In which I’ve got stuff to do and getting started would be cool

We have reached a major milestone in adulting: my wife and I are about to become Garage Refrigerator people, because I need a place to store my many beverages, and our current House Refrigerator is being cruelly used for food. In theory, our new Garage Refrigerator is being delivered today (“between 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM”) but there has been sketch all over this process from the beginning, and I have placed a bet with my wife for the princely sum of $1 USD that at 8:00 PM tonight we will not only not be Garage Refrigerator people but we will not have received any phone calls or other forms of contact about why we received no delivery or where our Garage Refrigerator actually is.

Funny thing is, when that happens, I’m not even gonna be mad about it. I’m so convinced it’s gonna go sideways that it’s not even a big deal.

Unfortunately, it does mean that I’ve spent the day in Receiving a Delivery and Using Extraneous Capital Letters mode, which means that I’ve so far not been able to complete a single other damn thing that I had planned to do today. I have a video to finish putting together that is probably at least a couple of hours’ work (and for which I’m waiting on a lot of other people to send me stuff who are clearly also procrastinating,) I have some editing to do for a former student’s fiction project, I have more PD to do (maybe) and I can probably go ahead and get started on final grading and attendance for the semester, since the kids are supposed to have everything done today. That is mostly a tomorrow project, but I can get started. I also have a fiction project that I got a bit of work done on yesterday that I would like to make more progress on today.

But hey! I’m blogging. That’s something, right?

I can see my driveway from my office, if I turn my chair around a bit, and I’m doing that every couple of minutes, for no good reason. Again, I’m not mad– and there are still several hours during which technically the refrigerator can be delivered, so it’s not like it’s late yet– I just wish I was less dumb, because my brain has clearly decided that since I spent a chunk of time this morning cleaning and organizing the garage in preparation for the Refrigerator that nothing else can be completed until that task is definitively crossed off my list. That’s my fault, not the delivery people.

I will, of course, post a picture once my new toy has arrived. You should hold your breath.


2:26 PM, Wednesday May 27: 1,685,149 confirmed cases and 99,674 Americans dead.

Hmm let’s see

Feeling kind of bullet-pointy today, so let’s do a bits and bobs post rather than trying to construct some sort of coherent narrative:

  • After discovering at least one other teacher was doing this, I’ve decided to just go ahead and record my e-learning lessons for the rest of the year and get them all posted as fast as possible. I’m already done with the rest of this week and so I only have three more to do; they’ll probably all be finished tomorrow.
  • In theory, the kids are done on May 20, although they have until the 27th to turn in their work, and the district appears to think that we’re going to be doing trainings until school would have actually ended in June, but they haven’t actually given us any details on how that would work. I’m sure I’ll be super psyched about it once I know.
  • If you live in South Bend, you should have requested your primary ballot by now, dammit. I’d appreciate it if you’d vote yes on the referendum questions that are on the ballot so that my job can afford to keep paying me and we can invest in roofs and drinkable water and such in our buildings.
  • The usual gang of dipshits has discovered our dastardly plan to raise tax money and then spend it in such a way that it has a chance to benefit brown children, so naturally there’s a Vote No movement. I’ve only actually seen two signs about town but every time I do I have to forcibly restrain the urge to either steal the sign or drive up into people’s lawns to destroy them.
  • It is possible that the whole home-isolation thing is affecting my generally genial and go-along-to-get-along personality, I’m not sure.
  • I think Mike Pence probably has tested positive for coronavirus, because there was an announcement today that they were isolating him from that other person. I do not think that there is a single chance in hell that the White House would tell the truth about either of them being infected. Hell, I’d trust North Korean media about Kim Jong Un before I’d trust this White House to tell me the truth, and that’s kind of scary.
  • I am Back on My Shit in a number of ways recently, and in my idle moments today have been researching larger monitors for my computer (utterly unnecessary, as my iMac is already the largest possible size and I sit no more than two feet away from it, plus I already have a secondary monitor) as well as bikes for fat guys (they exist, and as far as I can tell America’s fat men have already bought them all, because none are in stock anywhere) and green screens for my office, which will become much less necessary tomorrow, when I’m done recording e-learning lessons for at least the next few months.
  • I have not been on a bike in over 30 years, as I basically learned how to ride one because my brother wanted to learn and then never did it again. If it is possible to forget how to ride a bike, I have done so. This is an exceptionally poor idea, especially given how much any bike robust enough to support my fat ass would cost.
  • I am wearing shorts. It’s not warm outside or anything like that, but it’s fucking mid-May and I’m wearing shorts because fuck you, mid-May.
  • We just ordered a new refrigerator for our garage, because I need a place to store my many beverages that will keep them cold. I do not actually drink alcohol, so yes, I’m actually envisioning an entire refrigerator filled with Pepsi, tea, Mountain Dew, and Gatorade.
  • Additional Back-On-My-Shittery: I’m back on oh man I really want to do a podcast I should buy a bunch of equipment for podcasting pay no attention to the fact that I still don’t have the vaguest idea what my podcast would be about I just wanna buy shit.
  • That said, my Blue Yeti desk microphone has finally earned back the money I spent on it over the last couple of months, as it really does sound a lot better in my videos than the internal mic on my computer. It’s also not entirely impossible that I’ll let myself invest in a better webcam than the one that’s built in, but I shouldn’t.
  • Lurking in the back of my head is the certainty that we will absolutely be needing to teach from home again this fall. That will probably be what ends up getting me to pull the trigger on the greenscreen, at least.
  • I also spent a few minutes yesterday looking into an online Ed.D, which … nah.
  • I’m listening to Post Malone right now, and this track he does with Ozzy Osbourne is amazing.
  • 3:42 PM, Tuesday May 12: 1,358,901 confirmed cases and 81,650 American deaths.

Because capitalism

It is May the 4th, Star Wars Day, and I find myself not in the talkiest of moods. So I will do something I haven’t done on here in a while, which is to say that if you enjoy Star Wars you will very much enjoy my Star Wars-inspired series The Benevolence Archives, and that you should give me 99 of your American pennies and buy the first book. Then, once you’ve read that and you like it, you can get the other two! It’s also available in paperback at just $7.99, same link. Go forth, then, and I’ll be back tomorrow.


5:42 PM, Monday, May 4th, 2020: 1,177,784 confirmed cases and 68,387 deaths.

#REVIEW: DOCILE, by K.M. Szpara

First things first:

CONTENT WARNING: While I don’t think the review itself is going to be a trigger risk, DOCILE’s back cover warns of “forthright depictions and discussions of rape and sexual abuse,” and I would add warnings for confinement and torture to that as well. Go NOWHERE NEAR THIS BOOK if that will be unhealthy for you.

As is my usual tradition, rather than beginning this by talking about the book I just read, I’ll talk about me a bit. First, I probably should have bought Docile at C2E2, as K.M. Szpara was there and I got two other autographs from authors who were literally sitting at the same table as him. In fact, I think S.L. Huang was sitting next to him. It ended up getting ordered a week or two after getting home instead, so it was a little cheaper but it’s not autographed.

Second: without getting too far into the details, my reaction to this book was probably somewhat informed by the fact that I’ve had to have a stern conversation or two with credit card companies since my mother passed away in January. The notion that at some point in the future debt might be made inheritable has a bit more salience with me right now than it might otherwise. (And, because I don’t want people reading into this too much, let me be clear that we aren’t talking about a huge amount of money here or anything– but the conversations still have to be had.)

This book is a hell of a thing, y’all. I described it on Twitter right after I finished it as the best book I’ve read this year, which, okay, it’s only April, but I’m in lockdown so I’m forty books in already– and a few hours later I kind of want to walk away from the word best but it is certainly the most interesting book I’ve read this year, and the most thought-provoking book I’ve read this year, and it’s the one I most want to find three or four other people who have read it and just sit around and talk about it for a couple of hours. “Best” doesn’t ever mean the same thing to any two people, and this book definitely has some … problematic aspects? Starting with that content warning up there, so there are already a lot of people I can’t recommend this to, and I was going to save the links for later in the piece but the book has nothing to say about race, which for a book set in future America that is effectively about slavery, is at the very least a pretty substantial omission.

This is, in other words, one of those books that some people are going to hate, and I’m not going to put myself in the position of arguing with those folks; that just wasn’t my experience of the book. Your mileage will vary, of course.

At any rate: let’s get to the premise, at least. Docile is set at some unclear amount of time in the future, somewhere outside of Baltimore. Income inequality has increased to the point where there are literal trillionaires out there walking about, but the majority of people are buried in debt, which has been made legally inheritable– so each generation is finding itself in a deeper hole than the one before it. One way out is by finding someone wealthy to buy you out of your debt, becoming what’s called a Docile. A contract is signed, and Dociles have certain rights (the book isn’t a hundred percent clear about how often these rights are honored, but they aren’t treated as a joke) but it is possible to sign for a lifetime of servitude if your debt is high enough, to clear the debt of the rest of your family. Most Dociles take a drug called Dociline, which effectively erases free will in the person taking it, making them a perfect servant. Some Dociles are used for labor, and others become personal servants and/or, effectively, sex slaves. The book’s main character, Elisha, signs a lifetime contract to become a Docile at the beginning of the book, selling three million dollars’ worth of debt and also snagging a thousand dollars a month in a stipend for his family.

His Patron is Alex Bishop III, the other POV character of the book, who is the scion of the family that invented Dociline. And Elisha, whose mother was also a Docile and who is suffering lingering effects from the drug, refuses to take Dociline, which he has a right to do. Which means that Alex, who has taken him on as a house servant and sex toy, has to train/brainwash him to become a proper Docile.

There’s a lot going on.

The front cover of the book contains the words THERE IS NO CONSENT UNDER CAPITALISM right front and center where you can’t miss it, and consent is one of the many themes of the book– others include income inequality, individual free will and autonomy, personhood, and the predatory nature of capitalism itself, and the book has an awful lot to say. I don’t want to spoil a lot of the details, especially since I was utterly wrong about a twist that I spent most of the book assuming was coming and never saw, but Szpara is a hell of a writer and I blew through this 500-page book in, basically, three big gulps.

Alex is, to put it very mildly, not very nice to Elisha at first, although the relationship between the two changes radically over the course of the book– and just how real the relationship is is one of the things that the book interrogates. After the first time they have sex Elisha openly wonders to himself if he’s been raped, and do not go near this book if the frequent explicit sex scenes are going to be a problem for you.

(This is another place where the reaction to the book is going to be all over the place– I would never, in a million years, have thought of this book as erotica, but apparently there are some folks out there who are treating it like it is? And you’re going to react very differently to this book if you’re reading it to get off or because you enjoy BDSM as opposed to, say, reading it because it’s a sci-fi dystopia and that’s a thing you like. Frankly I find the idea of people reading this for titillation to be a bit creepy, or at least the idea that you’d read it for that reason and be successful. You do you, I guess, but while there aren’t any sort of stereotypical Brutal Stranger Rape Scene type of things that tend to make me put books down, nearly all of the sex in this book is, let’s say, at least squicky about consent, and there’s at least a couple of scenes where the goal is absolutely Elisha’s sexual humiliation.)

So, yeah: Docile is problematic and messy and gross and I found it utterly fascinating and I have no idea what K.M. Szpara’s next book is going to be but he can have my money right now. If you read this and you’re still interested in the book, absolutely check it out, because I want people to talk to about it, but if you feel like it’s not for you I’d pay close attention to that feeling and take it seriously. I’m glad I read it, and it’s going to stick with me for a while, but it is definitely not for everyone.


12:31 PM, Friday, April 10: 473,073 confirmed cases, 17,036 American dead.

#Weekendcoffeeshare: Everything is Awful edition

If we were having coffee, I would kind of feel sorry for you, because man, am I not fit for human company at the moment.  I was snarling at my son before I even managed to get out of bed this morning, the news makes me want to cut people, and this new WordPress editor continues to be annoying.  I’ve figured out (with help from Steve D) how to do inline graphics like I want to, but the procedure for it is so ridiculous compared to the last editor that I almost wish I didn’t know.  

Also gone in this new editor: the ability to copy a post, again, which is something I use all the time.  So, yeah, I’m still not onboard with this nonsense.  Not at all.

Oh, and the image appears to be moving down on the screen the more I type, which isn’t how inline images are supposed to work.  I don’t know what the deal is with that.  Maybe just wrap the text, WordPress?  It’s been something HTML has been able to handle for literally as long as there has been HTML.

Yep, still slowly moving down the screen.  So maybe the “Media & Text” block isn’t what I want here.

(Tries to fiddle with settings in this block, somehow all the sudden the entire block is in what looks like 30-point text, swears, gives up, copies what I’ve written, starts over.)

Okay.  There’s a “classic” block that seems to work? And when I looked in Preview, not only did the “Media and Text” block look stupid in general, but it resized the image to super-small and awful.  So literally none of this shit works at all anymore and this cannot possibly be how they want this to be.  I am tired of everything being bullshit, coffee person, and you really shouldn’t be sitting with me right now, because I’m not fit for human company.

Amazon update: I got a notification from them on Friday that they had shipped me … wait for it … one book out of the 28 or 29 that I ordered.  It is supposed to arrive today.  The cover will be on upside-down, inside-out, and no doubt on the wrong book altogether.  I got an email this morning that the rest of them have shipped and will be here tomorrow.  I fully expect them to be completely destroyed or otherwise unsalable when they arrive.  I also expect to have to spend most of my winter break reformatting everything so that I can use Ingram Spark for my printing needs now rather than Amazon.  I’m in too deep with them to even pretend that “Oh, I won’t buy books from there anymore” is a viable option, but I can sure as hell move my POD business elsewhere.  

Later today– in about half an hour, actually– my son is having a friend over for a few hours, so there will be twice as many seven-year-old boys in the house as I’m used to.  This, for once, is not me complaining; one of the disadvantages to only having one kid (and my wife and I both being temperamentally disinclined to socialize if we don’t have to) is that my son doesn’t have as many opportunities to play with other kids as I want him to.  Yesterday he tried to get me to play a game with him that he was making up as we were going along, and it became increasingly clear the harder he tried that I am a terrible father, because I don’t have the patience for the seven level-ups and eighteen unlockable weapons and two thousand interminable fucking rules that he wants to have for what boils down to “we are surrounded by invisible enemies that we must kill.”  There is no actual play, only endless iterations on the rules of the game.

A topic for later: how my kid’s conception of play has been irreversibly altered by role-playing video games.  Because whenever I was making games up with my friends as a kid, they sure as hell never involved lining up every toy sword and Nerf gun in the house so that we could “unlock” them as we played.  

My solution to this, by the way, is that I want him to have friends over more often.  I always felt that my house was where all my friends always ended up when I was a kid.  I want him to feel the same way.  The problem is I don’t think my parents did it that way because playing with me gave them headaches.  Maybe it did, though; I dunno.  Dad will no doubt chime in and let me know.  🙂

I like the drop caps, coffee person.  They will no doubt get annoying eventually, but for now I enjoy them.

Later today I’m making cornbread and chili.  With luck, it will improve my mood.  In the meantime, I’m off to the shower; one of the other fun things about the boy having a friend over is that it’s one of the kids from Hogwarts whose parents have way, way, way more money than we do so everything must be looking nice when they get here to drop the boy off and I cannot allow myself to be lazing around in my sweatpants like I am now.  My pointless and, it should be made clear, utterly unnecessary status anxieties can be something we investigate later, I suspect.

ETA:  I found a typo and jumped back in to edit it and this is what I was greeted with.  Also, I’m done with drop caps already because I don’t like how they look.  But, yeah, WordPress, you really think this editor is ready for the public?:

(can’t figure out how to add an image this far down in the post)

(Oh God FUCK THIS)

(Okay, there’s a button in the top-left to add a new “block.”  Sure, THAT’S TOTALLY INTUITIVE, WORDPRESS.)

This is what the top of my post looks like now…
…and this is what I get if I click “Resolve.”  Oh, and choosing “upload image” doesn’t actually upload an image when I try to do that.  It just crashes.

You have no idea how much swearing I’m doing over here right now.  I hate this SO MUCH.