going to let up until sometime tomorrow afternoon, I have arranged with my boss to work from home tomorrow as well, which will be very happy indeed. My Buick is a mighty automobile, but it really, really doesn't like the snow. And while I will probably not sit around and drink beer tomorrow morning as I work from home, it pleases and amuses me that I could if I wanted to. Tra la.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

And then there's Kojak.

Yes, I'm winding down my weekend by further indulging my rather unseemly Hulu habit.

Now maybe it's because I grew up in the seventies, and there was a bunch of stuff I wasn't allowed to watch on television in those days, but it makes me enormously happy that some of the true gems of 1970's TV are enshrined at Hulu for all to enjoy and revel in. Like the Rockford Files. Or Kojak.

I've never actually seen an episode of Kojak. I'm in the process of watching the pilot now, and had to stop and blog about it. Partly because Harvey Keitel was apparently a guest star in the first episode. Also because of the kind of amazing graphic design that went into the opening credits. I mean yeah, it looks cheesy as all git-out now, but back in the day, that was cutting edge stuff. And the way the NYC skyline gets rotated and morphed into an extruded rendition of the show title at the end? Dang. You gotta love that shit.

Or maybe you don't. But I do. So. Back I go.

Speaking of opening credits, incidentally, it's worth having a look at the ones for Murder One (which I actually did wind up watching through the entire first season, and it was actually fairly decent), because this was a show created when CGI was first coming of age for network TV, and the credits are like the video graphix equivalent of the [BLINK] tag or the Photoshop "Poster Edge" filter--stuff that looks like fun until you remember that design is supposed to be in the service of the product that the design is supposed to promote, and then you realize that there is nothing in the world that could ever be well-served by that kind of design. So.

Anyway. Back to Kojak. Tra la.

After a long, stupid week...

...I return, albeit briefly, to the blogosphere.

Have you ever had one of those days where, as the minutes and hours slowly tick by, you can actually feel yourself getting measurably stupider?

Have you ever had a work week that was five of those days, strung together in succession?

I began last week as smart as I ever am, which I do tend to think is fairly smart. By Friday at 5pm, I was less smart than a grapefruit. Sad times, citizens.

But hey, at least I have a job. And after a weekend of heavy drinking (well, on Friday), laying low and reading vintage Harry Harrison in a Science Fiction Book Club edition, I may be better now. Or at least articulate enough again to blog. For good or ill. Cheers.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Happy birthday to me! And the [blink] tag!

Well, I still haven't dealt with the UIC snafu, but as achievements go, I can at least lay claim to this one: I am now...


(Actually, one of the main reasons for this post was to test whether the [blink] tag, which was officially retired from the HTML standard some years ago, still works. This information might become important, depending on whether an idea regarding a website devoted to Atari stock actually goes forward. It probably won't, but hey, you never know. And, in any event, happy birthday to me!)

UPDATE: I actually had to modify the above parenthetical note, because having the [blink] tag in there, using the proper "<>" signs, caused not only most of that note to blink, but also caused some of the sidebar headings and sections, and other random text-based page elements, to blink as well. Yikes. The [blink] tag, even retired, remains virulent and dangerous. Be ever vigilant. Cheers.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

...and I hide in the stairway and I hang in the curtain and I sleep in your hat...

So I was talking to Mom on the phone earlier tonight, for the first time in many moons. It was actually a really lovely conversation...she lovingly kicked my ass to (a) deal promptly and aggressively, yet diplomatically, with a snafu that has come up with my UIC Ph.D. app; and (2) to fucking write.

I've got a million excuses for why I'm not doing the writing even though the Ph.D app stuff is done, but all of them are ultimately bogus, except perhaps for the one that involves not really having ideas just now, and not being in a headspace in my day-to-day life to encourage ideas, and develop them, and put them down on paper. But Mom talks a very good and persuasive game. So.

Earlier I was reading the Emilyon's blog, and following her links, and then posting Tom Waits stuff. I also cued my peer-to-peer software to download "9th and Hennepin," and when it got done just now I listened to it, and was weirdly inspired. Because there's weirdness in that...nighttime logic stuff, as Kelly Link might say. One of the reasons I've always loved it. But, so...
And all the rooms they smell like diesel
And you take on the dreams of the ones who have slept here
And I'm lost in the window, and I hide in the stairway
And I hang in the curtain, and I sleep in your hat...
And no one brings anything small into a bar around here
They all started out with bad directions
I think there might be something there, to think through over the weekend and maybe sink some writing teeth into. "I'm lost in the window, and I hide in the stairway, and I hang in the curtain, and I sleep in your hat. What am I?"

That's the question. It sounds like a riddle, when put that way. And it's an interesting and pleasing one to try to construct an answer to. Especially given the rest of the song/piece/thing. So, I dunno. We shall see.

And what does the size of barroom luggage have to do with whether the directions were good or not? I wonder...

It's gonna be creepy and weird, though, and probably oddly, darkly and dementedly romantic. I mean, that's where you've gotta go with it, I think. I haven't done creepy, or tried to, in quite some time. Maybe not since week one of Clarion, actually. But there's also

And the girl behind the counter has a tattooed tear
One for every year he's away, she said
Such a crumbling beauty, ah
There's nothing wrong with her that a hundred dollars won't fix
She has that razor sadness that only gets worse
With the clang and the thunder of the Southern Pacific going by
There it is, right there. What might the $100 buy? And what does the "Southern Pacific" have to do with anything, in Minnesota? Is he talking about a now-defunct railroad concern? I don't know, though it would fit with the "clang and thunder" descriptors. So.
(UPDATE: Apparently so, hence the hyperlink. I love Wikipedia!)

And of course I have no shame in using song lyrics as the inspiration for stories, apparently. Cf. "The Distance in Your Eyes." So.

Anyway. Close to bedtime. So I'm going to sleep on this, and let it rattle around in my back brain for a little while, see what emerges. Cheers.

And if you don't own a copy of "Rain Dogs," for chissake buy one, or obtain one by other means. It's worth every cent and more, so what's wrong with you? Geez.

ARRRRRH, matey!

Sorry. All about the pirates, who continue to fascinate me.

So apparently we've got a new ass-kicking task force, CTF-151, patrolling the Somali coast and the Gulf of Aden. Well, sorta. They're patrolling, but ass-kicking? Not too much yet, though piracy incidents are down. Might just be rough seas, though. Our multinational flotilla sure talks a good game, though.

Meanwhile, of course, the pirates themselves seem to be developing still further their tactical awareness (bitches!--in-joke, beg your pardon), running games and winning at them against the Indian and Chinese navies.

One thing that continually baffles (and annoys the crap out of) me with our national rhetoric, and to an extent the West's international rhetoric is that we always seem to spin it so that the "evildoers"--terrorists, pirates, folks in general who commit acts in flagrant violation of international law--get cast as being somehow second-class or wildly inferior simply because they're poor and quite possibly hungry and their skin color is often a darker shade.

Now, don't get me wrong...if someone's reprehensible but a moron, I'm all for calling him or her on that. Thing is, it actually requires a hell of a lot more thought, creativity and tactical precision for guys with speedboats and AK-47's on the open seas to get their job done (in this case, piracy) than it should for us to do our job (in this case, to deter them). And they seem to beat us, more often than not, these days.

This suggests to me that these people are smarter, and more creative, and more flexible, and more highly motivated than we are. Even if they're doing reprehensible things, the fiction of meritocracy should demand, or at least allow, that we give them due props for their operational competence (relative to us, anyway...and on the downside for the pirates, there were those dudes who seized the Saudi oil tanker, got the $$$, and then drowned on the way home) regardless. The West sucks at irregular warfare--on land, as we've seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza, and by sea, as we can see (if we have the eyes to do so) of fthe coast of Somalia. We've got billion-dollar warships and all kinds of crazy stuff. They've got chewing gum, baling wire and black-market weapons. They now also have the German-owned tanker, snatched from a convoy with a navy escort, and now there's one more ship that someone somewhere is going to wind up paying a ransom on. Who are the competent ones here, I ask?

Way to go, CTF-151.

...the moon's teethmarks on the sky, like a TARP thrown all over this...

I'm not sure why, but reading the Emilyon's post, and the associated links, found me reflecting on the acronym TARP, because the link to the Obama smackdown actually defined it (Troubled Asset Relief Program), which increasingly and exponentially seems like it should win the Ironic Product/Program Name of the Year Prize. Anyway, it put me in mind of an old Tom Waits spoken-word piece from "Rain Dogs," called "9th and Hennepin." It's named for an intersection in Minneapolis that is apparently renowned as, well, you can probably glean from the lyrics. Here's the first ten lines or so.
Well it's 9th and Hennepin
And all the donuts have
Names that sound like prostitutes
And the moon's teeth marks are
On the sky like a TARP thrown over all this
And the broken umbrellas like
Dead birds and the steam
Comes out of the grill like
The whole goddamned town is ready to blow.
And the bricks are all scarred with jailhouse tattoos
And everyone is behaving like dogs.
And yes, I did capitalize the "tarp" in the lyrics. But the whole goddamn town is, perhaps getting ready to blow. Also, everyone does seem to be behaving like dogs, at least on Wall Street.

At the same time, still and yet, everything is a little bit better, or a little bit easier to take in its badness at least, when Tom Waits gets deployed. So I'm just trying to do my part. Cheers.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A terrifying thought.

But an amusing one, to me at least, in a sick sort of way. Look forward to 2016. Who will be running for president? Some of Blago's wiretapped natterings indicated that he could see himself in that position at that time. And of course Sarah Palin has made her interest in the GOP nod pretty clear. So imagine Blagojevich vs. Palin in '16. Rather than a lame tag line like "Decision 2016," the news orgs could do up a nifty graphic that reads "2016: Race to the Bottom."

Question I've got is, to make a Blago ticket and a Palin ticket all they can be, who would be their running mates? Suggestions from the floor are encouraged.

UPDATE: Here's my thought on the running mates, actually. Joe Lieberman, that reprehensible little Zion-crazed muppet would get offered the VP nod, from both parties. And he'd accept both nominations, like the two-faced shitweasel he is. Hee.

Blago, Blago, Blago...

I've been resisting going into the twilight zone that is Rod Blagojevich's world, in large measure because an awful lot of people are already going there and I didn't think that one more was needed. Today's priceless Blago tidbit, though, has lodged in my brain, and blogging seems to be the only way to dislodge it.

So after spending most of the week doing interviews on cable news and boycotting his own trial and talking trash about the folks who are conducting it, the tastefully-coiffed governor of Illinois decided today that he wants to make a closing argument at the trial, I suppose just in case (or perhaps for some truly nutty and bizarre reason that nobody who doesn't live in his head could possibly imagine). Here's the rub, though:
... the two-term Democrat wishes to deliver a closing argument, for which he needs the senate’s permission. (emphasis added)
There really are no words, except perhaps "Hee."

Well, they're not trying to fake their own deaths in plane crashes, but...

...I hadn't realized there were so many investment scams coming to light. There's lots. Ah, the joys of the deregulated marketplace. Phil Gramm, America thanks you. Shithead.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The state obtains some distance from political failure...

Huh. All about the Lind tonight, apparently. Interesting notion, though.

I love blogging.

Did I mention that?

This is what's in my brain tonight. That, and a modicum of PBR. So.

Have some. Have some more. Cheers. Bedtime now, I think.

Thoughts on William S. Lind's "On War"

The guy is, as I say, something of a jackass on certain subjects--if he starts nattering on about cultural relativism or "political correctness" or what have you, stop reading. But if you want to have a better strategic and tactical understanding of what a mess we've created in our last eight years of dealing with the Middle East, and if you want to think outside the box regarding our responses to assymetrical and irregular warfare, read every post (except for the cultural relativism asides) in his "On War" blog, which he's been posting more or less every week since the tanks rolled across the Kuwaiti border back in '03. He's a smart man, and his second-to-last post, on the Israeli incursion into Gaza, nails what was wrong and stupid about the Israeli response to Hamas rocket fire, I think. So. If you're interested, check him out.

Teaser: The Penguins Are Coming

Actually, they're already here, escaping from your brain and possibly living under your porch. It's a conspiracy, I think, and one that I've mapped out the beginning parameters of at least. Turns out, though, I'm too much in the bag tonight to lay it all out. Hence the teaser. Check back tomorrow, and you will learn more. Brain capacity, Barack Obama, Douglas Adams, the Los Angeles entertainment industry, global warming...they're all involved, and implicated, even.

Tomorrow, if I feel up to it, I'm going to blow the whole thing wide open. Kinda like Willow and Tara and the bacchanals. Once more with feeling. I'm just sayin'.

Neil Gaiman Wins the Newberry

A belated shout-out. Yay Neil! Congratulations!

Norm, Norm, Norm... (Day 2)

I sort of thought last night that I was taking a bit of a flyer on impugning the competence of Coleman's legal team. Apparently the text was smarter than the author (or something), because, well, they did it again. Have fun, Norm. It's gonna be a long trial, and my bet is that you're paying by the hour. And, of course, you don't have a legal leg to stand on. Bitch.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I love blogging.

You know, I'd forgotten. I've really missed this. Yay. This is the internetz. This is your brain on the internetz. Any questions?

Hulu, "Murder One" and serial dramas.

Okay. So Hulu is sort of the bane of my existence. I've been working my way slowly through their stable of short-run TV shows of late--I've been through John Doe and Journeyman in the sci-fi category, as well as Action and Manhattan, AZ in comedy. Good stuff, for the most part--Action is one of the most remarkable sitcoms I've seen, I think, and a savage if lamentably short-lived riff on the movie business. I remember seeing commercials for Journeyman when it was on, and it sounded incredibly lame, and as an avid reader and would-be writer of science fiction, I cringe when TV tries to take on such a pitfall-prone story concept as time travel...but they did it well, and did the rest well, and it was a shame it got cancelled.

Anyway. So now I'm on to Murder One. I'd kind of assumed that, for prime-time serial dramas other than soap operas, Joss Whedon kind of pioneered it with Buffy/Angel/Firefly. But back in 1995 somebody came up with the concept of a courtroom/crime drama where a single case would run an entire season. The show made it through two seasons, and three and a half episodes into the first, I can see why. It's sort of remarkable, or at least it seems so. It might get deeply stupid with all the necessary plot twists to get through twenty-three episodes (hell, look at could anyone in their right mind work in federal law enforcement when every single agency involved with homeland security seems to leak like a fucking sieve?), but so far I'm kind of impressed.

There's also a lead actor--playing a defense attorney--who is kind of amazing and who I don't think I've ever seen in anything. Daniel Benzali is his name. Apparently he was only in season one, but he's very good.

I dunno. Serial dramas fascinate me, as a form. They're a good example of the sorts of things that TV can do far better than movies, if the writers and continuity editors don't suck and if the audience bothers to stick with them. One of the things that always struck me about Buffy was that each season wound up seeming not unlike a televised novel. Murder One actually calls each episode "Chapter x." So I dunno. It's interesting...we'll see how this novel turns out, once I've wasted another nineteen or so hours of my life. Tra la.

UPDATE: "Gimme a hug." Season one, chapter four, about six minutes and fifty seconds in. Thing of beauty. Hee.

Domino theory.

After Paul Krugman's editorial the other week exhorting the Obama administration to prosecute GWB and company for their various violations of the law (and lamenting that they probably wouldn't), I got into a discussion with some friends over the email regarding the necessity and advisability of Obama starting out aggressive on that front, and the whole "looking forward" thing. My thoughts were basically these:
Ideally, I think, Obama should do both—“look forward” (because that’s where the current crop of oncoming semis left of center are coming from) and investigate and prosecute these motherfuckers. Whether that actually happens or not is an open question, but I’m not sure it’s as foregone a conclusion as Krugman seems to that it won’t. Obama’s said on many occasions since the election that there’s only one president at a time, and while it might not be the case, I think Obama’s “looking forward and not back” line may be more of the same. Besides, there are still unresolved legal proceedings, or potential ones, that will outlast Bush’s last few days in office, and if any one of those is pursued, it will open up cans of worms that will have can openers in the bottom of them that will necessitate the opening of further cans of worms—given the scope of this administration’s malfeasance, possibly ad infinitum. Say Obama, his second day in office, sends someone in the DOJ a memo saying that he’d like Harriet Miers’ and Karl Rove’s contempt of congress charges to be prosecuted, and see what happens. Soft power. It could happen, and I actually think/hope that it’s likely that it will. And it is my firm belief that once the first domino falls, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of them do. This administration has never shown the competence to do anything right or thoroughly, and I’m willing to believe that that includes covering its tracks. Obama’s a smart guy, and I’m perfectly willing to believe that he’s slow-playing this—whispering in someone’s ear to look into one of the lingering Bush scandals that hasn’t yet been completely buried is far less likely to provoke a political or partisan firestorm than calling for investigations of W & Co., and may thus be far more likely to lead to the end result of such investigations actually happening. So.
I dunno, but it looks like John Conyer might be tapping on the first domino. One can hope, anyway.

UPDATE: The Emilyon weighs in.

Norm, Norm, Norm...

One thing you gotta love about close elections is that they keep on giving, long after election day. Up in Minnesota, for instance, Norm Coleman is still at it. I honestly don't know how the man can stand to look in the mirror. I mean, the guy's a jackass, but what his lawyers got up to in court today...well, there are no words, because it speaks for itself. They brought evidence that they had tampered with to court, and you can imagine how that went:
Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg briefly interviewed Fuzer. Then it was Franken lawyer Marc Elias' turn.

Elias showed Fuzer a side-by-side comparison of an unaltered copy of one envelope and the version in the Coleman camp's filing, with the latter missing the section where the local official described why it was rejected. Fuzer said it looked like a photocopying problem -- as Coleman lawyer James Langdon said last week.

Then Elias showed her another comparison, and another, and another. In all, five altered ballot envelopes were shown, and in all five instances the obliterated information was the reason for the ballot to have been rejected. In some instances Fuzer said it was a photocopying error, while in other cases she said the Coleman camp probably thought the writing they were erasing was their own Post-It note, and not the local official's.

At one point Elias asked if it might be best for the campaign to go back and review their copies. Said Fuzer: "I agree."
You gotta wonder how much he's paying these people. I hope it's a lot, but even if it isn't I don't think the man is getting his money's worth. Hee.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Elmore Leonard.

According to one of the cover blurbs on one of the books I read this weekend, Elmore Leonard is "the best American writer of crime fiction alive." (Newsweek)

Now, I'm not an extreme mystery buff, but I'm willing to get behind that assessment. Robert B. Parker is not very demanding and is generally at least reasonably amusing, and Ross Thomas is dead, and Donald Westlake...well, he's pretty damn good, but I only read his Dortmunder books, for the most part, so I can't speak to the rest of his body of work. Elmore Leonard, though, rocks the house...everything one reads from him is a pretty good, pretty smart, pretty evil and pretty charming book. All of which is good for crime fiction.

Apparently, Leonard started out writing westerns. That little fact actually cracks me some point I'll have to read one or two of those. But anyway. The first of the two books I read this weekend was Leonard's The Big Bounce, copyright 1969. It was, as near as I can tell, his first crime novel (as opposed to a western, which often involves crime but also six-shooters and horses, which this one does not). And frankly, it's not that good a book. The writing is fine and the plotting is interesting, but it's not the work of the master. It's more of an early journeyman piece.

Here's the thing, though. It was made into a movie. Twice. Once in 1969, and again in 2004. And I find myself wondering, "Why?" Okay, I can get the movie the same year it was published. But who in their right mind would pick it up again? Apparently both movies sucked, too, though for different reasons. I dunno. I'm just puzzled. Maybe when I get to the point where my stories become novels, and my novels begin to rate movie deals, I will understand better. I hope that happens, and of course not just for the understanding. But it does make me scratch my head a bit.

I dunno. Go figure.

There's gotta be an easier way.

That, or we've got still more anecdotal evidence that spending too much time watching television and American action-adventure movies does bad things to the intellectual capacities of our populace.

In any event, on a lighter note (at least for me), I ran across a weird little news item last week about some investment guy in Indiana whose life was falling apart--he was up on charges of fraud (lotta that going around these days, or there should be), his wife was leaving him, he'd just been slapped with a half-million dollar lawsuit or something that had gone against him. Given how the gentleman in question responded to those stimuli, it would appear that he'd also been watching bad crime shows and action movies for some time, and had begun to confuse their plots with reality.

So this guy has a small plane--when he wasn't defrauding small investors in the heartland, apparently he was also an amateur daredevil stunt pilot (yes, I know, you can almost hear it being pitched as a series--I don't see how he could wind up fighting crime, but maybe it could be, like, a "Breaking Bad" for the financial services set). So. He got slammed with all this shit, and so what did he do? Get a drink? Shoot himself? Lawyer up? No. He got into his small plane, filed a flight plan for Florida, packed a parachute, and radioed in a distress call somewhere over Alabama or someplace. Said his windshield had blown in, he was bleeding, and going down.

Thing is, the folks he radioed to scrambled fighter jets to intercept him, found the plane empty and still in the air, windshield intact. Then it turned out the guy had stashed a motorcycle somewhere in Arkansas or wherever (flyover states, unless you're running from the SEC, I guess), and after he parachuted in, he drove off. Manhunt, blah and blah, they caught him.

I just wonder whatever happened to keeping it simple. Have however much money you think you need, in cash, in a duffel bag. Learn the bus routes that get you to your local airport. Take the bag, get on the bus, go to the airport (or the Amtrak station, or the Greyhound), buy a ticket in cash, and go someplace where nobody would ever think of looking for you. What's wrong with that? You might get caught, of course, but at least it winds up being a lot less labor-intensive than all the craziness with planes and motorcycles and parachutes and F-15's.

I dunno. Maybe the guy wanted to be D.B. Cooper. It does have that vibe about it, kinda. Thing is, once someone's been D.B. Cooper, it makes it harder for someone else to duplicate his feat. Anyway. Good times. Cheers.

Of course, that said...

...I've still been checking in with places like "The Economist," and keeping an eye on various and sundry other things that are of interest to me in the world. Like the train wreck that was the recent Israeli incursion into Gaza. The Economist generally toes something of a MSM party line on such issues, but they did actually manage to raise, persistently, the proportionality of the Israeli response to Hamas lobbing homemade rockets over their border. And now that the Israelis have withdrawn, and the press is beginning to see what a parking lot created by tank shells and air strikes looks like in Gaza (as opposed to Lebanon, or Iraq), they have a new piece up that is worth reading, I think.

I particularly like the subtitle to the article:

"Israelis begin to ask whether the war in Gaza was worth it"

Geez, good question, guys. I mean, I can see how the aforementioned rockets could piss you off, but those rockets killed, what, something like ten people over the course of several years, whereas you all killed upwards of 1,300+ Palestinians, more than half civilians by most independent estimates, in about three weeks. And you've given a three-week recruiting exercise for Hamas that they didn't even pay for (well, except with lives), and you didn't achieve your objective, because it's unachievable by military means. Any jackass with a model rocketry set, some C4 and an axe to grind can probably build a rocket they could launch over the border (well, I exaggerate, but not by all that much), and there are now a lot more people in Gaza, I expect, with a not-unreasonable axe to grind. So the rockets will start up again, in time. So you lose. Again.

The Israelis, because they've been living with it longer than most of the rest of us, should be smarter about terrorism and what to do about it. You'd think so, anyway. But apparently not...terrorism is not responsive to military response. The US has learned that, the hard way, over the course of the last six/seven years in Iraq and Afghanistan. The British learned it (sorta) in Northern Ireland over a longer span of time. If the more-empowered political force (in this case the Israelis) don't make more profitable alternatives to blowing shit up available to the less-empowered (in this case the Palestinians), and instead try to strangle them with blockades and demand free elections and then refuse to talk to the people who get elected, and all that's playing out in a place where people have been blowing shit up for years, what's going to happen? Well, more blowing up of shit, I expect.

Maybe Obama can do some good here, by reining the Israeli hawks in a bit. Not much hope of that if Netanyahu (if there's ever an electoral ticket that you're considering voting for that has a major candidate whose name ends, phonetically or otherwise, with "YAHOO," it's a sign...don't go there) gets another shot at being Israel's PM, but, one can hope. Good luck, George Mitchell. Lord knows, you're gonna need it.

Of course, the set dressing for the Gaza thing was an important round of national elections in Israel. Which makes it that much more sickening, because it sounds like it was pretty obviously the election year that necessitated the tanks rolling into Gaza when they did, rather than a clear and present and immediate danger to the Israeli hinterlands. One thing that I suppose gives the US a leg up, even after eight years of GWB&Co.--when we decide to make something an election year political football, it doesn't generally wind up being a football with 1,300 corpses weighing it down. So. Bleah.

LATE UPDATE: William S. Lind, who is a jackass in a lot of ways but really smart about the future of warfare, sounded off recently on the same topic. Cheers.

Not quite knowing how to act...

So I've been thinking about this new blogging thing over the weekend, in between reading a couple of old Elmore Leonard novels and watching the two most recent (and to my mind, slightly disappointing) episodes of Battlestar Galactica. And I'm really not quite sure how to act, especially with the other night's drive-by of my old blog fresh in my brain.

I blogged a lot, back in the day, and it was largely fueled by anger. Righteous anger, I think it's fair to say, but anger nevertheless. And this week has been really interesting for me, because as of noon on Tuesday, EST, a lot of that anger just kind of evaporated. Yes, it's still there in a sense--I still think that all those sons of bitches should be prosecuted, and perhaps even hanged, but they're gone now, back to Texas and Wyoming and similarly unfortunate places, and we as citizens do right now have larger fish to fry.

But for purposes of blogging, I'm not sure what the new motivation will be. We shall see, I suppose. Being guardedly hopeful for the immediate future, though, I've been finding myself not reading the political blogs so much at work this week, or when I get home--I've been spending a lot more time catching up with Bruce Sterling and reading about the offseason doings of various Major League Baseball clubs, and stuff like that. So I dunno. Hopefully it will all be a happier time now, and hopefully I will find the ways and means to blog about happier stuff.

Or, of course, it might not take. We shall see.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Point taken.

Something that a friend of mine emailed me a couple of days ago, regarding the incredible badass jet pilot who landed a de-engined plane in the Hudson and got everyone on board out alive. Think on this.


I expect you've all heard by now of the "miracle" of the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson. (Why do we always have to ascribe these events to a higher power? How about instead of thanking god we thank the highly skilled and quick-thinking pilot and the fast and professional reactions of the flight crew, boat crews, NYPD, etc.)

Something not mentioned thus far: every single person involved in saving the passengers was a union member. This Miracle Brought to You by America’s Unions By: emptywheel Friday January 16, 2009 5:34 am They're calling it a miracle--the successful landing of a US Airways jet in the Hudson and subsequent rescue of all 155 passengers. They're detailing the heroism of all involved, starting with the pilot and including cabin crew, ferry crews, and first responders. What they're not telling you is that just about every single one of these heros is a union member. There's the pilot: What might have been a catastrophe in New York — one that evoked the feel if not the scale of the Sept. 11 attack — was averted by a pilot’s quick thinking and deft maneuvers, [snip] On board, the pilot, Chesley B. Sullenberger III, 57, unable to get back to La Guardia, had made a command decision to avoid densely populated areas and try for the Hudson, [snip] When all were out, the pilot walked up and down the aisle twice to make sure the plane was empty, officials said. Sullenberger is a former national committee member and the former safety chairman for the Airline Pilots Association and now represented by US Airline Pilots Association. He--and his union--have fought to ensure pilots get the kind of safety training to pull off what he did yesterday. Then there are the flight attendants: One passenger, Elizabeth McHugh, 64, of Charlotte, seated on the aisle near the rear, said flight attendants shouted more instructions: feet flat on the floor, heads down, cover your heads. They are members of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. Yesterday's accident should remind all of us that flight attendants are first and foremost safety professionals--they should not be treated like cocktail waitresses. There are the air traffic controllers: The pilot radioed air traffic controllers on Long Island that his plane had sustained a “double bird strike.” They're represented by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Someday, they'll rename National Airport for the work these men and women do to keep us safe in the air. There are the ferry crews: As the first ferry nudged up alongside, witnesses said, some passengers were able to leap onto the decks. Others were helped aboard by ferry crews. They're represented by the Seafarers International Union. They provide safety training to their members so they're prepared for events like yesterday's accident. There are the cops and firemen: Helicopters brought wet-suited police divers, who dropped into the water to help with the rescues. They're represented by the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and the Uniformed Firefighters Association and Uniformed Fire Officers Association (IAFF locals).They're the men and women who performed so heroically on 9/11--and they've been fighting to make sure first responders get the equipment to do this kind of thing. Bob Corker and Richard Shelby like to claim that union labor is a failed business model. But I haven't heard much about Bob Corker and Richard Shelby saving 155 people's lives. Update: Sullenberger's union membership corrected, UFOA added.

Egyptian backgammon

I call it that, anyway, because that is the country I was in when I learned it. But I've kind of got this impulse tonight to write about it, and beyond that to write a book about it--how to play it, how to play it well, and why maybe it matters.

One of the pivotal scenes in the story of mine that Strange Horizons published involves the game, and nobody outside the Middle East seems to know how to play. I taught some folk in Flagstaff how to play last spring, and in the course of explaining the rudiments I found myself offering up the proposition that it was a game of bad decisions--sooner or later things go awry, and you will find yourself in a place where you have no good choices, but only bad ones, and so the key to success is in learning how to choose best between bad options. \

I was out tonight in a bar that has board games (one of two in town, actually--one of the few things to recommend Flagstaff), and played a bunch of this game while I was drinking beer and letting the stupidness of this week ebb away a bit, and I found myself thinking that understanding this game would actually be a boon to foreign policy officials who want to do some good in the Middle East. That is, of course, wildly grandiose drunken talk, but there's something to it as well, I think. We shall see. But there may be a book in it, in any event. A book that nobody will ever publish, perhaps, but a book nevertheless. Cheers.

First Entry--Back to Blogging

Hey, kids.

I'm not entirely sure why, except that my friend Emily observed in a MySpace comment that I should blog more, but here I am, back with a new blog. I did this for awhile back in the day, at My goal at the time was to blog the GWB presidency, but I kind of lost steam on it after my dad posted a comment suggesting that doing so might kill me. I think, in retrospect, that he was wrong, and I'm a little annoyed and bitter that he took the wind out of my sails like that, but it was a bad eight years and I felt it, and so from Dad's perspective, I suppose, a case could be made. Anyway.

That's all over now, thank God. Eight years and change of genuine badness. I spent some of that time watching Scott McClellan pressers on C-SPAN and then drinking heavily and writing about it for a very small online audience. This time around, if it takes and I post more than once, it will be better.

Wow...just took a few minutes and scrolled down through the old blog posts. Good times. Well, not really, but it takes me back. I'd forgotten about the hijacked Greek bus, for instance. Ah, me. Well, I'm kind of drunk, and feeling nostalgic. Bear with me.

Emily and Sacha and I, with a little help from our friends (and random strangers), drank GWB out of office on Monday night. We started drinking fairly rotgut bourbon at the close of business, and got done and popped a split of champagne-like substance roundabout 10pm AZ time (which corresponds to midnight in Washington, DC). The original and ideal version of the proposed ritual was that we drink a shot for each year that we've had to deal with the vileness and evil that GWB visited upon America, and at 9:55 we would repair discreetly to bathrooms to stick fingers down our throats to vomit it up, and then we would drink champagne at 10pm becuase the shithead wouldn't have another full day to damage our country. It didn't quite go that way--we wound up dividing the labor with the shots, and such vomiting as took place was more situational than anything, and so the ritualistic arrangement of the action was less than it could have been, but it went down, ultimately, not unlike the initial conception. So.

As it happened, there was a shot of Jim Beam (I felt dishonorable not doing well bourbon, actually, but Emily wouldn't have ridden it out with me, and Beam is pretty shitty, and so appropriately symbolic) for every year, and whoever was drinking that shot got to articulate the signature Bush atrocity of the year in question. Year by year, they were:

2000--the theft of the presidential election, and the fact that GWB wound up getting elected (legitimately, after a fashion) after a 5 to 4 electoral win in the Supreme Court. (Emily)

2001--the Bush photo op amidst the smoking ruins of the WTC, and the ensuing singing of his praises by the mainstream media as a "leader." (Dan)

2002--shock and awe, and the tanks rolling across the Kuwaiti border into Iraq to begin the war there. (Emily)

2003--"Mission Accomplished!" Not so much, jackass. (Dan)

2004--Abu Ghraib. 'Nuff said.

2005--Katrina. "Heckuva job, Brownie." 'Nuff said. (Emily)

2006--The achievement of an independent count of 1,000,000 fatalities in Afghanistan and Iraq, if figured by counting dead Americans, Iraqis and Afghanis. Quite a landmark. (random dude in the bar)

2007--The US Attorney scandal. GWB succeeded in politicizing the professional political service in this country to an extent that nobody had even imagined someone trying to do until he and his cronies did it. (Dan)

2008--The mortgage crisis. Again, 'nuff said. Though, according to McCain, the fundamentals of the economy were strong. Of course, those fundamentals turned out to be the workers themselves (like us), and as workers they could lift lots of heavy stuff. Like tons and tons of mortgage-backed securities. Yeah. Shitheads. (Emily)

2009--GWB's farewell address. Breathtakingly, but unsurprisingly, he took no responsiblity for the shambles in which his eight years had left the country. Of course, if that was too lightweight for you, you could always watch Cheney's interview with Jim Lehrer the same night. Compared with Cheney, Bush was always a wuss in everything, including the aggressive shirking of responsibility. For me, I would have gone with Bush for all the shit he tried to fuck up as he was walking out the White House door, but props for this surprise nomination. (Sacha)

Anyway. That was Monday night. Since then, it's been a long week. In an odd way, though, oddly hopeful. I was fucking off at work today and surfing the internetz, that glorious system of tubes (not a truck...does anyone else miss Ted Stevens? Have fun in the pen, bitch.), and ran across this item, which I found oddly charming. Yay, Obama. We shall see, but if nothing else it's nice to have someone who's not a stupid, paranoid, insular asshole in the WH. I'm just sayin'.

Whatever. Apropos of the title of my previous blog, it is in fact the fourth day of the rest of our lives now, and I feel like the title of this new one captures my current sensiblilty fairly's sort of hopeful--I mean, shit, there are stars, right?--and at the same time there's also the voice of Hal in the back of my head. "Hal, open the pod bay door." "I'm sorry, I can't do that, Dave."

Yeah. So. We shall see. This has been fun, though...there may be more blogging to come, on various topix. We shall see. Cheers, and thanks for reading, if you have.