March 1st, 2010


[links] Link salad knows there's a sign on the wall

My buddy kenscholes is interviewed

What Authors sell to Publishers — Charlie Stross on literary contracts, in excruciating detail. Really. Go read it, even if you think you understand this stuff.

x-planes with an illustration that could have come right out of the Mainspring series

15 mind-blowing moon base designs — (Via Dark Roasted Blend.)

Branding and the 'Me' Economy — Any of this sound familiar to you authors out there?

Flaunting our disobedience — PZ Myers on sacrilege. Remember, people will fight and die because they want to stop you from doing something so trivial and harmless as sketching what you think Mohammed looked like. That's stupid and wrong, and it is their problem, not yours. Sacrilege is exercising your freedom, a freedom they don't want you to have.

Gregg: Reconciliation Is The Rule Of The Senate — Republican Senator Gregg in 2005 (when the GOP controlled the Senate): "Is there something wrong with majority rules? I don't think so." Gregg today: "[Majority rules is like] running over the minority, putting them in cement and throwing them in the Chicago River." Ah, that much vaunted conservative intellectual consistency. It's right over there with the principals and the moral compass, right? Oh, you lost those. Sorry.

The Axis of the Obsessed and Deranged — Frank Rich on the Tea Party. The distinction between the Tea Party movement and the official G.O.P. is real, and we ignore it at our peril. I disagree strongly with this. The Tea Party is the logical outgrowth, perhaps inevitable, of thirty years of Atwater-Ailes rhetoric and electoral strategy. The GOP fostered the rhetoric and anger that built, Tea Party, fanned the flames, and continues to look the other way at the lunacy, sedition and occasional outright terrorism that brings in the vote. Confidential to the Republican party: you built it, you own it. Don't stick the rest of us with the fucking bill now.

Al Gore in The New York Times on climate change — Sadly, the facts continue to be biased against the conservative position. Wow, what a shock.

?otD: Are you sure that words sometimes have two meanings?

Writing time yesterday: 3 hours
Body movement: 30 minute stationary bike ride
Hours slept: 7.0 (adequate)
This morning's weigh-in: n/a (forgot to weight)
Yesterday's chemo stress index: 7/10
Currently reading: [between books]


[cancer] Chemo dreams, redux

My dreams from Saturday night, summarized.
The first dream

Driving a cream colored rented Cadillac along a freeway through a deep, curving road cut. The sky is that strange mix of stormy and bright. Traffic is moderate but moving very fast. I am suddenly struck blind by something I realize is a stroke. The Child is in the passenger seat, and very calmy begins telling me where to steer. I can find neither the brake nor the accelerator, but I can feel the car swaying and swerving as my 12-year-old daughter guides me. I feel utterly out of control, and deeply panicked.

The second dream

I am in a Portland hipster squat, some 3/1 rental house in NE with about six tenants. I am me: middle-aged, sick, on chemo, and I have no idea what I'm doing with a bunch of 23-year-old cool kids. The place is grungy and moldy and hung with Indian print linen and old tye-dye. A cute young woman with maroon hair and piercings is very interested in me, so we go into her room and start making out. After we get naked she realizes how old and sick I am. It all goes sideways.

The third dream

Now it's a hotel, somewhere downtown. An old railroad hotel, one of those transient places, like a giant version of the hipster squat except occupied by middle aged men too far down on their luck. The street outside is crazy wide, like one of those Communist boulevards with no cars where they parade the missiles every May Day. I find my way to my grungy little room, and there's another hipster chick. She wants to make out, I tell her no, and begin cleaning my medical equipment. Needles, tubes, ampoules, all of it bloody.

I have a little zebra fish in a bowl. The girl persists in trying to get me to go somewhere with her. I finally relent, and realize if I do no one will be home to feed my zebra fish. To spare it slow starvation, I kill my fish with one of my chemo needles. Crying, I leave with the girl.

The fourth dream

I am in the giant boulevard, walking along, deeply regretting that I killed my fish. The girl who tempted me out has vanished. An enormous traveling crane comes up the street, the kind they have at railyards to unload the intermodal trailers, except bigger. Some madman has hijacked it and is hunting me. His threats blare across the city on loudspeakers. I run from one building to the next, looking for shelter, but no one will help me because of the trail of death and destruction that follows me.

It's all there — anxieties about medicine, parenting, sexuality, competency; the sense of displacement and threat. My subconscious can be astonishingly transparent.


[politics] Why I poke so much at my friends on the Right

Quite some time ago, the_flea_king commented in passing that I have a hate-on for Republicans. His observation isn't unreasonable, given the general tenor of my political commentary, but there's both more and less to it.

First of all, I don't hate anybody. I hate a lot of things people say or do, but I remain firmly convinced that virtually everyone considers themselves a decent, moral human being, and that most people believe they're doing the right thing most of the time. This remains true, even when people are dead nuts wrong about stuff and their beliefs are causing suffering and death for others.

I do come closer to true hate when I look at people who deliberately misuse the truth and cause harm for personal advancement. That's true whether it's political, social, financial or even just on the petty, personal level. And I have a tendency to include rank, conscious hypocrisy in that mix.

Don't get me wrong. We're all hypocrites at least some of the time, myself first and foremost. Human nature is fundamentally inconsistent, and human thought isn't much better at consistency. I personally place an immensely high value on intellectual consistency, yet I hold a number of mutually or internally contradictory views on a wide range of subjects from the trivial to the critical. But there's a big difference between the venal sin of human inconsistency and the mortal sin of deliberate dishonesty for personal benefit.

So, to politics, keeping this mental framework in mind.

I moved to Texas in the fall of 1982 to attend college at the University of Texas at Austin. At the time I held a set of poorly-informed, largely liberal, convictions based around the idea that everybody ought to have a fair shot in life, and the best way to ensure that was to use the power of government and society to help everybody up onto a level playing field. (Not so different from the convictions I hold these days, frankly, if anything I've slowly radicalized as I've aged, but I'm also much better informed.) It was perfectly obvious to me even in 1982 from listening to the Reagan-Carter debates in 1980 and watching Reagan govern that the Republican Party didn't stand for much I cared about in the way of fairness or opportunity, except to defend continued opportunity for those already well-blessed with it. (Also a conviction which has only deepened as I age.) In effect, my definition of "opportunity" is helping others who haven't been able to get as far as I have. The conservative definition of "opporunity" seems to be helping those who've helped themselves.

UT was rife with Young Republicans, Campus Crusade for Christ, and dozens of other political and religious organizations not very distinguishable from one another to this young liberal. The state of Texas, in general, was as doggedly and blindly conservative as always, a fact well reflected in the reporting, editorial pages and reader/viewer feedback of virtually every media outlet available with the partial exception of The Daily Texan, our campus newspaper, and The Austin Chronicle, our local alternative weekly. The mid-cycle elections of 1982 were rife with party switching, as the Southern Republican realignment was in full swing. We were told over and over again that conservatives had common sense and uncommon courage.

The message everywhere, often in so many words, was that liberals are immoral, foolish, untrustworthy and destructive to American interests. Conservatives are ethical, consistent, with strong moral compasses and common sense. And I had ths pounded into me for years on end. All the while watching the arrant greed, hypocrisy and sheer gall of the Reagan-Bush years flow by, and even more during the Clinton years, when we were lectured endlessly that "character counts" and it was all about the Rule of Law. (Iran-Contra, anyone?)

So while I have no great brief for the Democrats, their party's nominal values at least somewhat align with mine. And their hypocrisies tend to be personal rather than the institutional schizophrenia of the Republican Party. (For serious, go read the 2008 Republican Party platform, then try to reconcile any of that with GOP governance over the past thirty years. Other than tax cuts and mindless opposition to abortion, it's as divorced from conservative reality as can be.) Whereas what I see and hear on the conservative side to this day is continuous disparagement and namecalling of me and my values, wrapped in a flag and the putative morality of toxic Christianism.

So I don't have a hate-on for Republicans, or conservatives. I have a hate-on for most of their rhetoric and many of their deeds, and especially the self-perpetuating myth of the moral superiority and rectitude of conservative positions.

In other words, I have a hate-on for wholesale, for-profit hypocrisy. Especially hypocrisy that is actively destructive to our national interests and undermines our culture — climate change denial, evolution denial and the forced pregnancy movement are all at the root driven by money and interests that don't actually believe in those causes, but see them as ways to rally millions of reliably passionate votes. If not for deliberately cynical Republican electoral strategies, none of those issues would be significant on the national radar. And these conservative hobbyhorses are profoundly destructive to our society, our national security and our future competitiveness.

And while we're all hypocrites, having spent years being told by conservatives that I was morally inferior, intellectually inconsistent and ethically unreliable, as well as inherently anti-American for simply wanting people to have opportunities in this life, my sensitivity to the insitutional hypocrisies of your Republican party is beaten firmly into my political bones.

So long as the GOP claims the mantle of "real America" and moral superiority, I'll call out conservative bullshit often as I can. When you need to rely on arrant rabble rousers and eliminationists like Limbaugh, Beck and Palin to speak for you, you don't have a meaningful message. Noise does not substitute for signal. Find me some intellectually honest, self-consistent conservatives like Daniel Larison, and I'll start listening with something other than a lifetime's irritation.


[poll] The Tweetsnark poll

Poll #1532162 The Tweetsnark poll

Should weekend movie Tweetsnark be a regular feature?

Hell, yes!
Are you nuts? No way. Stop polluting the Internets with your ravings.
Huh? What is weekend movie Tweetsnark?

Which of the following would you like to see Tweetsnarked next?

Buckaroo Banzai
Earth Girls Are Easy
Ice Pirates
Killer Klowns From Outer Space
The Phantom Menace
Something else I will explain in comments

Bonus self-referential question

Deep fried Mars Bars
I got into a van with a clown once...just once
The Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act of 1930
I would like to complain to james_nicoll about this poll


[cancer] More on the mouth; and my hair, oh my hair

Oh, the joys of chemo. My oncology clinic advises me that the problems in my mouth are likely persistent and may be continuous through the rest of my chemo cycle. In other words, til the end of June. They are prescribing "magic mouthwash", recommended to me by both shelly_rae and my pharmacist, which is an unlikely-sounding cocktail of Lidocaine, Benadryl and Maalox. Lidocaine numbs the pain, Bendaryl soothes the inflammation, and Maalox apparently binds it all together and coats the tissues so active ingredients can stick around inside the mouth long enough to have some effect.

I can't wait to see what this tastes like.

At any rate, I should be able to pick some up before departing for Rain Forest on Wednesday with calendula_witch. At the moment, my diet is pretty damned limited by the fact that I can't put anything besides mush in my mouth without being sorry, so I look forward to the improvement. Even if everything does taste like Maalox from now on.

In other news, brushing my hair after my shower this morning I realized I could see most of my scalp. The thinning has progressed to the point where I'm starting to look like one of those combover people. My choices are clear: to start wearing brown jumpsuits and aviator frame glasses, or cut it all off. So the hair is coming off. Because I can't freaking stand this.

If it was up to me, I'd take it off tomorrow, but calendula_witch and shelly_rae would have to take numbers and stand in line to kill me for doing it so abruptly. I'll deal with it next week after Rain Forest Writers Workshop. Probably can't go full shave, for reasons of safety (I cannot afford a nicked scalp), but I will have short hair for the first time in a decade.

And yes, I have a funny-shaped head. Why do you ask?

Stay tuned for details. I might make a party of the shaving off.


[books] My one and only public appearance between now and September

I will be reading and signing Pinion immediately after its March 30th release date at Powell's Cedar Hills Crossing on Thursday, April 1st, at 7 pm. Thanks to chemo and its discontents, this is my sole promotional event for the book. It's a one-stop book tour!

This will also be my one and only public appearance this year until calendula_witch and I go to Au Contraire in New Zealand and AussieCon 4 in Australia at the end of the summer. My next public appearance here in the US will be the Seattle-area convention Foolscap in the fall.

So if you'd like to get my latest novel hot off the press, listen to me read, or have anything signed, mark your calendars now for April 1st. If you just want to show up and support me in my cancer battle, that would be a delight, too. It would please me to no end to fill the place. I look forward to seeing some, all or none of you there.