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.