New Books and ARCs, 9/21/18

As promised, here is the second half of a big haul of new books and ARCs at the Scalzi Compound this week. Some excellent choices here — do you see anything in particular you like? Tell us in the comments!

1998/2018: Whatever 20/20, Day Twenty-One: New York

I’m actually writing this in New York; I’m currently loitering at a hotel near Penn Station, in room that looks like the nicest dorm suite at NYU and can hear the street noise rising up to my windows. It’s surprisingly nice white noise, although history reminds me that sometimes it’s just noise, and loud. It’s New York. Whaddya gonna do.

I picked New York as a subject for this series not just because I happen to be in it today but also because in many ways it’s an emblematic town for me, one that especially in the last twenty years is tied intimately to my professional life. When I was a freelancer a lot of my gigs came from a marketing company rather pointedly located on Madison Avenue; now as a novelist Tor books is currently located at the iconic Flatiron building, although not for much longer, alas. I come here regularly on tour and to do events like Book Expo America and New York Comic Con. I have a ton of friends here, as well as compatriots in publishing. More than any other major city in the US — even LA, in whose suburbs I grew up, or Chicago, where I went to college — this town has a direct influence on my day to day life.

Also, weirdly, it’s still a town that doesn’t feel completely real to me. Unlike LA or Chicago, I’ve never lived in New York; I’ve spent at most three or four days in it at a time. That’s enough time in aggregate to start to get a feel for a place but not enough time for it to become a place that feels grounded. I’ve never had a daily life here — I’ve never had to pay bills or do grocery shopping or deal with plumbing here. For those reasons (and others like it) New York still feels like a special, different, place to me. Magical? I don’t know about magical. Too much vague urine smell for magical. But as they say, there’s no place like it.

It’s also the city people think of when they think of writers; for good reason, since most of big-league publishing is here and I suspect roughly half of Brooklyn lists “writer” as their profession on their tax forms, and another quarter are probably editors, agents and other citizens of the publishing world. When I visit I feel like I’m visiting the home office, as it were. A place where if you say you’re a writer you get a look that says “well, obviously you are, we all are” instead of “how do you manage to eat?” or just a polite blank stare that suggests the person never considered it a profession at all.

I’m not sure that means I would ever want to actually move here, however. I kind of like having NYC be a special “sometimes” place for me, a place to visit and be familiar with, but never bored of or irritated at. A place where it’s still exciting to come out of Penn Station, look down 34th street and see the Empire State Building and go, oh, hey, it’s actually a thing that exists in the world. I’ll let my friends who live in NYC be blase about it. I’m happy to go the other direction. And I’m happy to still be happy to be in town.

(That said: New York style pizza? Eh. It’s okay, I guess. There, the requisite fighting words have been said. We can move on to other things now.)

The Whatever Digest, 9/21/18

I’m at the airport with two and a half hours before my flight boards. Enough time for a digest!

***

So apparently the big attempt to defect from Kavanaugh’s allegedly sexually assaulting past was for a key Republican operative to launch a conspiracy theory Twitter thread saying it was actually someone else who attacked Ford, and she got confused because all jock-y white male teens look alike? Two things here:

1. Kathleen Parker’s “maybe there was a doppelganger” column in the Washington Post yesterday now looks even more embarrassing, because clearly she was drafting off this particular juggernaut of idiocy, and perhaps the Pulitzer committee might want to think about rescinding her award;

2. This truly is the stupidest timeline possible. I mean, I wasn’t really doubting that, given the preponderance of evidence, but it’s depressing to be reminded with such frequency.

What’s particularly horrifying is that Ed Whelan, the mastermind behind this particular wodge of bullshit, actually named someone else as the potential sexual assaulter, a dude named [deleted because on second thought it doesn’t do any good to spread his name around], who currently teaches at a middle school and who is the very definition of a private citizen. This is essentially an open-and-shut defamation case, and I expect [defamed person] is neck-deep in lawyers wanting to represent him, because this is some easy money right here. Ford has flatly said that it wasn’t [defamed person] who attacked her, so this one conspiracy theory which has fallen with a splat.

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall makes the point that it’s unlikely that Whelan moved forward without at least some sort of coordination with the Kavanaugh camp, which if it’s true is yet one more reason Kavanaugh shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the Supreme Court. Someone who would countenance throwing an innocent person under a bus in a (mixed metaphor here) Hail Mary pass attempt to clear his own name is not a moral person, or a good person. In fact, if it’s true, he’s complete shit.

***

Also, at this point, after last’s night hugely embarrassing Twitter fracas, one has to wonder how there is still any support for Kavanaugh among Senate Republicans, other than sheer myopic cussedness. He’s an astounding liability, someone credibly accused of sexual assault nominated to the bench primarily to overturn Roe v. Wade, and if you don’t think women aren’t already pissed off, just you wait. They would be better off at this point simply telling Kavanaugh to pack it in and then picking someone who could actually stand up to vetting (if they can, who knows with this clown car of an administration). Nearly anyone else would be better at this point. Any one of my cats would be better.

But of course they won’t, because we have stupid people in charge, and a president who can’t ever back down from anything because he’s weak and a bully. So here we are.

***

Why am I at the airport? I’m off to NYC to do a little business and to see some friends, basically. Also it’s a nice time of year to be in New York. Before anyone asks, I’m not doing any public events, sorry. Just work stuff and a little personal time. Also maybe to go in for a slice, say “You call this pizza?!?!?” and pull out a Chicago deep dish from my backpack and eat it in the shop, never breaking eye contact with the horrified pizza shop employees. Okay, maybe not that last one. I don’t actually have a death wish.

***

Congratulations to the Cleveland Browns, who last night not only didn’t lose, but actually managed to win a game, their first since Christmas Eve in 2016. The fact that much of Ohio went a little nuts about that one win says a lot about the state of Browns football, and maybe a little about Ohio. Meanwhile the Bengals, 2-0, wonder what the big deal is. Stay cool, Bengals. Stay cool.

***

That’s it for the Digest this week. It’ll be back on Monday. To get you through until then, here’s Smudge on my luggage this morning. Have a great weekend, the last of summer and the first of fall.

1998/2018: Whatever 20/20, Day Twenty: Sunsets

I really started taking sunset pictures in 2005, the first year I had a dSLR camera. Here’s one sunset picture for that year, and every year since.

(Incidentally, tonight’s sunset? In the header image.)

The Whatever Digest, 9/20/18

Good morning! Let’s see what’s up.

***

I posted the tweet above the other day about the recent contretemps regarding whether Bert and Ernie are a gay couple, which was prompted by one of Sesame Street’s former writers noting he always wrote them as if they were a gay couple, which in turn prompted but Sesame Workshop and Frank Oz (creator of Bert) to aver that they were not, which in turn made Twitter explode, because, well, Twitter.

I’m not going to speak to the main thrust of the discussion about whether Bert and Ernie are a couple except to note that this discussion is cyclical, and this is probably the fifth or sixth time in the last fifteen years it’s become a point of contention, so it’s not like anything around this discussion is new. What I will note is the number of dudes in the Twitter comments of the tweet above saying things like “They can’t be gay THEY ARE PUPPETS” with a smug “BAM HASHTAG MIC DROP” implied immediately after.

Which is, mind you, a genuinely stupid and thoughtless position to have. Puppets can be as gay or straight or bi or sexually fluid as any fictional creature, who can in turn be as gay or straight or bi or sexually fluid as any non-fictional creature. Fictional characters aren’t real, in the sense that they are independent of their creators (or at least, owners), but it doesn’t mean they aren’t imbued with characteristics.

Puppets are fictional creatures; puppets have characteristics. There’s no reason one of those characteristics can’t be “sexuality” and of course there are lots of examples of puppets having a sexuality, Kermit and Miss Piggy being the obvious contextual example. You can say Kermit and Miss Piggy can’t be heterosexual THEY ARE PUPPETS, but that’s not true (and also, no one does). The best you can say is that Kermit and Miss Piggy are not actual persons with their own agency, and therefore present only the characteristics given to them by those who operate and control them, which is true, and also a mouthful.

It can be truly said that Frank Oz, when he created him, did not think of Bert as being gay; it can also be truly said that at least one writer on Sesame Street, when writing Bert and Ernie, wrote them as a gay couple; it can also be truly said that the Sesame Workshop, at least publicly, doesn’t want Bert and Ernie to be considered as beings with sexuality at all. Importantly, however, none of this would be a discussion at all if, at the very heart of it, we (generally) didn’t believe that puppets could be gay. It looks like we do, and also, it looks like there’s a number of people so uncomfortable with the idea they they would rather subvert the entire thesis of fiction than substantively approach the concept of gay puppets in any way. Which is interesting.

***

My note to Frank Oz that kids come out as gay no matter how much their parents conceive of them as otherwise has led some “wits” to say that from now on they’re going to say that all my characters are white, straight, cis Trump lovers, I suppose again with a “lol CHECKMATE” bit after that strongly implied. My response to that is: Hey, your headcanon is your own, so go ahead if you want to. Just don’t expect the actual text I write to support this view.

This does bring up the point that if one wishes to make assertions about characters, it’s helpful to have them supported by text or the idiom and context of the characters. Positing that Bert and Ernie might be a gay couple because of their genuine affection for each other and also their decades-long cohabitation at least makes sense, whether you agree with it or not. Positing that they are millionaire day-traders who secretly run a late-night fight club for other Muppets in Oscar’s sub-basement doesn’t. I mean, they might, you never do know, but there’s nothing in almost five decades of their on-screen lives together to support the hypothesis.

Let’s just say I don’t ever expect Sesame Workshop to ever post a tweet denying that Bert and Ernie consensually beat the crap out of Elmo and Big Bird in cathartic early-morning pummeling sessions. Some rumors (and headcannon) never get off the ground.

***

Today’s hottest take on Kavanaugh allegedly sexually assaulting a woman when they were both teens: Maybe it was his evil twin! I’m embarrassed for both Kathleen Parker, who wrote this, and for America.

***

After that bit of patent dumbassery, a cat-based palate cleanser.

Please enjoy the rest of your Thursday.

New Books and ARCs, 9/19/18

Lots of new stuff, so this will be a two-stack week here at the Scalzi Compound. Here’s the first stack of new books and ARCs for the week. Anything catching your eye? Let us know in the comments!

No Whatever Digest Today But Here’s a Picture of Smudge Looking Like He’s Just Seen the Boogeyman

He’s just yawning, mind you. But still.

No Whatever Digest today mostly because my morning was tasked with getting teeth cleanings and otherwise taking care of offline business, and I have more things to take care of this afternoon.

As an aside, some of you have mentioned to me the “Whatwitter” feed is down in the sidebar. I’m looking into it but it might be due to recent Twitter backend decisions about serving up the site’s content to outside apps and programs. But if I can get it back up I will. (Update: fixed!)

The Whatever Digest, 9/18/18

Let’s see what the world has for us today, shall we?

***

To begin on a high note, congratulations to my dear friend Mary Robinette Kowal, who has just announced a three-book, six-figure deal with Tor Books. The deal covers two more books in her “Lady Astronaut” series plus a standalone novel. The Verge has all the details, plus a short interview with MRK on the matter.

I’m thrilled about this. Aside from MRK being one of my favorite people on the planet, I’m a very big fan of the two current Lady Astronaut books, The Calculating Stars (which I think is a top contender for Hugo and Nebula Best Novel nods) and The Fated Sky. More in this universe makes me very happy. I’m also pleased Tor recognizes her value with the size of the deal. This is good news for everyone, but especially for MRK. I like it when my friends get good news.

***

Oh, let’s talk more about that Kavanaugh mess, I suppose.

Brett Kavanaugh, it should be noted, has doubled down on his categorical denial, regarding Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation that he sexually assaulted her back when they were teenagers. Both Kavanaugh and Ford are going to testify about it in front of the Senate on Monday, and one would hope under oath. And won’t that be interesting if it is under oath? Because then, if they both stick to their stories, one or the other of them is, flatly, lying.

Alternately, if one wishes to be extraordinarily generous about it, it’s possible that Kavanaugh isn’t lying, precisely, he simply has no memory of the incident. Ford did describe him as being stumble-down drunk at the time. But the thing about that is, he didn’t say “I have no memory of such an incident ever occurring.” He said it never happened. So we’re back to it being an actual lie, in my book.

And here’s the thing for me: Removing all the political aspects of the incident and focusing on the individuals and the incident itself, who are you more likely to believe has a better memory of the incident: The person who was stumble-down drunk when the incident occurred, or the person who was not, and had the event seared into her brain so significantly that it still came up in therapy, three decades later? I’d put my money on the latter, personally.

(The other, exculpatory-for-Kavanaugh explanation is that Ford isn’t lying but has misremembered the identity of her assaulter, which is possible, but given what we know of things, seems unlikely.)

But the timing of this shows it’s all political! Meh. Again, Ford expressed her concerns about Kavanaugh to her elected reps well in advance of his actual nomination for the court, and asked for confidentiality, which she was given. By all indications Senator Feinstein didn’t send the letter to the FBI until someone else leaked it. On Ford’s part, this doesn’t seem like the actions of someone desperately hungry to throw a spanner into the political works. The fact that some people want to blame her for the current mess is more than a little gross. Once the letter was a known thing, she came forward and was willing to testify. But she wasn’t responsible for the events that led to her letter becoming a political hot potato.

***

Someone in email accused me of smearing an innocent person (Kavanaugh, to be clear) and leading a mob against him. Well, Kavanaugh may well be innocent! But it seems unlikely to me, given what we know, and since I’m not a court of law or Kavanaugh’s lawyer, I’m not obliged to pretend I think he is. It seems likely to me that as a teenager he sexually assaulted Ford; it also seems likely to me that as an adult, he’s lying about it. Merely stating that opinion is not riling up a mob, I’m not stating “Kavanaugh is lying, go set fire to his house!” (Please do not set fire to his house.) Nor is the Whatever audience much of a mob (sorry).

Nor, bluntly, is Kavanaugh in much danger of having any major repercussions for his (probable in my opinion) teenage sexual assault. The worst case scenario for Kavanaugh is that he goes back to his job on the DC Court of Appeals — just like Merrick Garland! — and keeps doing what he’s already been doing. I mean, technically, if he lied in front of Congress he could be penalized for that, but he’s already arguably lied in front of Congress, and Congress seems to be willing to give him a pass for that. Kavanaugh’s real world penalty, if the Senate chooses not to confirm because, among other things, more of its members than not believed he pinned down a fifteen-year-old girl, put his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams, ground himself into her and tried to take off her clothes, is… he keeps the immensely privileged life he already has. Oh, my God. How horrible for him.

But his reputation! Again, meh. It seems unlikely to me that any of Kavanaugh’s pals on the right will penalize him for it; he will still be admired and respected in the circles he already runs in. These are the same circles who elected as president a man who indisputably sexually assaulted women as an adult. There’s not much evidence at the moment that the right thinks sexual assault should count against a person’s reputation unless that person is on the left. Let’s not pretend that if the exact same accusations were made against a Supreme Court nominee picked by a Democratic president, the right would be calling for that nominee’s withdrawal (at least). But I guess it’s different when you’re on the right and you have a nominee that you know will overturn Roe v. Wade the first chance he gets.

So, yeah. Don’t cry for Kavanaugh. He’s going to be fine, whether he’s innocent or not.

***

People in Washington seem to be worried about an emerging “Kavanaugh Standard,” i.e., what you did at seventeen will now be held against you in senatorial confirmation hearings. A few thoughts here:

1. Can we stop pretending that sexual assault is just average teenage hijinx? I went to high school in the same era as Kavanaugh, you know. Even in the benighted 80s, we fucking well knew that sexual assault was not within the scope of acceptable activities. I was there! I know this to be true!

2. If you can’t or won’t agree that sexual assault is not your average teenage hijinx, one, what the fuck were you up to in high school, pal, and two, in fact, what you were doing in high school might be relevant to your senatorial confirmation, especially if you evince no actual moral growth from that point forward.

3. Otherwise, I think most people are probably in the clear regarding their high school stupidity.

4. But might it not also be wise to tell teens that all their lives will be affected by the choices they make as teenagers, including the choices they’re not aware they’re making? Is it not worth it to inculcate in their still-forming brains the idea that far-reaching consequences exist, even if they can’t yet fully understand these consequences may arise at a point that is a multiple of the years that they have currently been alive? And that their actions will have consequences for others, all through their lives as well?

5. Also, you know what? I would be fine culling out of governmental service everyone who sexually assaulted someone else as a teenager. Or as an adult! Why not both! And if it turns out there is a noticeable dearth of available men for such service, well, I guess them’s the breaks, and the good news is that there are almost certainly a large number of women available to come on board to take care of things, whilst the men fix their cultural shit. I’m fine with that. If this is indeed the new “Kavanaugh Standard,” there would be far worse things, I have to say.

***

And to end on a high note: Look! The Captain Marvel trailer! Looks like fun.

The Whatever Digest, 9/17/18

Let’s start the day off with something pretty, shall we. Like these sunset clouds from last night:

I’m often asked how much I Photoshop my sunset pictures, and the answer is, it depends on the day. With that said, this photo pretty much accurately recreates what the sky actually looked like when I took this picture. One thing I did actively Photoshop was my neighbor’s TV antenna, which I edited out of the photo. This is a thing I frequently do. I feel no guilt about it.

Anyway, this was our sky last night. It’s not bad.

***

Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser now has a name (she always had a name, mind you, only now it’s public) and more details of the sexual assault that happened to her, which Kavanaugh has denied. Senate Republicans have stated their intent to move forward with a confirmation vote this week, although at least three GOP senators are now saying they’d be happy to delay that vote until they know more. Jeff Flake is key to this since he’s on the Judiciary Committee and the Republicans on the committee need his vote to move forward to a general confirmation vote. My feeling is that the longer the vote is delayed, the less likely it will be that Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court at all. This suits me fine, since I don’t like his judicial rulings or general philosophy and think this entire confirmation process has been a ridiculous sham of the Republicans trying to jam Kavanaugh through without letting anyone see relevant documents, but it’s still very weird.

For the record, I believe Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s accuser, and more than that, the corroborating evidence (including notes from therapy sessions back from 2012) suggests strongly that Ford named Kavanaugh as her assaulter, and sent letters to her representatives about him, long before the man was actually up for confirmation. So the idea that this is some late, last-minute hit on the process don’t really hold up to scrutiny. I would agree this all should have been aired sooner, mind you; I would liked to have known that (another) man accused of sexual improprieties was headed to the Supreme Court.

Also for the record: If the allegations are true, which I don’t really have a problem believing they are, Kavanaugh should not be on the Supreme Court, and tangentially, the Republicans shouldn’t want them there. As people have noted on Twitter, the optics of a self-admitted sexually-harassing President nominating a man credibly accused of sexual assault (and indeed, attempted rape) in order to throw out women’s right to control their own bodies are pretty bad. Now, it’s entirely possible the GOP doesn’t care about that — it’s made it pretty clear it doesn’t give a crap about anything other than its own will to power recently — but it should care about it. We’ll see.

The wild card in this is the “oh, but it happened in high school and that was so long ago and if we’re all judged for what we did back then we’d all be in trouble” argument, and you know what? This argument in general is not a horrible one — we are all stupid as teenagers and certainly as a nearly 50-year-old man I wouldn’t think it’s accurate to base my current personhood on the actions of 17-year-old me. On the other hand, 17-year-old me did not get smashed, force myself on top of a 15-year-old girl, sexually assault her and try to pull off her clothing, either. The adult version of me also did not “categorically and unequivocally deny” the event having ever occurred, as Kavanaugh has.

And that’s the thing for me. I did stupid shit as a 17-year-old, but as a 49-year-old I should be able to own it, and if possible and necessary make amends for it. Kavanaugh, who is 53, is not owning his shit and certainly has no intent to make amends for it. I can believe that Kavanaugh now wouldn’t do such a thing as the drunken 17-year-old version of him would do. But the fact that Kavanaugh now thinks the best thing for him to do is simply to deny such a thing ever happened doesn’t speak well for him or for the GOP bound and determined to get him on the court.

At this point, either Ford is lying or Kavanaugh is. I know who my money is on for that.

***

Athena came home this weekend to see friends, and I took advantage of her presence to take a photo:

I posted this on Facebook, prompting concerned followers there to ask what has become of the rest of her body. Relax, it’s there (you can sort of make out her neck in this picture). Honestly, no one understands my artistic vision.

***

Time magazine is being sold to a tech billionaire, specifically Mark Benioff, who along with his wife Lynee is purchasing it for their investment portfolio. Apparently the Benioff’s plan for Time is similar to the one Jeff Bezos is following with the Washington Post, which is, pour money in but otherwise be hands off.

I’m not a huge fan of billionaires buying media outlets (I kind of preferred it when people become billionaires by building media outlets, mostly, he said, wincing at the thought of Rupert Murdoch), but this is the new gilded age, and we actually need journalism now, and in a big way. So if selling Time to a billionaire is what it takes to keep it going, then, fine. If in fact the Benioff’s are serious about being hands off. If in fact they devote actual resources to it. If they don’t just strip it down for parts, like indeed Meredith, the current owner of the once-proud Time-Life stable of magazines is currently doing. If.

***

Let’s finish on a self-serving note: Hey! The Collapsing Empire is currently $2.99 as an ebook, on all your favorite electronic retailers. Get it cheap just in time to be all caught up for The Consuming Fire, which comes out a month from now. Wheee!

(Update: Sale’s over now.)

New Books and ARCs, 9/14/18

Halfway through September now, and here is a very fine stack of new books and ARCs to note the occasion. See anything you’d like? Tell us in the comments!

The Whatever Digest, 9/14/18

Let’s start this off with a picture I took this morning. I call this one “Worlds on a String.”

See, there’s an upside to spiderwebs everywhere.

***

I was in Columbus last night to take part in a panel at the Religion News Association’s conference, on science fiction and religion (appropriately enough, given the conference I was at). On the panel I and three other panelists looked at how and why religion makes its way into science fiction and why writers and readers come back to it in the genre. Inasmuch as this was a panel at a conference of journalists, did they record this panel and then put it up on Facebook? Why yes! Yes they did.

So if you’re interested, here it is. My particular bit starts about fourteen minutes in, and the camera angle really accentuates that at the moment my hair looks like I have a chinstrap on the top of my head, so I have that going for me, which is nice. But the whole thing is worth watching, because everyone on it (Me, James McGrath, David Williams and Farah Rishi) had interesting things to say.

***

So just in case you think Twitter is a complete waste of time, my friends Chuck Wendig and Sam Sykes just had a film made based on a Twitter thread they did, just goofing around:

Chuck’s got the whole story on his site. I particularly like the fact that Chuck is played by Allyson Hannigan. And honestly this is probably the best Twitter story ever (the fact a movie was made from their Twitter thread, not the Twitter thread itself, although that’s pretty funny, too).

***

I’m sure things went on the world yesterday (aside from Trump’s dumbass comment about Puerto Rico), but honestly I was off traveling and talking about God and science fiction, so I didn’t keep up. In lieu of trenchant commentary on the state of planet, please accept this picture of a kitten in a sink.

The digest will see you next Monday!

The Whatever Digest, 9/13/18

First: This banner from the Subterranean Press web site, which I got a giggle over:

I love it because I think Nate Taylor, the illustrator, did a perfect job drawing me. I look ridiculous, but in a fun and affectionate way, which I think is perfect, both for me and for the book. I may put the image on my business card, if I ever get business cards again, which honestly seems unlikely, but even so.

Also, in a larger since it’s a delight to love one’s cover art, which this banner is derived from. As a writer I have generally had pretty good luck with cover art — the number of covers of my work that I love outstrips the ones I’ve not like by a considerable margin. One does recognize that cover art isn’t just about one’s own preferences; it’s also marketing, designed to sell the book to booksellers and to readers, so one has to make allowances for that. But even making allowances for that, I’ve been pretty lucky. Virtue Signaling continues that lucky streak.

(PS: Pre-order it! Now!)

***

Virtue Signaling is coming out on December 31st, which means it will be the third book I will have published this year, not counting paperback releases and foreign editions. But it will actually be the fourth book I am published in, since Robots Vs Fairies, in which I have a short story, came out in January. That’s not a bad year for publishing things. I may take the pedal off the gas slightly in 2019. Slightly.

***

Trump asserting that thousands did not die because of hurricanes in Puerto Rico: One, what a venal piece of crap this president is, and two, this is probably not what people in Virginia and the Carolinas want to be hearing just as the outer tendrils of Florence begin slapping up against their coasts. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence either in the potential government response, or how Trump will wiggle out of culpability if something goes wrong. Someone on Twitter made the crack that there are enough white people in the Carolinas that the FEMA response should be adequate this time, and while that’s a pretty sharp barb, with this administration it’s difficult to say it’s 100% wrong. I dislike having an administration which is so obviously white nationalist.

In any event, Carolinas and Virginia: Good luck. I don’t want to say you’re on your own, but I will say that if you drown, Trump will probably say that you did it just to make him look bad.

***

Google announced yesterday that it will be sunsetting Inbox, their much-superior email application compared to GMail, in early 2019. This makes me very sad because Inbox is my default email client, precisely because it does so many things better than GMail. Google claims it will be importing many of the features Inbox currently is better at (like email organization) into GMail, but I am, shall we say, entirely skeptical. For my money, GMail would be better off if Google simply ported Inbox over in its entirety and called it GMail. But they’re not asking me, damn it.

***

I’m a fan of Lindsay Ellis’ deconstructions of film and TV, which are both well-researched and a lot of fun to watch. But her most recent video isn’t about either of those two media, it’s about YouTube, the very medium in which she toils, and talks about how the people who are making shows and videos there are making them seem “authentic” as opposed to the conventional polish of television (or, even more so, film). Along the way she talks, on her own and with vlogger/author Hank Green, about the emotional cost of keeping up that veneer of authenticity on a regular basis, for people who, ultimately, one doesn’t know, even if they feel like they know you — in part because that’s what you were aiming for.

I found this video even more interesting than I find most of Ellis’ videos, because the issues she’s addressing are ones I’m familiar with, right here on Whatever. The site here is personable and people enjoy getting a glimpse of who I am and what I do, but as personable as it is, the version of me here is tuned — it’s a public persona. It’s not a false version of me, but it’s a version of me tweaked for the blog, as it were, just like when I’m out on a book tour, that version of my is tweaked for interacting with real live people in that particular setting.

I well aware of how much I do what Ellis’ talking about in the video, in my own fashion and mode, so it’s also interesting for me to see other people talking about it in their lives. What Ellis and others have to do and deal with is not exactly what I do and have to deal with, but it’s close enough that I can feel where she’s coming from.

***

And now I’m off — I’m heading to Columbus today to do a panel on science fiction and religion, in no small part because both The Collapsing Empire and The Consuming Fire feature a major religious figure in them. Should be fun. You kids enjoy yourself for the rest of the day. I’ll see you tomorrow, as we start the second 20 years (let’s hope!) of Whatever.

Announcing Virtue Signaling and Other Heresies: Selected Writings From Whatever 2013 – 2018

Today, on the 20th anniversary of Whatever, I am absolutely thrilled to announce the upcoming publication of Virtue Signaling and Other Heresies: Selected Writings From Whatever, 2013-2018. This new collection from Subterranean Press collects some of the best writing from Whatever from the last half decade, with my words and thoughts on politics, personalities, social issues and life in general — on whatever, appropriately enough.

Virtue Signaling will be available from Subterranean Press as a limited edition signed hardcover (featuring fabulous cover art from Nate Taylor, pictured above) and in ebook format. The current scheduled publication date is December 31, 2018. You can preorder the hardcover now through Subterranean Press, which is the best way to assure you get a copy.

And now that I’ve covered the basics, let me talk just a little more about the book, using the Q&A format:

What’s covered in this book and how is it different from Don’t Live For Your Obituary, the Whatever collection you released last year?

Don’t Live for Your Obituary specifically covered pieces about writing and the writing life, published over the last decade; Virtue Signaling covers every other topic I wrote about, between 2013 and 2018 (well, through about May of this year, anyway). So while there is some overlap in time frame between the two books, the content of each is otherwise mostly independent.

The collection’s time frame includes the 2016 election cycle and the first year and a half of the Trump administration, so that’s covered some — but there’s also discussion about other world events, personal observations on the nature of life, reviews and commentary on film, theater and other events, and of course, lots and lots of snark. Lots and lots of snark should not be surprising at this point, I think.

Why did you call this collection Virtue Signaling? 

Because it amused me. Also, as I wrote in the book’s introduction (and I’m condensing here a bit from the actual intro):

“Virtue Signaling” is a phrase the dim and bigoted use when they want to discount other people expressing the idea that it would be nice if we could all be essentially and fundamentally decent to each other. I don’t believe I am notably more virtuous than your average person; nevertheless I also think we can and should be better, to each other and as a nation. Occasionally I write about it. I am delighted to signal in the direction of virtue.

I personally get accused of “virtue signaling” a lot, because of what I write here and in other places, usually by the sort of dude I think wouldn’t know what virtue actually was if it came and bit him on the ass. I didn’t title this collection Virtue Signaling just to annoy that sort of moral CHUD, but I’m not going to deny that it’s a nice bonus, either.

Is… is that supposed to be you on the cover? 

It certainly is! In my social justice warrior garb! Once again, Nate Taylor, who also illustrated the covers of The Mallet of Loving Correction and Don’t Live For Your Obituary, has done a fine job of making a cartoon version of me. I genuinely love this illustration, and think Nate Taylor is brilliant. Please hire him for all of your illustration needs.

Tell me more about the signed, limited hardcover edition and why I need to pre-order it right now.

Well, it’s signed because my signature is in each and every copy, so you won’t need to hunt me down later at a convention or tour event to get it inscribed. It’s limited because once this run of the hardcover is sold through, that’s it; no more will be made. It’s hardcover because that’s what Subterranean Press specializes in — amazing hardcover editions of books that look and feel great and add real class to your bookshelf and, indeed, to your life in general. And you need to pre-order it right now because my signed, limited hardcover Subterranean Press editions have a tendency to sell out, so if you want to be sure you get one, pre-ordering sooner than later is the way to go.

I will not be hardcover-shamed into preordering! Ebooks all the way!

Well, fine, you do you, and there will in fact be an ebook version, which will be cheaper to boot, although not as pretty and shiny as the hardcover. That version should be available at your favorite ebook retailer for pre-order in the reasonably near future.

And before you ask, both the hardcover and ebook editions will be available worldwide (for the hardcover, you will need to pay shipping). The ebook is also DRM-free, because, yeah.

Anything else you want us to know about Virtue Signaling?

Mostly that I’m really happy with this collection, and I think everyone at Subterranean Press has done a truly fabulous job putting it together. I think you’re going to be happy to have it on your shelf. And also, I’m totally going to dress up like the cover at some convention in the future. Just you wait.

The Whatever Digest, 9/12/18

It’s noisy here today. Shall we begin?

***

First, I want to say I admire the spider who spun a web directly across the doorway to my patio. I admire the creature’s optimism in catching the really large prey. However, I saw the web before I walked into it, so I will not be cocooned and consumed at the spider leisure today. The mosquito in the picture will have to do. However, if I get any solicitors today, I will direct them ’round back.

***

Second, the reason it’s noisy here today is that we’re having the house professionally power-washed. It’s been a rainier-than-average year here so far, and as a result, the north side of the house looks like this:

And that’s no good. Our neighbor has a small power washer, which would be fine for just around the patio, but not so great for addressing the the second floor. So we hired a pro, who even now is peeling the moss off the siding directly outside my office. It sounds like a combination of thunder and being inside a car wash. The cats are not liking it. But we’ll appreciate it when it’s done.

The one thing the power washer dude warned me is that if the moss has been there for a while, then the siding underneath may be lighter than the surrounding siding, because it hasn’t been weathering at the same rate. Which makes sense to me, but I guess probably goes need pointing out. Hey, as long as the moss is gone.

***

Third, Hurricane Florence. Yikes. I’ve already let some North Carolina friends know if they need to decamp they are welcome at the Scalzi Compound, which is deep inland. They appear to have made alternate plans, but it’s nice to have a Plan C if you need one. At this point I’ll just say what everyone else is saying to people in this hurricane’s path, which is: Follow evacuation directives, be safe and don’t wait until the last minute, and keep updated on where the storm is going. This is scary stuff.

***

Got a very nice picture of the new crescent moon in the sunset yesterday, with my Nikon with the telephoto lens zoomed all the way in. I freehanded it rather than having the camera on a tripod, which impressed at least one person on Twitter, but in my experience you can get away with freehanding a picture of the moon if the sun is still out. It’s only after sunset (and the moon has comparatively higher contrast) that I’ve generally needed the tripod.

Taking pictures of the moon (and of the sunset) with my DSLR reminded me I need to clean off the sensor, because dust has accumulated on it and that leaves spots on the photo. I tend to take out the spots using Photoshop, but it’s a long and annoying process using the “heal” tool. I went online to find if there was an easier way to do it, but basically all the tutorials I found were for more complicated process where the guy doing it was “this is really simple…” Wrong! My way is much simpler! Just annoying.

Of course I could just clean my sensor. But that takes effort. Urgh.

***

Head’s up: Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of Whatever. And I have something special planned for you all. Tune in tomorrow to find out what it is.

No, it’s not cake. Several thousand people visit here a day and another 50k of you get updates via RSS, email and WordPress. I don’t have time to make cake for everyone. Sorry.

Sunset, 9/11/18

And if you look closely, you can see the new crescent moon.

The Whatever Digest 9/11/18

Good morning! I slept in a bit and I feel pretty good about it. Let’s get to it.

***

I debuted my new author photo on Twitter yesterday and it got the expected responses, including “tell the hairy guy in front to move so we can see the cat.” I remember taking the picture and sending it in to Patrick Nielsen Hayden, by editor at Tor; he replied, “That’s on-brand for you” and sent it along to production. And of course he is correct, it is on brand. And also, I’m grateful that both Tor and Subterranean Press, my other frequent print publisher, have no problem with me offering up somewhat goofy author photos. The one before this was me only half in the frame; the one before that was me jumping around with a guitar. This may make it seem like I plan these things. I don’t. But I take a lot of picture, and a lot of pictures of myself. Some goofy ones happen as a matter of course. And then they end up on my books. I think it’s close to me than a straight up would be, in any event.

***

In a refreshing change from the usual, I understand yesterday’s biggest political scandal, aside from all the ongoing ones, was that New York gubernatorial candidate ordered a bagel with lox, except the bagel was cinnamon raisin. People freaked out about the flavor profile. How quaint! That’s right up there with Obama wearing a tan suit in terms of “politicians doing things we really shouldn’t actually care about.” But since it was a big news story, let me just say that while lox is not what I would put on a cinnamon bagel, a) I’m not the one eating it, she is, b) I’m hardly someone to criticize people on their food choices. Also, it’s a minor food crime at best. It’s not, like, eating New York style pizza with a fork.

***

Follow up to yesterday: My fantasy football team did indeed win its game. The Churro Unicorns are undefeated! And, uh, 1-0. And now I’ll have pick up a QB from waivers just in case Aaron Rodgers doesn’t play next week against the Vikings. This is more thinking about my fantasy football team than I thought I would be required to do.

***

And honestly, this is all I have for today. I barely paid attention to the world yesterday! I regret nothing!

The Whatever Digest, 9/10/18

So many things to do today, so little time to do it! Let’s zoom through a few things.

***

Hey, look, professional football has started its season. I realize this is an opener that most of you aren’t expecting from me, as I rarely evince any sort of interest in football or the NFL, but in point of fact for the last decade I’ve had a fantasy football team (the Churro Unicorns, previously the Mediocre Walloons) in a league my friend Norm put together. He asked me into it because they needed an extra person, so I said sure, let the computer make all my picks for me, and then engage with it only to swap out player on bye weeks. My team often does poorly, but sometimes it does well; I even finished at the top of the league one year. As a result, I keep up with what’s going on in the league, especially as it involves my key players.

Which this year includes Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay QB, who did quite nicely for me last night, despite being pulled from the game for a bit. I feel the computer made a solid choice giving him to me this year. Also I was delighted by the Cleveland Browns, none of whom are on my fantasy team but who are my current avatar of sports-related futility now that the Cubs had to go and wreck a magnificent 108-year losing streak by winning a mere World Series. The Browns broke their seasons-long losing streak, but not their not-winning streak, by tying their game with the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is, as many have noted, to most Browns way possible not to lose. Let’s see if they go 0-0-16, which, honestly, would be delightful.

I won’t know until tomorrow morning whether the Churro Unicorns have won their first game of the season, because my opponent (the Ponte Vedra Wolverines) has players in the game tonight. But the current score is 64 – 37, so they have a lot of ground to cover. I’m feeling good about my chances. But then, that’s what I say every year.

***

Les Moonves out: And good riddance. More than a year after the whole #MeToo movement got its push, we’re still seeing fallout, which isn’t surprising and which almost certainly will continue. CBS is trying to ward off some of the fallout by donating something like $20 million to women’s rights groups. That’s nice but it’s what happens internally at CBS that really matters. And I guess we’ll see. In the meantime, another famous and important man down, because he saw women as a perk, not as people.

***

Directly related to this topic, the Washington Post published what I think is a very good piece from the rabbi Danya Ruttenberg on the matter of famous abusers and the subject of forgiveness, and when (and if) they should ever be forgiven their transgressions. Ruttenberg comes at it from a rabbinical point of view, which makes sense given her vocation, but the reasoning is approachable for anyone.

And it comes down to this, as I understand it: before forgiveness — and before any return to public eye — comes work: Understanding what it is that one had done wrong and working on one’s self and righting the wrongs one has done. Only then may one ask for forgiveness, and seek that return. Without having done the work, the return to the public eye is precipitate, and unearned.

I think Ruttenberg is on the right track with this, and it also explains why, as an example, Louis CK’s appearance in a comedy club failed as badly as it did. Louis CK admitted he had done bad things, and went away, but there hasn’t been any evidence that he’s been doing to the work he should be doing, or making amends as he should. So when he shows up nine months later effectively acting like nothing has happened, or at least hoping everyone else will act like nothing has happened, well. It doesn’t compute.

I think you can change some of the order of the things rabbi Ruttenberg lists for forgiveness — I think you can apologize upfront and do the work after — but doing the work to better yourself is absolutely essential. And you have to do the work of bettering yourself for itself, without the expectation that at the end of it is a return to status of any sort. And that of course is the really hard part. Especially if you have been famous or have had power.

It seems easier just not to be a harasser, honestly.

***

And directly related to that topic, Sarah Silverman talks about Louis CK (scroll down in the interview), and how hard it is, as someone who’s known him and has loved him as a friend for years, to be objective about what’s going on with him. It’s not that she doubts any truth of what he’s done, or defends him, but as she says, “I can’t be objective. I can’t give you a good answer on this that you’ll be happy with or that I’ll be happy with because the whole thing makes me sad.”

You know what? I think that’s a perfectly good answer for Silverman to make, given who she is and her relationship with Louis CK. It doesn’t deny what he’s done and it doesn’t excuse what he’s done, and it also notes that she is not going to be able to give a satisfying statement for most people, because what is the issue of a celebrity fuck up to everyone else is something intensely personal to her, involving her friend. It’s wrapped up in an entirely different perspective.

The internet is a place where it’s easy to demand everyone publicly answer for everything, but I think it’s perfectly acceptable for people to say, in situations like this, “Hey, I’m too close to this and I’m going to deal with this privately.” Because they are, and it’s okay to acknowledge that fact. I recognize that, especially if both parties are well-known (as Silverman and Louis CK are) and otherwise outspoken, this sort of statement can seem unsatisfying or even a little hypocritical. But, you know what, well-known people are actually also people, not just the semi-fictional constructs we make them out to be. People are allowed to deal with personal shit away from the stage. If you demand that they can’t or shouldn’t, that’s your right, but maybe look at why you’re demanding such a thing.

Louis CK done fucked up; there’s no doubt about it. Sarah Silverman should be allowed to process the fact that her friend fucked up however she wants. So should any friend, in that situation.

***

Obama’s speech: Hey, remember when we had a president who could speak complete sentences about things that were not directly about him? Good times, good times.

Also: Hey, vote in November, okay?

***

And that’s the digest for today. Please enjoy this picture of Smudge as a parting gift. See you tomorrow.

The Whatever Digest, 9/7/18

Like this neighbor cat cautiously peering onto our deck, let’s pop our head up to see what’s going on, shall we?

***

Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing: Well, this has been a mess so far, if an entertaining one, if you’re the sort of person to be entertained by a car wreck. And of course it didn’t have to be a mess, but then the GOP and Trump administration decided not to release a lot of documents, which prompted an open rebellion by the Democrats, who released documents and dared the Republicans to do something about it, and then there Kavanaugh himself, who seems annoyed he has to pretend to answer questions at all.

And now of course there’s the question of whether the documents released show Kavanaugh perjured himself in front of Congress back in the day, the responses of which range from “probably not, if you allow for context” to “yes, and let’s impeach him from the DC Appeals bench right now.” What do I think? Well, I think I have no idea how to judge this particular thing, so I’m going to let other people fight about it.

But I do think the polite fiction of “Roe v Wade is settled law” that Kavanaugh tried to pass off to Susan Collins a bit ago is a bunch of bullshit, and given he also referred to contraception as “abortion-inducing drugs,” it’s probable he’s not a huge fan of that either, and otherwise as someone else just said on Twitter, he’s your basic Federalist Society bubble boy. So I’d be happy not to have him on the court, and to have him skitter back sour-faced to the DC court of appeals.

The thing is, if Kavanaugh is punted — which is actually possible, albeit deeply unlikely — the choices for any other Supreme Court candidate don’t get any better while Trump is in office. Clearly the Democrats are hoping they’ll get the senate in November, which will put a new wrinkle on things, but that might be optimistic. In the meantime, it’s not like Trump won’t pick someone who isn’t hostile to women’s right to control their bodies, or voting rights, or gay rights, or doesn’t think climate change is at best an interesting theoretical puzzle. So if Kavanaugh gets chopped, we’ll be back here again, one way or another.

Which is one reason I mentioned to a friend yesterday that in 2020, should Democrats get the presidency and both houses, there’s a pretty good chance we’ll see the Supreme Court expand to 11 members. Look, if the GOP is going to stack the court by denying a Democratic president their court pick and then rushing through two other picks, including one who have may have perjured himself in front of Congress, I’m not sure the Democrats are going to be inclined to let that sort of packing stand. Adding two more justices may be easier than trying to impeach Kavanaugh.

***

Alex Jones removed From Twitter: Jones, a performatively unhinged purveyor of questionable health supplements, was finally booted from Twitter, along with his business site, after similar puntings from Facebook, YouTube and other online services. There was an ostensible direct reason for this (Jones was a harassing boor to a reporter and used a Twitter service to record the moment), but as I noted, on Twitter of all places, “Alex Jones being punted off Twitter for this one specific thing is sort of the flip side of Al Pacino getting the Oscar for Scent of a Woman: Sure, okay, but everyone knows it was for career achievement and it should have happened sooner.”

And yes, Jones definitely should have been punted from Twitter before now — a man who makes his money by harassing the parents of school shooting victims is not someone I’ll be shedding a lot of tears for. Jones’ own site is still up and running so he’s got his printing press, as it were; people who want to find his particular brand of bullshit can still do so. But now he’s harder to find! Well, I mean, okay, but if so, it’s not Twitter or Facebook or YouTube’s fault Jones’ followers are not smart enough to enter a URL into their browsers, now, is it?

I’ve essayed the issue of free speech online before, and in detail, so I don’t need to do it again now, but I will say that I do find Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s recent assertion that he sees Twitter as a “public square” a bit of meretricious nonsense. It’s emphatically not a public square — Twitter is a for-profit corporation that makes money selling advertising to its customers, and has made Dorsey a billionaire (currently) six times over. Dorsey’s allegiance isn’t to the public weal, it’s to his company making a profit. The “public square” bit is just marketing, and Dorsey’s excuse for letting certain bad actors stay on the service as long as he felt he could extract value from their presence.

Alex Jones and his hijinks are past their sell date now, and Twitter was getting bad press for being the last service that tolerated his supplement-selling assholery, so out he goes. And sure, there are a bunch of dimwits who are grousing about “shadow banning” or whatever, but I have to tell you, enough of those “I’m shadowbanned!” dumbasses show up in my Twitter comments that I know that’s bullshit. And as for them being punted/blocked/banned/whatever, well, I understand it’s difficult for people who are assholes to understand they are being removed from polite society because they are assholes, and not for any other reason. But it doesn’t mean their being an asshole needs to be tolerated by others, or that it has a constitutional right to exist on a privately-run service.

***

On the subject of Twitter, people have noted that friends of mine have quit the service, some in part to protest the continued presence of Alex Jones and his nasty bit of business and/or because they’re tired of dealing with the other assholes there and/or because it’s just not fun anymore. These folks were wondering if I also plan to be leaving the service anytime soon.

My answer: Probably not. One, I have 150k followers there, mostly fans, so it’s a really good way of letting lots of people who are affirmatively interested in me know what I’m up to. Two, while some friends have dropped, many many others are still there, and it’s how we chat and stay in touch and in each other’s lives on a daily basis. I live in rural Ohio, folks. My writer/creator community is far-flung from me and from each other, and hangs out online. I’d miss them.

Three, I’m very clear on why I’m there and how I use the service, and I’m clear about it to everyone else, too. Four, after 30 years in the public eye one way or another, I’ve gotten a pretty thick skin and no qualms about removing assholes from my sight. 99+% of what I see on Twitter at this point is friendly people, and the unfriendly people I usually only ever see once.

And finally — and this part should not be read as a criticism of anyone dealing with online services — I don’t really expect Twitter or any other online service to be other than wildly flawed. Twitter was built by people who wanted to make shitloads of money monetizing other people’s trivia, and on that score it’s succeeded very well, as has Facebook, Google and a few others. Tech billionaires are basically callow dudes in hoodies who never learned how to deal with humans except for one specific slice of their needs/wants that they could extract value from, so honestly I don’t expect their creations to reflect anything other than that. Change comes only at the last possible minute and only when it threatens that extraction of value. If you know that going in, it makes dealing with the things they create much easier.

This is not to excuse tech billionaires from being truculent, vaguely libertarian shitlords, or to suggest that people should just accept the awfulness of the services they’re being offered. Tech billionaires should make an effort to be self-actualized humans with some goal other than sitting on a massive pile of ducats and thinking it’s deserved; we should all work to make the services they provide humane as well as narrowly useful. And if neither are happening on a schedule that suits you, you should bail on the service. No one owes a tech billionaire their value. I am saying that for me, my tolerance both of tech billionaires and their flawed services is reasonably high, as long as I’m getting something useful out of it too, on my terms.

Which I am in regards to Twitter, so I’m likely to stay on it for a while.

***

And thus we come to the end of the first week of the Whatever Digests for September. I hope you’re enjoying them. If you have thoughts so far on the format, drop them into the comments. I’m curious what you think. In the meantime, and to close, enjoy this picture of a Smudge on my monitor. The Digest will see you again on Monday. Have a good weekend.

Hey, Wanna See the First Chapter of The Consuming Fire?

If you do, it’s here.

The Whatever Digest, 9/6/18

An overcast morning here, and apparently it’s going to rain for (checks weather forecast) the next four days. Whee! Here’s what I’m thinking about today.

***

That New York Times anonymous op-ed: Oh, you know the one, in which an unnamed senior official at the White House says they are part of the resistance inside the government, keeping Trump from doing something really crazy? As opposed to all the batshit things he’s actually already managed?

Yeah, not a fan of it. I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone that Trump is unhinged, incompetent and unfit for the role of president, but inasmuch as that’s the case, the solution is boot his ass out of the Oval Office, not attempt to route around him. That said, no one in this administration or the GOP in Congress, which it controls, has the moral courage to either invoke the 25th Amendment, or begin hearings followed by impeachment followed by booting Trump out on his ass, so I guess senior staffers furtively running about hiding papers from the President is all we have between us and armageddon, at least until next January at the earliest.

Not that that will work anymore, either. Now Trump is aware he’s being handled and thinks there’s a traitor in the White House, besides him I mean, and his anger and oppositional behavior will now come out to play even more. This anonymous op-ed isn’t going to make it any easier to handle the President and his irrational impulses. So, thanks, anonymous senior staffer! You’ve done a bang-up job here.

Folks are already making the point that whoever this anonymous staffer is — and we’ll know who they are soon enough, one way or another — is among other things positioning themselves as a Voice of Reason for the post-Trump era, i.e., on our side, rather than in fact entirely complicit. Aaaaand, meh? No. If you want to come clean, fine, do that, and bring all the files with you. Short of that, nah. You’re still complicit.

Honestly this presidency is just so exhausting. Please vote in November, okay?

***

And, no, I’m not particularly interested in who the anonymous op-ed writer is. I joked yesterday on Twitter it was Ivanka, but that’s pretty much the only one in the White House I’m sure it wouldn’t be, to be honest. Well, her and Stephen Miller, albeit for entirely different reasons, since the reason Miller wouldn’t have written it is that he’s a pustulant little shit who will never work again outside of this White House, so there’s no percentage in him stabbing Trump in the kidneys.

As for the rest of them — well, who cares who wrote it? All of them are moral cowards at this point, and thus conversely (and perversely) I can imagine any of them writing the op-ed, trying to make themselves the hero of the story rather than the fellow traveler. In that sense, it doesn’t matter which of them wrote it. It could be any of them, and it would still be crap.

***

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, some good news: India has decriminalized gay sex. Congratulations to all the Indians who can now legally love who they love.

***

Audi has apparently given up trying to sell manual transmissions in the US, because they’re unpopular and no one likes them, save for a few weirdos. As one of those weirdos myself (I specifically ordered my Mini Countryman as a manual), I’m not terribly surprised, and while I enjoy manually shifting, I’ve already resigned myself to the fact that my next car will not be manual. And actually “resigned” is not exactly the right word, since I fully intend my next car to be a hybrid of some sort or another, probably one where the electric motor drives the engines and there’s a gas generator as a backup (example: the Chevy Volt), and there’s no need for a manual transmission because electric engines don’t actually have gears.

(And no, I don’t want to go full electric yet. I live out in the boonies, folks. The electric infrastructure isn’t anywhere close to built-out enough for me. Hell, I barely get Internet. Catch me in 2030 and we’ll see where we are on that.)

There’s the joke that my Mini is theft-proof because it’s a manual, and while I’m okay with this theory never being tested, as the years go by it gets truer. My next car, on the other hand, whatever it is, will not have the same “protection.” Of course, I’m not in any rush to get that next car. I’m cheap, and my Mini is paid off. I’ll be manually shifting for a while yet.

***

In other personal news, I’m giving thought to getting a smartwatch, mostly for the purposes of tracking health stuff, although I wouldn’t mind looking down at my wrist to check messages and such. A couple years ago I got a Fitbit-branded wearable and it worked fine, but I lost it, and then when I found it again I lost the little dongle that charges the thing, and then I lost them both, so here we are.

My problem is not that there aren’t smartwatches to get — there are many, several good, that connect into the Google/Android ecosystem that I’m embedded into — but that all the tech sites I’m looking at for research are sort of waving people off from getting smartwatches right now. Apparently in the next few weeks new watches are coming out, with new faster processors and abilities and possibly shootable lasers or whatever. Which, one, okay, but two, having decided that I want to get a smartwatch, I want to get one now. I’m just not very patient when I decide I want technology.

But I guess I’ll wait. For now. Hrumph. In the meantime, maybe I’ll walk a little more anyway. And take my phone. It has Google Fit on it and will track my steps. I just can’t wear my phone on my wrist. Or shouldn’t, anyway.

***

To finish up today, here’s Sarah Harmer’s song “Lodestar,” since the word “lodestar” is on people’s minds today thanks to that anonymous op-ed. This is a much better use of the word, if you ask me. It’s one of my favorite songs of hers.