Wait, what?

So I’m watching a School Board meeting right now, as they’re talking about what the plan is for us to return to school– incidentally, the superintendent is clearly on his phone right now and doesn’t appear aware that his camera is still on, which is just wonderful— and they are talking about a hybrid model, where kids above 6th grade attend part of the week, based on their last names.

One thing I did see that was different was that they appear to have realized that many of our kids have siblings with different last names; the rule is that each family attends based on the last name of the oldest kid. Okay, cool.

But never once to my knowledge has anyone actually discussed what the kids who aren’t in school are supposed to be doing. So, if Billy is supposed to be physically in class on Monday and Tuesday, and everybody’s e-learning on Wednesday … is Billy doing anything on Thursday and Friday? And if so, who’s instructing him?

That’s kind of a big oversight, y’all. I’m starting to wonder if they’ve even realized it’s a problem.

Jesus, what a clusterfuck. Just keep them the fuck home.

On fixing American democracy

(Note: this is as close as I’m going to come, I think, to a post about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, mostly because I still can’t think clearly about it. Check my Instagram for a minor tribute to her that I did, though.)

I turned eighteen in July of 1994, which means that my first presidential vote was for Bill Clinton’s reelection in 1996. Since I have been old enough to vote– and I am 44– there has been only one election where the Republican candidate for President got a majority of the popular vote. For some reason, though, there have been twelve years in that time where I had Republican presidents– because in two other elections, the winner of the popular vote did not win the Electoral college. And I’m not going to do the math to figure out the exact numbers, but during those years where I’ve been able to vote there has– I will use the word frequently— been situations where the balance of the Senate and the House did not reflect the number of votes received by the elected officials of that party as well.

The Republicans have been given a head start in our democracy for my entire adult life. The Republican agenda does not enjoy popular nationwide support, but their power in our government is aided by the Electoral College and a Constitution that says every state must have exactly two senators– a compromise that might have made sense in 1789 but no longer really does when California literally has nearly seventy times as many people as Wyoming but only eighteen times as many electoral votes.

The following things need to happen:

  1. Washington DC must be granted statehood as soon as humanly possible. Right now residents of our nation’s capital have literally no representation in Congress, and DC has around 200,000 more residents than Wyoming does. This isn’t fair. It needs to be fixed.
  2. Puerto Rico, with a population of 3.2 million, more than 20 states, has a more complicated statehood picture, which I admit I’m far from an expert on– my understanding is that there was a recent statehood referendum that won, but which many opponents claimed was a poor representation of the actual mood of the island. I don’t know if that’s a legitimate argument or not. I just don’t. I will phrase it this way, then: Puerto Rico should be granted the option of statehood, and hopefully we can have a cleaner referendum in the near future to see if they prefer statehood or independence. Either way, they’ve been a territory for far too long.

You may be pointing out in your head right now that this does not precisely solve the problem of the Electoral College, and furthermore does not really reflect the enormous advantage smaller rural states have in the Senate, allowing them to potentially block legislation desired by overwhelming majorities of Americans. This is true, and I don’t see a way to overcome that roadblock short of setting a ceiling for a state’s population and carving a few of the bigger states up, which doesn’t seem super likely. But we can limit the antidemocratic effects of the Electoral College without a Constitutional amendment.

How? By increasing the size of the House.

The Constitution does not specify how many seats the House needs to have, only that the number of citizens per seat should be no less than 30,000. I think we can all agree that a House with nearly eleven thousand members is untenable for a variety of reasons. But there is nothing in the Constitution that requires the number of House members to be 435. It used to be fairly routine to expand or change the number of House members– 21 times between 1790 and 1920, which is the last time it happened.

Which, okay, a lot of those were because we added new states. True! But I feel like a hundred years was a nice long run for 435 members and maybe expanding to, oh, twice that might be nice.

(Be aware, because people seem to think this is a good argument for some reason, that I don’t give one thin damn how many desks there are in the House chamber. That’s a building. We can renovate the motherfucker. We can build a whole damn new one if we want.)

And doubling the size of the House would, in turn, double the number of available Electoral votes, which– again– wouldn’t fix the problem, but would bring the vote of a Californian closer to being fairly counted than it is now.

Now, understand that there is an argument to be made that if California has seventy times as many people as Wyoming then it deserves seventy times as much representation. It’s probably even the cleanest argument, honestly, because everything else boils down to well, California needs to have closer to a truly representative vote … but not that much closer. But even if we just doubled the size of the House– and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have 8-900 voting members in an organization representing three hundred and twenty-five million people– we would in turn close that distance and the vote of a Californian would be closer to counting as much as it should. It’s not going to be perfect, because of the Senate, and we can’t fix the Senate (or at least I’m not aware of a way) without Constitutional amendments, which is outside the scope of what I’m talking about right now.

Our democracy, such as it is, and believe me part of me wants to put that word in quotation marks right now, needs to be more representative than it is right now. This won’t fix it, but it’s a place to start.

Two book reviewlets

Two days ago I reviewed Rin Chupeco’s The Girl From the Well, a book that I enjoyed an awful goddamned lot, and I mentioned in the post that due to a screw-up where I ordered the sequel without realizing it was a sequel, I had it on hand already and would be going directly into it. Well, I burned through The Suffering almost as fast as I finished Well, and while I’m not quite jumping up and down and shouting read this read this read this the way was with the first one, it’s definitely still a good read. Call it four and a half stars to the first book’s five; the POV character moves from the ghost to the boy she is (newly) possessing, and the two of them have basically evolved into a sort of supernatural, psychic version of The Punisher, seeking out and messily taking apart murderers of the innocent. The majority of the book takes place in Aokigahara Woods, Japan’s “suicide forest,” and it absolutely continues the original book’s excellent level of creepiness, but I really loved the narration style that the ghost had in the first book and the tone shifts a little from supernatural vengeance ghost to something that, possibly not intentionally, scans a trifle more superhero-ey, and mostly because of those two things it’s not quite the triumph the first book was. Definitely read Well, and allow your reaction to that one to determine if you pick this one up. I suspect most folks will want to read both.


Jon Richter’s oddly-named Auxiliary: London 2039 is a book and not a bullet hell video game shooter from the late 1990s, and it’s another book that I was sent for free, on the condition that I review it for the site.

Let me boil this down for you in the quickest way I know how: are you interested in reading a book that features rape robots? If so, please continue. If not, read no further, and go nowhere near this book.

This was a four-star or so read until the last 25 pages or so, and I have never seen a book more effectively shoot itself in the dick before than this one does. I’ve got it at two stars on Goodreads right now, and I genuinely might bump it down to one. Because this book starts off interesting– a sort of Lock Inesque gritty detective story set in a near future that is probably a little bit too close to now to be realistic (hi, Skylights!) that is as much science fiction as it is a murder mystery. The book goes a little bit off the rails in chapter three, where the following events happen:

  • Our hard-boiled detective hero, Dremmler, creeps on a woman on the train. He is wearing smartglasses called Spex, which inform him of the woman’s name, her age, that she is bisexual, currently single, and that she has no criminal convictions. He “discerns”– the actual verb used– her “ample” breasts. He gets an erection. On the train. While sitting across from this woman.
  • He goes home, where he is greeted by his live-in maidbot, who is wearing a French maid’s outfit. She offers him a beer, which he accepts, offers to pour the beer, which he rudely declines, then offers him a blow job. He accepts that as well. So I guess she’s a fuckbot in addition to a maidbot.
  • That is the entire chapter. It is three pages long.

We know entirely too much about Dremmler’s erections throughout this book, and there is at least one place where another character decides to sleep with him for no reason at all that I can discern. But the mystery, which involves a pervasive, all-knowing AI and a prosthetic arm that murders someone independent of the desires of the person owning the arm, was interesting enough that I kept going. Then there’s a chapter where Dremmler has a nightmare that he is actually someone else who is actually basically roleplaying Dremmler in a simulation (shades of Ready Player One,) and that person actually uses the word “misogynist” to describe Dremmler before dying messily and, okay, I guess that was just a nightmare after all, and Dremmler is real? Sure, OK–

And then in the last 25 pages the Bad Guys literally use the impending gang-rape of Dremmler’s ex-wife, a woman responsible for the death of his child, by a bunch of misshapen sex bots (the first robot to do the raping has a “foot-long” penis and a hammerhead shark’s head) as a means of extracting information from Dremmler, and then there’s an enormous, AI drone-driven massacre of “thousands” of people, and then the book ends with either a cliffhanger or Dremmler’s actual death at the hands of the AI.

Spoiler alert, I guess.

I did not like this book; I was liking this book with some reservations (there’s something hinky going on with almost every female character in the book, a few too many of which are described as Asian in a way that feels weirdly fetishistic to me, and then there’s the erections) up until the rape bots, and if I hadn’t agreed to review this in return for the copy that would have been the end of it, the book nearly being finished be damned. I hate to say “this is not a good book and you should not read it” about something somebody sent me for free, but … this is not a good book, and you should not read it.

Another doodle

The world is awful so I played with Procreate again.

See if you can figure out the things I didn’t know how to do from the video.

Want some, come on and get some!

Some of my parents must think I’m new, I swear.

Just came out of an IEP meeting that went abruptly south when the parent decided to start casting blame far and wide for her kid’s seven current failing grades. Now, here is the thing: I am fully aware of how hard this must be for a lot of our parents. I am keeping track of one child while trying to keep up with my actual students and doing my job to the best of my ability and it is difficult. I am not keeping track of more than one, the extra kids that I don’t have to keep track of aren’t at multiple grade levels, and as things go my actual child tends to be pretty self-sufficient in a lot of ways. And it is still hard.

Now, what that means is that I’m bending over backwards to make sure my students have access to me. They have my phone number, and know they can call or text me basically anytime between 8 AM and 10 PM. I am online in a Google Meet for about four and a half hours a day every single day so that they can come in and ask questions, and I am monitoring my email whenever I am awake. There are no penalties for late work on any of my assignments, and I’ll even allow unlimited retries for anything a student wants to redo. I have posted personally-recorded video lessons for every single piece of new content we’ve done that they can access any time they want through the magic of the Interwebs.

(I am actually at my computer during my lunch break right now, too, because I have kids testing. I’ve left this desk twice in the last three hours– once to pee, and once to get some cold pizza from the fridge.)

This is not for cookies. I don’t want praise. This is because I think what I’m doing is the minimum amount of flexibility teachers should be showing right now. But what this also means is that if you try and come at me for not teaching your child when your child hasn’t taken advantage of any of these opportunities, I may not be entirely sympathetic, and when you try and blame me specifically for your student’s failure I’m going to start bringing out receipts.

Because I have them. I can see every time you’ve logged in to check your kid’s grades, for example, and I see that you’ve done so repeatedly over the last few weeks, so don’t even try and pretend that you didn’t know he was failing. I can also search my own email, so when you claim you’ve emailed and talked to all his teachers? I never delete anything, ma’am. I can assure you that you have not.

Oh, and I see that your email is here on Google Classroom, which means that you’ve been receiving my weekly emails about everything we’re doing in class, all of which contain my phone number and constant reinforcement to contact me if you have any questions or any needs at all that I can be helpful with.

I am not the one, God damn it, so don’t try it. Just don’t.