In which I am more blatant than usual

Every so often I use either my blog or my Patreon as a bulwark against my own shitty memory, and this is going to be one of those times: I started on the Effexor last night, so today is Day One, and so far I have been dizzy all day and I have been sleepy, although not as bad as my recollection of the Lexapro early times were. The dizziness is manageable and the small supply of Meclizine I happen to have on hand cut it but didn’t kill it; I’m going to avoid driving any time I don’t absolutely have to for the next couple of days, but this isn’t close to bad enough to keep me home from work.

Yet, of course. We’ll see how tomorrow goes.


An utterly random observation: we watched the two-part season finale of Season 10 of Masterchef last night, and I continue to have the most useless mutant power of all time: we watch every one of Gordon Ramsay’s stupid competition programs and I have only been wrong about the winner once in all that time, either on Masterchef, Masterchef Junior or Hell’s Kitchen. Most of the time I’ve been able to pick the winner out several episodes before the end but I’m pretty sure I’m well into statistically impossible by now in terms of how often I’m right on the final episode.

Also, I’m not going to do a full review, but if you happen to be the type of person for whom a combination history of antisepsis and biography of Joseph Lister (the guy whose name was eventually appropriated for Listerine) sounds appealing, you could do an awful lot worse than reading Lindsey Fitzharris’ The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine. It’s not for the squeamish, and I nearly didn’t make it through the book’s description of a surgery to remove a bladder stone in the prologue, but it’s good stuff.

In which I’ve done 1/3 of my job, maybe

I love the visual shorthand that has evolved for pictures of teachers; there are literally dozens of variants on this picture of a teacher rubbing her temples at a desk piled with books with vaguely math-looking chalk notes on an obsolete blackboard behind her.

I received some small amount of evidence today that I have, indeed, been teaching at least seventh grade math for the last, oh, five weeks or so; my kids had a test today on adding and subtracting positive and negative integers and they did, on the whole, a bit better than I thought they were going to. I apparently have not been teaching eighth grade math, which makes me wonder just what the hell I’ve been doing with my time four class periods out of every day for that same five weeks. My students certainly do not appear to have learned anything, or at least they have not learned anything about classifying numbers, which is what I’ve been trying to teach them, and spending yesterday telling them exactly what was going to be on the test as well as providing them with an extensive supply of notes, presentations and videos on the subject (in addition to my own actual instruction) appears to have gotten me absolutely nowhere.

I’m blaming them, mostly.

Okay, that’s probably unfair, but I note that the kids who I can generally count on to give a shit appear to have actually learned something; the problem is that in 8th grade the supply of available Give a Shit is somewhat lower than it is in other grades, and, well, my kids have a bit of a shortage situation going on at the moment. This is, it should also be noted, not the most interesting or immediately useful of mathematics, either; even laying my usual cynicism about the world to the side I can’t really pretend that knowing how to distinguish a rational number from an irrational one is a skill that any of them are ever going to actually need. And while I usually bare my teeth and snarl at the when are we gonna use this school of avoiding acquiring new knowledge, there’s still a spectrum to these things, and this isn’t all that high on that spectrum.

Ah well. This was actually a pretty good week once it got started, and don’t tell anyone I said this but it’s possible that I’m starting to make some headway with the gang of hellions in my seventh hour class. I discovered to my bewilderment earlier this week that despite them being my most behavior-impaired class by a wide margin they are also getting the best grades and have the smallest amount of missing work. This fact rendered me unable to even for nearly a full hour. I was curious to see if it would also lead to them getting the highest grades on the test today; they … did not. I made the mistake of praising them and it went to their heads, I think; I’ll not make that mistake in the future.

I really like my seventh grade classes, by the way. They’re both fun groups even when they’re being more buttheady than usual. I like nearly all of my 8th graders as individuals; as classes … well, we’re still working on about half of them. But we’re only a month in. Plenty of time. I’m sure I’ll have everybody beaten into shape by June.

#REVIEW: GIDEON THE NINTH, by Tamsyn Muir

I have preordered two books this year, both in response to pre-publication hype that lasted months and had me salivating for the book in question. The first, Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers, ended up being everything I hoped it would be. The second is Gideon the Ninth, a book I’m pretty sure I added to my Amazon wishlist in January and now somehow it is September and it’s finally been released and I’ve read it.

And … well. I wouldn’t quite use the word disappointed. Okay, yeah, I would, because I am kind of disappointed with it, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad book, it means that I went into it wanting my world changed and did not get that. Gideon the Ninth is a good book. Depending on how it survives in my memory, despite the four-star review I gave it on Goodreads I can imagine it sneaking onto my end-of-year list anyway despite its flaws. But this is going to be a rare mixed review from me; normally I don’t review four-star books– it’s usually extreme enthusiasm or warnings to stay away, and this will be neither.

Let’s start with the part I can say unreservedly positive things about: if you can get a first edition of this book, with the black-stained pages, do it. Gideon the Ninth as a physical artifact is a rare piece of art; the paper feels great, the endpapers are nice, the gold embossing on the actual hardcover is gorgeous, and there is something primordially satisfying about flipping through black-stained pages and watching them settle back down, to the point where I frequently found myself doing it for the hell of it. I tried to get video of it and couldn’t get anything I was happy with, but if you want to read this, go get it right now, because the black edges are only going to be on the first edition and you want them. The book has already gone back for a second printing, so get going.


I have never been able to use “not enough lesbian necromancers” as a complaint about a book before, although now that I think about it I can complain that literally every book I’ve ever read does not feature enough lesbian necromancers now that I’ve conceived of the idea. And make no mistake: lesbian necromancers are mentioned on the cover and the phrase “lesbian necromancers in space” has been a big part of the pre-release promo of this book. The thing is, they’re not really in space– they travel from one planet to another at one point but space travel really isn’t a thing this book is concerned about, and the lion’s share of the action takes place in a single building. When I started reading this I said on Twitter that it felt like Kameron Hurley had written a Gene Wolfe book, and that’s still true but there are undeniable echoes of Gormenghast in this as well. And yes, there are necromancers– lots of them– and Gideon is indeed a lesbian, but other than a mild crush on another character and whatever the hell her relationship is with the other major character of the book is, the “lesbian necromancer” angle is somehow left less explored than you might think.

Weak worldbuilding is kind of a major problem, really; Gideon and Harrowhawk, her necromancer, are of the Ninth House, out of (presumably) nine total, and the book basically takes representatives of Houses two through nine and dumps them into a crumbling castle to … compete? over … something? Like, they’re trying to become Lictors, or maybe it’s Lyctors, I don’t remember and the book’s in my bedroom, only what a Lictor is is never really very carefully explained, the characters themselves don’t really know what they’re being asked to do, and the very nature of the contest itself is left deliberately unclear, even to the characters. This isn’t me not being a careful enough reader; the characters are literally told that the only rule is not to open locked doors uninvited and then the dude in charge basically shrugs his shoulders and walks away. They spend most of the rest of the book collecting keys and eventually there’s somewhat of a murder mystery. Imagine Myst, only with lots of skeletons and something like twenty characters to keep track of. It’s kind of a lot. I can’t wrap my head around how this world works at all, and the author mostly doesn’t want you to.


I would forgive you if you were, at this point, wondering why I’m saying I still liked the book. And here’s the thing: this is Tamsyn Muir’s debut novel, and the last few pages make it clear that a sequel is coming, and where Muir excels is her actual, sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph writing. I just wish the whole book hung together as well as any individual page does, because her writing is gorgeous and a joy to read. Gideon herself is a fascinating character for the most part even if some of her decisions don’t necessarily make a ton of sense and her dialogue is weirdly anachronistic a lot of the time (no one else in the book talks like Gideon does) and I genuinely wanted to know more about her. I think ultimately the best comparison I can make is to Nicky Drayden’s The Prey of Gods, a book I actually didn’t finish but was nonetheless so oozing with potential that the idea that I might not buy her second book never even occurred to me. And that’s ultimately where I’m at with Gideon the Ninth: this is not a great book, but Tamsyn Muir is absolutely going to write great books in the future, and I’m excited to have gotten in on the ground floor.

In which I shouldn’t post this

The last couple of days have been … well, downright pleasant at work, with no particular episodes of bullshit worth passing on. I took a video today of one of my more generally troublesome kids doing something both entertaining and mysterious; he appears to have the ability to blow smoke (well, water vapor, but it looks like smoke) out of his mouth more or less at will, and I recorded him doing it so that I can show it to my wife and have her science it and tell me what the hell he’s actually doing. I’d post it, but it’s somebody else’s kid, and the parent doesn’t know, and … eh, nah.

(Goes on YouTube)

Oh, here’s what he’s doing. I still want to know more about the science:

Anyway, yeah, it’s just like my life for me to decide I need to go on antidepressants again and then have two genuinely good days at work. Tomorrow, no doubt, will be a hell-nightmare, because I’ve posted this.

Okay who did this

The answer is “the rights to mine will be a lot cheaper”