I volunteered for this?

Warning: posting may be intermittent, and I may be particularly cranky. I volunteered to chair two search committees at once — we’re trying to find sabbatical replacements, and since I’m a terrible person abandoning my colleagues for a year, I felt obligated to put in one last surge of work to get it done. Unfortunately, it’s all coming down in the last two weeks of class, so I’m a little overwhelmed right now. A little. May break down in tears soon.

Also, stress means I wake up at 3am now and can’t get back to sleep, which further increases stress. Who designed this physiology, anyway? This is not the place to stick a feed-forward loop.

I just have to hang in there for a few more weeks, and then as a reward for when everything is all done, I’ve scheduled a colonoscopy.

I don’t think I’ve ever read Writers of the Future

I’ve been an avid devourer of science fiction for decades, so it’s a little odd that I’ve missed out on this anthology, Writers of the Future. It’s been cruising along for 34 years, and apparently they throw a colossal, glitzy gala in Hollywood every year, flying in the authors and partying…for a week? Jeeez, writers…so spoiled, they’re all just rolling in the dough.

And here I’ve never even seen the books, let alone paid for one. How are the publishers paying for this? Oh, here’s the answer.

Yikes. “L. Ron Hubbard presents…” — that’s as good as slapping a glowing green Mr Yuck sticker on the cover as far as I’m concerned. No way would I ever pick up something like that, but at least we know how a few authors can get treated swankily. It’s by selling out to a corrupt criminal cult. Tony Ortega has been writing about this PR gimmick for years, but still authors fall for it and still participate, and they should be embarrassed. Also because paying homage to an extraordinarily schlocky pulp author who founded a religion should be something to be ashamed of.

The bad news is that if you get published in Writers of the Future, no one will read it except Scientologists, and everyone who sees your name listed there will know you’re a sellout. The good news is that no one will crack the cover to see your name on the roll of the shameful.

O my fellow Academics, this poem will rip your heart out with its truth

I wept several times while reading A POEM ABOUT YOUR UNIVERSITY’S ABSOLUTE AND UNWAVERING APPRECIATION OF ITS FACULTY IN SPITE OF SAID FACULTY’S CRAP SALARIES. I might have howled a few times, too, but I blacked out at the end and the last hour has been a blur.

Maybe we need a law against too much raw honesty in our poetry. It’s dangerous.

News from the prairie

MPR talked about Morris today! A sign of the future in Morris: Cows + solar panels + fast electric car charger. We crave this kind of fame.

Today, the university community is celebrating the arrival of the only fast electric vehicle charger for more than 100 miles around. And later this spring, a 30-kilowatt solar array will be installed in an adjacent cow pasture, sending clean power to the charger.

It’s a big deal for electric vehicle ownership in western Minnesota: It can take days to charge an electric car at home from a regular electric outlet. Before now, the nearest fast charger was 120 miles away in Monticello.

Also, this:

“It’s sort of a wasteland beyond Monticello, and there’s nothing west of us,” said Eric Buchanan, a renewable energy researcher at the center.

(Monticello is a bit more than a 100 miles east of us; the Dakotas are west.)

So now you know. We are an oasis of electricity in the center of great empty wasteland, devoid of anything. OK, there is a bit of truth to that, except we do have far more corn and soybeans than you’d see in a Mad Max-style wasteland.

Maybe we should take the train

Wow, the pilot on Southwest 1380 was remarkably professional and effective in dealing with an in-flight emergency.

Watch the first part of the video for the praise for Tammy Jo Shults, but then get horrified at the end, when it mentions that there was a similar incident in 2016, when an engine fan blade snapped. At that time, the engine manufacturers recommended ultrasound inspection of all turbine fans to spot invisible cracks in the blades.

Southwest Airlines ‘resisted’. The excuse in the video? “The airline business is a profit-making business.” Yeah, capitalism.

Apparently, other airlines also resisted. I’d like to know who, because we’re about to book some flights to visit family, and I’d rather not experience exploding engines or getting sucked out through a window. Southwest is off the list.

A curious phenomenon

Most mornings, I get up a few hours before my wife does, and shortly afterwards I carry out the morning ritual of Making the Coffee, and I dutifully deliver a cup to her bedside, where the sweet strong smell gently awakens her. I’ve been noticing an odd thing, though: we have lots of cups, and a place in the kitchen cupboard where we put them, but on many mornings, the cups are not there. Thus begins another part of the morning ritual, the Quest for Coffee Cups. I tend to find them in the dining room, in the living room, and in our bedroom, strangely always on the table near her side of the bed, and also, they have often collected tea bags in their interiors.

From my observations, I have determined that these ceramic cups undergo a daily migration, and that they wander the house to prey upon teabags. I am pretty sure there’s a complex hidden ecosystem at work here. For instance, I’ve noticed that if I take off my socks in my office and leave them by my slippers, sometime during the day they will mysteriously disappear. My first hypothesis was that the hungry coffee cups were snatching them up, but I’ve never found a cup with a sock in it, suggesting that there may be some other medium-sized predator prowling about the house. I’m eyeing the casserole dish. Or maybe the toaster.

The existence of a hitherto unnoticed food web operating inside my house has me vaguely worried. If I vanish some day, somebody check the guts of the dishwasher, or possibly the cabinet in my office. They’ve been trying too hard to look nonchalant lately, and could be plotting something.

I think I stepped into a time machine and fell back into the 90s

I think the death of Art Bell put me in a time warp. Here’s an interesting story about an army fellow who actually was listening in on Art Bell’s broadcasts while looking for Russkis. He makes the same point I did, that he really was an enabler for the alt-right and wackaloon conservatism.

Once I learned what had happened, I could no longer listen to those favorite talk radio shows anymore. Alex Jones was not simply a funny or stupid clown now. I understood that he was not simply sharing airwaves with disturbed people and utter fanatics, he was borrowing their silly ideas, and listeners who would not otherwise accept anti-Semitic or racist material learned to accept the narrative frameworks of those ideas through him.

As Jones made it okay to believe in this alternate reality, Art Bell made it okay to believe whatever you liked, often on the same station at a later hour. Vampires and werewolves? Ghosts and goblins? Area 51 cover-ups of alien bodies and interstellar spacecraft? Subterranean lizard people controlling the banks? Maybe some of them were real, or maybe all of them were real.

Even greater weirdness: did you know the FBI was investigating those dangerous Dungeons & Dragons players while hunting for the Unabomber?

And then…oh dear.

Aren’t you glad to be living in the second decade of the 20th century when everything is normal again?