Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Deeply Disturbing Article About "Health Worker's Rights"

This article is quite frightening. It's all about proposed legislation that protects medical personnel who choose to not treat based on discrimination. So doctors who don't want to treat gays and lesbians wouldn't have to.

An attorney who represented an ambulance driver who refused to transport a woman to the hospital for an abortion is quoted. They don't give details but an abortion is the medical term for any pregnancy that ends early with a nonviable fetus. When my baby died at thirteen weeks and I nearly bled to death and had a d and c, that was called an inevitable abortion. So a woman who is taking an ambulance to the hospital for an abortion sounds to me like a woman who needs immediate emergency care and to deny her the transport is criminal and sinful. I can't imagine why else a woman would take an ambulance to the hospital to get an abortion.

Now look at this:

At least five of the broad bills would allow insurance companies to opt out of covering services they find objectionable for religious reasons. A sixth state, Pennsylvania, is considering a bill designed for insurers.

What the fuck? News flash - an insurance company is physically incapable of having a religion. This is so ridiculous I can't believe it.

And how about this?

Doctors opposed to fetal tissue research, for example, could refuse to notify parents that their child was due for a chicken pox inoculation because the vaccine was originally produced using fetal tissue cell cultures, said R. Alto Charo, a bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin.

Skipping past the fact that it would be really freaking weird to make a chicken pox inoculation from fetal tissue cell culture and the fact that I am emphatically against the chicken pox inoculation in the first place, let's look at this with the emotion stripped away.

It is so difficult to get decent medical care already. When doctors can just ignore protocol because they don't like it what hope do we have? Who is going to watch out for us? Are we all supposed to memorize protocols so we know nothing is skipped? I weep.

State of the Union Address Drinking Game

Take a drink every time he says "duty."

Monday, January 30, 2006

Make That One Month

I got the auto reply from Strange Horizons telling me that my story is safe within their bosom and they'll get back to me on one month. That's nice for me.

I changed the ending when I sent it to them. Not much but if by some odd chance you saw the version I workshopped at Zoetrope then you might notice it's slightly different. I hope it's better.

Free Dirt is an absolutely grand story up at scifi.com. Like all my favorite horror it's quite funny in spots. It's by Charles Beaumont. Lovely.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Strange Horizons

I submitted a story to Strange Horizons today. It's called Pyrexia, Unknown Etiology. I wrote it in October of 2004. I know, I should have submitted it sooner but I've been busy with my column and I have a terrible time deciding things like where should I submit. I should hear back in about two months.

I read a story at their site today that I liked very much. It's called Special Edition. You should go and read it.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Useful Written Communication Tips

I made a list the other day. Essentially it is words and phrases that indicate you probably aren't in the right frame of mind to respond to a customer service email or a post on a discussion board. If any of these things are at the forefront of your mind it's best to let some time go by and cool off before you hit send or submit.

What on earth is the matter with you?

Are you retarded?

How retarded are you?

Do you actually believe that?

What the fuck were you thinking?

Bring it!

I know x numbers of ways to kill a man. (The larger X is the more time you need to elapse before you rewrite your email/post.)

Do you think I'm stupid?


You fucking liar.

People go to hell for that, I just think you should know for your own good.

Um, you do know that...

Oh you'll pay all right.

You have got to be fucking kidding me.

What? What? What? WHAT?

How dare you?

Additional signs and symptoms that donÂ?t necessarily include words:

Any time you're tempted to refer to Mr. Christ by his full name you should probably stop. If you want to give him a middle name or initial you definitely need a cooling off period.

If you can't actually see the keyboard because it's obscured in a fine red mist you should go for a walk. Even if it's ten below.

If you're striking the keys so hard they go flying off the keyboard, it's time for meditation.

This list is not all-inclusive but it is a good start.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Most Weird Thing I Noticed While Researching Column

I decided to do this week's column about the 2006 Winter Olympics, sort of focusing on the opening and closing ceremonies. I learned a little about curling, a sport I find vastly entertaining and a little about all sorts of things including the history of the company in charge of the ceremonies.

Here's what I noticed. 2600 athletes will attend. 10,000 accredited media members will attend. Then of course there are all the people like me who are still writing about it but won't attend.

There are three Olympic villages for the athletes and seven for the media.

I'm trying to imagine Little League or Pony Club if the media outweighed the athletes four to one but it's kind of a scary image.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Still Quite Ill With Exacerbated Symptoms

It's quite annoying. I have been feeling somewhat better for the last few months so long as I'm extremely careful with my diet. But since Friday I'm too sick to do much of anything. Totally knocked out by a killer headache today.

I blame it in part on a story I formatted and posted for work, the headline was "Unraveling the Pyramid" and it only got worse from there, although a friend says it couldn't possibly get any worse than that headline.

I would think headline like that would make anyone too sick and dizzy to get up even if they don't have a chronic neurological illness.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Extremely Interesting Article on Malnutrition in Niger

I've spent most of the day sleeping off the after affects of being so sick yesterday and reading articles from the New England Journal of Medicine, the Body (the HIV and AIDS newsletter I get) and the Washington Post.

This story about malnutrition in Niger is interesting. It's appalling that these children were ever in this condition to start with but the treatment is encouraging.

Good news
from the Clinton Foundation regarding AIDS drug prices.

This one is great, Priests Furious Over Proposed Condom Law. The proposed law is that everyone over the age of 14, even tourists, have to have carry a condom at all time. There are some very funny lines in the article. Sadly it's because the rate of HIV infection is so high in the area. Plus they have a very high teen pregnancy rate. I'm pleased to see the town fathers doing something constructive, if quirky.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Lots of Pain

I'm feeling awful tonight. I've had a cold for a few days, no big deal really but then for some reason all my PTC symptoms flared up big time. Throwing up, dizziness, trouble talking, etc. Usually I say the wrong word but I've been saying things that aren't even words, like telling Cullen to take some sangiwarrisium instead of calcium and potassium.

Then huge headache accompanied by extreme chest pain, like a gallbladder attack. I took a tramadol even though the last time I took one I threw up for two days. Sometimes you just hurt so much you'll pay any price later for relief now. Then about an hour later I took half of a narcotic I have left over from my last spinal tap, not even sure if it's okay to take after taking the tramadol but again not really caring and figuring that I was only taking half of the narcotic and I can take two tramadols at once so really still less than one full dose of whatever this narcotic is. Demerol? Something like that.

So then woozy and feeling horrid, tired but can't sleep, just wracking pain and utter misery. I finally dozed off for a few minutes and woke up in a cold sweat. I wonder if it is gallstones. It's very hurty whatever it is. Of course I'll feel right stupid if it's a heart attack and I die...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Who Wrote the Poem About the Purple Cow?

Ages ago I was at my grandmother's house, reading a book of poetry by Ogden Nash, with illustrations. The poem that I remember the clearest, and we're talking about a book I read nearly 30 years ago in seventh grade, was the one about the purple cow. You probably know the one, "I never saw a purple cow, And never hope to see one" etc.

Today I was looking at an entry at Merriam-Webster's website and they say that a fellow called Gelett Burgess wrote it.

If you do a google you'll quite a lot of hits saying Ogden Nash wrote the poem and the followup regretting writing the poem and a couple saying no, Burgess really wrote it.

I'm sure the book I read said Nash wrote it.

Who did and how did it all get so tangled up in the memory of those who read it?

The Trouble With Zombies

The biggest problem with zombies is that they don't stop. You don't ever have a break with them; no time for a cigarette or a cup of tea or a beer or even to stop and administer first aid to your companions. Zombies just don't quit. They keep coming.

Vampires have the courtesy to sleep during the day. You can go after them then or take a nap yourself.

Werewolves have an almost indecently long down time and may even assist in coming up with excellent ways of controlling or combating them. You can see the dog/wolf relationship in a werewolf, they truly are man's best monster.

Ghosts and things are kind of sporadic. In fact if you want a ghost to give you some peace you just need to call in someone who is offering a large reward for proof of ghosts.

But zombies, they're another story. They keep on coming and breeding and coming and in the end they're a lot like cockroaches. No matter how clean you are and no matter how much you swear you'll never have them, you may end up with zombies in your apartment.

Monday, January 16, 2006

My Contribution to The ED SF Project

Do you ever find yourself wondering why people like to fight online? Do you ask why the argumentative threads get the most hit counts? Have you ever been in a flame war and been baffled by the fact that you just couldn't stop with the witty insults even though you knew your mother would frown on your behavior? Although it was written in 1955, well before the internet became popular and takes place in meat space, Robert Sheckley's Cordle To Onion To Carrot does an excellent job explaining the motivation behind the art of the snark.

It's the story of the thrill that comes to Howard Cordle who learns to be obnoxious and aggressive after years of "being pushed around by Fuller Brush men, fund solicitors, headwaiters, and other imposing figures of authority." The hyperbole used to describe his encounters is wonderful and makes this story even more of a pleasure to read. I particularly enjoyed the escalating pressure brought to bear on a Milanese businessman who makes the mistake of honking at Cordle because he isn't stepping on the gas fast enough at a traffic light in Rome. "Traffic was now backed up as far south as Naples. A crowd of ten thousand had gathered. Carabinieri units in Viterbo and Genoa had been called into a state of alert." And moments later, "There was a thundering sound to the east: Thousands of Soviet tanks were moving into battle formation across the plains of Hungary, ready to resist the long-expected NATO thrust into Transylvania. The water supply was cut off in Foggia, Brindisi, Bari. The Swiss closed their frontiers and stood ready to dynamite the passes." It's beautiful stuff.

But my family's all time favorite line, oft repeated when we want to make a ludicrous point about how manly (and womanly) we are, comes when Cordle dons his girlfriend's raincoat in an effort to circumvent a butler who won't let them into an exhibition unless he's wearing a coat and tie. When the butler points out that the new attire isn't quite up to snuff, saying "You are wearing a woman's waterproof and a soiled handkerchief…I think there is no more to say." Cordle responds by saying, "A woman's coat, you say? Hombre, when I wear a coat, it becomes a man's coat." And who can argue with that?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Chat With Jayne Ann Krentz, aka Amanda Quick

I got an email this afternoon telling me that one of my favorite writers, Jayne Ann Krentz would be having a chat at nine pm. When I first started online I went to chats with great enthusiasm but over time I became disillusioned because the questions were always prescreened and mine were never chosen. I mean really, not once was my question chosen in something like three years. But this one said one person would win a book so I thought what the hell, I would give it a try.

This chat was moderated but the questions weren't prescreened and were taken in the order in which they were asked, to a degree, the moderator didn't notice I had a question at first but it was a very busy room, maxed out for about forty minutes, so I don't blame her and she did notice the second time around.

My question was about genre and I did get permission to blog the answer, which I quite liked.

First, thanks so much for fifteen years of fabulous reading. I have a question about genre because I see the lines blur more and more. Since your books have wonderful mysteries also, who decides that they are romances and not mysteries or suspense? Or does it not matter to you so long as your readers are finding your work and happy with it?

Jayne/Amanda - backgroundgrrl: It's all about the marketing. There is no place in the bookstores for romantic-suspense (which is what I write). So, they usually end up in the romance section, which is fine with me since so many romance readers are happy to read romantic-suspense. Hey, we all grew up on Nancy Drew, right?

backgroundgrrl - Yes and Trixie Belden! Thanks so much,

One of the reasons I asked this question is because so much of the romance that I read has a mystery in it. I can go for a couple of months and not read any romance that is a pure romance, so to speak. But so far I don't have any interest in writing a romantic mystery myself. My romances are romances and are about people who are healing from some trauma, either emotional or physical, or both.

Although in Carnal Fear there is a stalker and some suspense from that. And I think that there is going to be a character who is trying to manipulate Sutter in a Gaslight/Angel Street sort of way so maybe I'm a big fat liar when I say I don't write anything that could be called a mystery. Maybe I just don't write murder mysteries. Beyond say the little story about the alien that bloomed up out of the desert ground when the blood of the hitchhiker sank into the sand. That was pretty mysterious.

I was also quite surprised to hear that it took Jayne six years to sell her first book, although I suspect I already knew that and my faulty memory made me think I didn't. Six years and she's done so well and been so popular since. Astounding.

Friday, January 13, 2006

My Vote for the Puddly Awards, 2006

This is my response to Powell's Book's question about which was my favorite book I read last year. I don't favorites well, I tend to fall in love with an awful lot of things of various types and then not want to discriminate against the majority of them by choosing one as "the best" but I managed to pick something.

Title: Someone Comes to Town; Someone Leaves Town
Author: Cory Doctorow

I had a hard time deciding between this book, the graphic novel Blankets or Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys but in the end Doctorow's book is the one that most made me want to around my neighborhood banging on doors demanding that people read this book right now! and then discuss it with me.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bullshit - Penn and Teller Take on Psychics

I'm watching Penn and Teller's Bullshit. A very good episode about circumcision just ended. I was extremely pleased with that episode and agreed with just about everything they said.

Penn just gave a very moving monologue about his grief for his own parents and said something that really struck home with me. He said ""How low do you have to be to exploit someone's grief" and went on to talk about these people doing it to sell a book.

But in my case I have had people who pretended to get messages from Dan in order to fuck with my head for some perverse reason of their own. Of course the messages made no damn sense and one was extremely offensive so that little scam didn't work.

This show is good stuff. I watched it because I got an email just before it came on. Good marketing on the part of Penn and Teller.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Does Holland Have Much in the Way of Satanists?

Here's an interesting article from Daily Times - a new voice for a new Pakistan, Rush for 6/6/6 weddings. Cullen thinks it's hilarious that Satanists would be convening in Holland. He asks us to imagine if Antichrist returned to earth and his seat of power was in Holland. I could make a long string of jokes here but since they would only display my inane provincialism I shan't.

Of course the article is exaggerating, there are only 11 or so more people trying to get married on the infamous day than on an average day, it's not like millions are ringing up looking to tie the knot in unholy matrimony but still it's a fun story, for certain values of fun.

Poisoned Water in Harbin, China - Follow-up to Yesterday's Post

Sailor Fred sent me two disturbing links to pages about an industrial accident that poisoned the water in Harbin, China, the city whose website I blogged about yesterday. As he points out there is nothing about it on their site.

Benzene appears to be the primary pollutant, with the slick expanding from 80 kilometers. The affected river crosses the border into Russia and there was controversy because it appears as though China tried to hide the accident from Russia for a number of days.

Harbin holds nearly four million people who had very little notice that the water was going to be shut off for four days. There was some panic but it appears as though things were pretty well under control.

It's all extremely depressing from an ecological view and I wonder if the ice and snow being used for sculpture for the ice and snow festival going on right now is contaminated. How awful it would be to go another country to compete and be poisoned.

And of course all of this just proves once again that James Macdonald is right, we need to be prepared for an emergency all the time. We should have water stockpiled around the house. I try to keep at least seven gallons of bottled water although that would go rather quickly. Still it's a start.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Handy Telephone Numbers You Might Need in Harbin China + Suggested Soundtrack Music

I've been exploring the "English" version of a Chinese website for a possible column this week. Before I say anything else I must say I have absolutely no room to talk about anyone's translations, I have learned a grand total of two Cantonese expressions in my life - I ate your dog and Your girlfriend is a lesbian - and I doubt I could remember either of them now. Still, I find this official website extremely charming and funny. The suggested background music is Zero Wing Rhapsody, the mashup of Zero Wing, the game that spawned All Your Base Are Belong to Us, and Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.

Here is the link to the Harbin, China website. There is so much to love, starting with the headline Ambassador experiences the skiing pleasure, going on to "?The duck encloses"?the oasis changes into the desert, through Every district is instructed to water on trees and pausing at The digital city and fictitious urban planning forum are held in Harbin.

My favorite so far is the list of helpful telephone numbers.

Travel quality complaining - This is the best quality complaining available.

The public phone complaining - is this to make a complaint or is it a smart phone that will complain to you about how it has to listen to inane conversations all day long?

Supply power and guarantee centre - I like my supply power to bguaranteeded.

Book the train ticket - I think this is like Clifford the big red dog. The train ticket's name is Book.

Dispatcher's centre of gas - it's like the center of gravity but influenced by how much chili he ate the night before.

Municipal Removal Office - Does it remove the municipality completely?

Aviation limited company of goose of the north spaceflight doesn't't this sounamazinglyly wonderful?

Railway ticket center (inquiry in 24 hours) - I wonder if this like jam tomorrow and jam yesterday in that you can't make your inquiry until 24 hours after you want to or if it really means you can make an inquiry 24 hours a day.

Master station of first aid of the red cross of the city - This sounds rather impressive.

Municipal Anti-epidemic Station - If you're worried about bird flu, worry no more.

Luggage room Booking Office of Nangang - Is this cabaretet? Do lounge singers sing in the luggage room?

Traffic police's detachment of public security bureau - There's too much detachment on the part of traffic police these days. They should be more attached, to what I don't know.

Dispatching room of company of steamer - This makes me think of steamer clams, I'm sure I'm on the wrong track. Cullen thinks it's dry cleaning. What about steam ships or steam trains?

the hot line of Order water - I thought at first this was a number to order hot water but that was just my brain misfiring.

Short-time predict - No idea what this means but it reminds me of Stephen King's Insomnia

Sunday, January 08, 2006

I would like this house please

I found this house listed on Craig's List last night. I just shot the link over to Chris and it's been deleted, weirdly because I can still see it. But as far as I can tell the link from Craig's List to the slideshow of the house is still working. Check it out. It is beautiful and if it were in my area it would cost about ten times as much.


Saturday, January 07, 2006

New Column on Paper Craft Up

This week's column has gotten quite a bit of fan mail. I'm very pleased because this was one I planned for since May. I saw the first site at boingboing and thought that it would make a fun column for when the weather turned cold and I've been planning the thing in the back of my mind ever since. I was quite happy with the way it turned out.

Chris fixed our DVD player today so we got to watch the first two episodes of Chef. W00t! Great stuff.

Today was the first day in a week where I felt well enough to leave the house. We went out to IHOP and to the store and I didn't throw up. Very nice. Tomorrow I'll talk about the woman who was horrid to her kids at the pancake place. Sigh.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Disturbing Ads

I ended up at the national pork board website, called theotherwhitemeat.com, looking for a simple pork chop recipe and found some ads that are kind of scary. Everything else on the site is most definitely pork related so it really sticks out.

First there is a text box where you can sign up for "BREAKING NEWS," I'm not sure what that means. Is there pork news? Is there pork news important enough to be referred to as breaking? Do pigs go postal? It boggles the mind.

Right below this link is an ad for TOTALLY HIDDEN VIDEOS! CHECK THESE OUT! Forbidden Love and Destiny on the High Sea. Forbidden love on a site for dead pig products? What could that mean? And Destiny on the High Sea? Pig Pirates who ravish maidens? What in the world?

Here's the link just in case you've got the guts to watch it. I'm going to try and pluck up my courage now...

Dear Sweet Jesus, nooooooo...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Confusing info about my column

I heard today that we're still running it at BrokerUniverse, or maybe it will just run this week or maybe next week too. I don't know what's going on. I only know that I need to come up with a column by this time tomorrow night.

I have a ton of work to do tomorrow because I got food poisoning last night and was too sick to get much done all day. I haven't even done my hundred words in my novel. Blah. Here's to a better tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

An Excerpt From my Newest Novel, Enjoy

I'm sorry I haven't been posting lately. I've had a nasty headache since the 31st and haven't had a lot of energy to spare. In recompense I have some dialogue for you. Since it's January I'm back to writing my November novel. That's doesn't require as much time travel as it may sound like I need.

My female lead is trying very hard to distract my male lead who is worrying too much about her health. He's kind of giving up for now because he knows she can be very stubborn. This is a first draft so don't expect perfection or even that I haven't left out crucial words.

She poked him in the ribs. "What do you think I mean keep me as his mistress?"

Kipling laughed. "No of course not, although that's not a bad idea. Have you ever been kept before?"

"I most certainly have not and I don't intend to start now."

"Just imagine, I could buy you jewels and ball gowns. Every decent person in society could give us the cut direct when I parade you on my arm through Rotten Row."

"Kipling James, whatever have you been reading?"

He hung his head in mock dismay. "I must confess I have a secret fondness for regency romances."

"I would never have guessed."

"I hide it well, don't I? It started with an absurd love for Pride and Prejudice and then continued until I was reading them by the armload."

"Shouldn't that be 'by the cartload?'"

"Perhaps. The important thing here is that I am at heart a romantic."

"This explains your love for period pieces, methinks."

"Maybe it does. But we were talking about your health, not me."

"But that's so boring. Why don't we do something else? First kiss me and then you can be the stable boy and I'll be the Lord's daughterÂ?"

He frowned at her rather menacingly. "You've never read a regency have you?"

"I have a spectacularly good imagination. That has to count for something."

"Stable boys don't fool around with Lord's daughter's. That's so basic!"

"Oh really? I thought the aristocracy had all the power. What if the daughter demands that the stable boy fool around with her?"

"But she wouldn't. She'd be protecting her virginity and trying to get married."

"Maybe she doesn't want to get married. Maybe her father is trying to marry her off to a man with fetid breath and horny toenails who is as daft as the day is long. Then mightn't she try to get rid of her virginity so that she gets taken off the marriage market? And in fact mightn't she try and get rid of her virginity and indulge in her lust for the stable boy at the same time? The stable boy who always gives her long glances as he boosts her into the saddle? The same stable boy who always strokes the horse's nose softly and gently while telling her just how stunning she looks in her new habit?"