Winter is overcompensating

It’s been a dud of a winter, but now the weather service is predicting 25-35 cm (10-14 in) of heavy, wet snow tomorrow, turning to rain in the afternoon, and then freezing and turning back to snow on Monday. It’s maximal yuck.

I’ve already sent an announcement out to all my students that class will be held over Zoom on Monday. The weather forecasts are usually a bit overblown, but let’s play it safe.

Things that will kill your SF book for me

I am an addict, but a healthy one. One of my addictions is reading — every night when I go to bed, I have to spend an hour reading a book, just to settle my brain and redirect it away from constantly fussing over the work I’ll need to do. I try to vary the subjects: so one recent book was Silent Spring, which was a mistake, since it was way too close to my work, and another was The Demon of Unrest, but sometimes I just want some lazy trash, and Kindle Unlimited has been a great source of all kinds of interesting variety. Until lately.

When I look at the Kindle Unlimited offerings, this is what I see:

Do you detect a theme? I get screens full of boobs, crotch shots, and presumably seductive poses. It’s gotten ridiculous, and it’s gotten worse. The Amazon AI knows I enjoy a good SF novel, and to the Amazon AI, that means bosoms. Lots of big, pillowy bosoms everywhere…and most of this cover art is probably generated by an AI somewhere. There was nothing that interested me anywhere.

I had a wild thought that maybe the covers aren’t indicative of the content — maybe it’s the easy availability of cheap AI-generated art has led to writers throwing provocative covers on their work, but that there’s actually some good writing underneath. I made the mistake of downloading a random couple of these things.

No, there isn’t any good writing there. It’s all cheesy, formulaic, stupid shit. I skimmed one that was purportedly about a guy who found a gadget that allowed him to travel back in time to the early 19th century, which has potential for a good story and maybe some interesting stuff about history. Unfortunately, the extent of the history was the author (and his proxy, the protagonist) congratulating themselves on being smarter than those stuffy ivory-tower academics because he knew that the War of 1812 was fought in this period. Did he explore any details of that war? No. What got him enthused about time-traveling was the opportunity to get laid with a busty daughter of a minor politician. Thus, the cover.

What’s worse is that so many of these books are part of a series — sometimes 15,20 books long — that go on and on repetitively, never actually exploring the SF topic they nominally introduce. There are apparently people who consider themselves authors who churn out klunky dialog and interminable “stories” that are all wrapped around unimaginative sex acts, and seem to be written by and for genuinely stupid men. And they’ve driven out all the interesting stuff! (Be warned, though: download one of these trash books, and Amazon will try to feed you even more.) There are good books sprinkled in there, but they’re drowning in all the hackery.

You know we’ve got a guy on this network, William Brinkman, who is trying to make a living writing and marketing through Amazon, and I can’t imagine how tough it is to get noticed while swimming through that morass. He doesn’t succumb to the temptation of lurid cover art or an endless series of books chummed out with minimal effort. He’s also got a book on Kindle Unlimited, A Fire in the Shadows. I may have to stick to familiar authors, rather than exploring new authors, because the hacks have taken over, and that’s
a real shame.

The lesson: You can tell a book by the cover. Also, you get what you pay for.


Surprise. Candace Owens, the anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist, has been fired by Ben Shapiro, the Jewish conservative weirdo. I suspect there were irreconcilable differences.

The feud began last November when Owens tweeted that “no government anywhere has a right to commit a genocide.” While she did not specifically mention the State of Israel, her remarks were widely condemned by her fellow conservative media figures. Soon after, Shapiro publicly called Owens’ behavior “disgraceful” and chided her “faux-sophistication” on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Days later, their feud became even more personal. Owens posted to X a series of Bible verses suggesting “you cannot serve both God and money.” That pointed remark was viewed by many as a not-so-subtle use of the antisemitic “dual loyalty” trope against Shapiro, who responded: “Candace, if you feel that taking money from The Daily Wire somehow comes between you and God, by all means quit.” Owens hit back that her boss was “utterly out of line” and “acting unprofessional and emotionally unhinged for weeks now.”

That same week, Owens appeared for a friendly interview on Tucker Carlson’s web show, where she lamented Shapiro’s “ad hominem attacks” and said she would not respond to him on a “level of intellect” because “there’s nothing that he has expressed… that he fundamentally disagrees with in terms of what I said.” Carlson agreed, taking issue with how Shapiro had skipped past saying “‘I don’t think she’s correct’ or ‘Maybe she doesn’t know what she’s talking about,’” and went straight to labeling her “absolutely disgraceful.”

I don’t care for either one’s opinions, they’re both stupid and annoying. But at least there was some entertainment value in watching them shred each other.

Musk mocking, it’s always fun

I greatly enjoyed this skewering of his stupid cybertruck. Maybe you will too.

If you really want to annoy Musk, be a wealthy woman. Mackenzie Scott, Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife, has announced that she plans to donate $640 million to charity, which will lead to the downfall of Western Civilization, according to one really wealthy idiot.

‘Super rich ex-wives who hate their former spouse’ should filed be listed among ‘Reasons that Western Civilization died,’ Musk said in a now-deleted X post on March 6.

Musk didn’t elaborate on why he’d singled out Scott, but he’s been a harsh critic of efforts to promote corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion.

DEI is just another word for racism. Shame on anyone who uses it, Musk said in an X post in January.

Scott does not impress me — she has a net worth of $40 billion, so giving away a small percentage of that is not much of a sacrifice. But OK, it’s a token amount, wish it was a lot more. But what will kill American civilization, at least, is the existence of billionaires of either sex who wield undue influence on the culture. Scott, Bezos, and Musk are the problem.

I should write something about DEI, because I’m at a university that doesn’t blink twice at DEI initiatives, so I’ve got lots of experience with it. It wouldn’t be an exciting post, though, because DEI is just fine, we should do more of it.

None should be too big for justice

I’ve been a fanatical Apple fanboi for over 40 years. I bought my first Apple II in 1980, and I switched to the Mac in 1984, when they first came out. I was an official Apple developer in the 1990s — I persevered throughout that long period when everyone was predicting that the company would eventually fade away, eaten up by the evil Microsoft. I stuck it out through the 6502 era, the 68000 series era, the Intel era, and now the Apple Silicon era. My lab is full of Macs. I’ve got a Mac desktop and a Mac Powerbook and an iPhone. You may not question my devotion.

And then

The Justice Department sued tech giant Apple on Thursday, kicking off a potentially historic antitrust battle. The lawsuit alleges that Apple’s ecosystem of products are designed to limit competition and put consumers at a disadvantage. “Each step in Apple’s course of conduct built and reinforced the moat around its smartphone monopoly,” the authors write. Later in the filing they add that “this case is about freeing smartphone markets from Apple’s anticompetitive and exclusionary conduct and restoring competition to lower smartphone prices for consumers, reducing fees for developers, and preserving innovation for the future.”

Good! It’s about time! Apple is a big fat bloated tax-evading monster that needs to be smacked down and taught some humility. Every big company needs to be regulated, and I don’t exclude the ones that make great products that I love.

The kids are still all right

Cry harder, murderer

A crybaby made an appearance at the University of Memphis, in a talk sponsored by Turning Point USA, that despicable organization. A good-sized group of students showed up, not to cheer Kyle Rittenhouse on, but to roast him. Kyle couldn’t take it — it was all just questions and booing — and he turned tail and ran.

Kyle Rittenhouse, who became a darling of the right after shooting three protesters in 2020, hightailed it off a stage at the University of Memphis on Wednesday night as a crowd of demonstrators booed him.

Video from the event showed several protesters in black T-shirts in attendance. One of them stood up and questioned Rittenhouse about Charlie Kirk, the far-right conservative activist whose youth organization, Turning Point U.S.A., sponsored Rittenhouse’s appearance.

They grilled him on his good buddy, Charlie Kirk, pointing out that he was a racist, and like the dumbest straight man in the universe, Rittenhouse asked him to elaborate, and even said that he was going to “dialogue” about it.

When the protester alleged that Kirk has “said a lot of racist things,” Rittenhouse immediately grew defensive.

“Like what? What racist things has Charlie Kirk said?” he fired back from the podium. “We’re gonna have a bit of a dialogue of what racist things Charlie Kirk said.”

The protester was unfazed.

“He says that we shouldn’t celebrate Juneteenth, we shouldn’t celebrate Martin Luther King Day—we should be working those days. He called Ketanji Brown Jackson an affirmative action hire, he said all this nonsense about George Floyd, and he said he’d be scared if a Black pilot was on a plane. Does that not seem racist?”

“I don’t know anything about that,” Rittenhouse said, prompting jeers from the room.

Why propose a dialogue on a subject you know nothing about? It did not go well for him — although the dialogue turned out to be very brief.

“I’m not gonna comment on that,” Rittenhouse answered, as the room once again erupted in boos. Rittenhouse waited on stage for a beat, but stormed off after he was approached by one of the event’s organizers. He did not look back or make any other comments as he left the stage.

The boos turned to cheers as he walked off.

Yes! That’s how all these scumbags should be treated at every event — make them cower behind nice safe audiences, dreading the appearance of a single naysayer.

I guess I should give up on the idea of retirement

It’s an ever-retreating target. I’ve been worried about the loss of income and the sudden increase in health care costs, so I’ve been deferring it, which is no favor to my students given how ancient I am (or, alternatively, it’s a benefit because if I were to leave, the administration wouldn’t replace me for years, if at all.) I might as well give up on the fantasy, if the Republicans get their way.

Note that Trump recently threatened social security and medicare.

The Trump campaign was in full damage control last week after the former president called in to CNBC and suggested making cuts from Medicare and Social Security, which offer financial care to retired Americans or those with a disability.

But, you say, that was just Trump, who is insane, and his campaign is backpedaling fast.

Except that the Republican party is pushing for the same thing!

A new budget by a large and influential group of House Republicans calls for raising the Social Security retirement age for future retirees and restructuring Medicare.

The proposals, which are unlikely to become law this year, reflect how many Republicans will seek to govern if they win the 2024 elections. And they play into a fight President Joe Biden is seeking to have with former President Donald Trump and the Republican Party as he runs for re-election.

I’m eligible to retire right now, but maybe in a few years I won’t be old enough. It won’t be because I’m getting younger — time doesn’t work that way.