What I did on my vacation…

Okay, so it’s been a while since I posted anything here at EoB.

I have many excuses — most of them are pretty good.  My favorite is that we spent the last year remodeling most of the house — including the kitchen.  This is a special kind of hell.  I know child birth is supposed to be tough, but at least it ends in a relatively short period of time. And my ob-gyn has never looked me in the eye and promised me my exam would be over in a certain amount of time only to have it drag on for months.

However, I did learn a few things during the remodeling process.

First, contractors are delicate flowers. Really. Oh, sure, they’re sweaty, cranky, and prone to never showing up on time. But like the Wicked Witch of the West, they will melt if it rains. (I have never seen a contactor in the rain.  So that whole Wicked Witch thing is wild speculation, but, you know, it would explain a lot.)

Me (on the phone): “Uhm, hey, it’s Caroline.  It’s eleven and you guys said you’d be here by nine.  I hate to be a bother, but could you give me a call and let me know when you’re going to be here?”

Me (on the phone): “Yeah. It’s Caroline. Again. It’s noon and y’all still aren’t here. I kinda need to run some errands. Could you please call and let me know when y’all will be here?”

Me (on the phone): “It’s Caroline. Seriously.  What the hell? It’s two o’clock and no one is here. And I haven’t had a call. Jesus jumped-up Christ on a moped, how difficult is it to pick up the fricking phone and let me know that you’re not even going to bother to come. Fuck me!”

Me (answering the phone): “Yeah, what? My language?  Seriously? Do you have any idea how much they swear when they’re here? I made them cry? Oh. My. God. You have got to be kidding. Uh huh. Uh huh. But it wasn’t even raining, for fuck’s sake. Uh huh. Uh huh. Yeah. Fine. But I’m not sending them roses. Fine, daisies. No, I’m not going to send them candy. Well, sure I’d like the sink to get put in.  It’s been sitting in the guest bedroom for four months. Uh huh. So, nougat or cream filled?”

Secondly, things will happen if you leave the house. And the corollary: Carpenters are never happier than when they’re destroying someone else’s work.

In order to save some money (oh, the hysterical laughter that’s bubbling up in my throat even now), I decided to keep kitchen’s center island.  We were going to retro fit the cabinets.

I get home after going to the grocery store. The center island is gone.  There are two sad-looking pipes poking out of the floor.

Did I mention the island was gone? This was not an insubstantial item. It was ten freaking feet long, four and a half feet wide. Gone. Vanished. Poof!  It’s like an episode of LOST.  The Others have done something terrible and now they want me to believe that they’re the good guys.

Me: “The island is gone. Vanished. Poof!”

John (my carpenter, looking manically cheerful): “We had to!  We discovered the plumbing had been leaking into the base of the cabinet.  The wood had rotted. Hee hee!”

Me: But, but… the island is gone! Vanished! Poof!

John: We had to.

Me: “What time is it?  It’s cocktail hour somewhere. Wanna shot?  I think I need a shot. We all need shots. There’s tequila somewhere on the back porch. I’m going to find it.” 

Thirdly, painters are evil. Really, really evil.

Fourth, you can’t work in a house that’s being remodeled. And you can’t leave to work somewhere else because there are a million questions You Must Answer Now. And these are questions you have never once in your life thought about. Questions like: “How do you want the random tiles in the backsplash arranged?” and “Where do you want these outlets put?”

And my favorite part about the remodel: Living without floors.  Well, we had floors, but all the carpeting and old tile had been pulled out.  Which would have been fine, except that the floor guys, thoughtful fellows that they were, laid a skim coat down to help the new flooring material adhere better.  Then they wisely decided to wait on putting in the new floors.

The problem? A skim coat is mud. You have a mud flat. In. Your. House. I now know why pioneer women went batshit crazy. (Okay, aside from the crushing boredom, loneliness and the backbreaking work.)  They lived in what amounted to dry mud flats.  

There’s a lot of all kinds of crap that gets stirred up during construction, but I swear that skim coat was the worst of it.  I’m getting the vapors just thinking about it.

All my friends have instructions to smack me if I ever start talking about remodeling again because, like childbirth, you forget the pain.

Like I said, I’ve had my reasons…  

*Oh, and the damn island is back.  One day it just reappeared. Voila!

Mysterious Island

Yes!

 

“It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come. Oh, yes it will.” — Sam Cooke

 

We did it.

 

I’m still in shock.  But it’s there in a wash of blue across the nation and in the final popular and electoral votes.  It was a landslide.  A landslide!  The United States of America elected its first black president.

 

In. A. Landslide.

 

It’s gonna take a couple of days for it to sink in.  It’s been a long time in the desert for those of us of the Democratic persuasion.

 

And then there’s the fact that Obama’s coattails were nice and long.  I’m not a big fan of hegemony in government – there’s reason our founding fathers set things up the way they are – but when things are this screwed up you need some kind of unity just to get things done.

 

But let’s give thanks to the people who deserve it: The millions of Obama voters.  His campaign volunteers.  The people who donated what they could afford in small incriments and who created an enormous war chest for Obama. (Hell, give me a shout out.  I was an Obama delegate to the Travis County convention.  It was insane. Nine-thousand people showed up.  Normally, they’re lucky to get 900.  Eight hours in the world’s largest Barton Fink room. And worth every second.)

 

And let’s thank Howard Dean who decided that the Democratic ticket should campaign in all fifty states.  The fifty-state strategy made Republicans fight in places they haven’t had to compete in in years.  It also gave hope to those of us in red states that maybe, just maybe, we could turn blue — or at least a lovely shade of purple — in the future.

 

super barack

 

And let’s give thanks to George W. Bush.  Because he’s fucked up everything so badly that Americans who normally wouldn’t vote for a black man, found something they feared far more than the color of Obama’s skin: the economy.  It certainly warms the cockles of my heart to see Bush’s approval poll numbers at 20%. Except that means there are 20% of people in this country who still think he’s doing a heckuva job, Brownie.

 

And let’s give big shout to Sarah Palin, too.  Have so many words ever been lavished on so little in recent memory?  But in the end, it was Palin who did herself and the McCain campaign in.  The bumbling interviews, the corruption charges, the $150,000 wardrobe make-over, the “snarkyness.”  (Excuse me, but Palin wasn’t snarky, she was snotty.  Big difference.) I think it’s hysterical that there are people (including Miss Sarah herself) who think she’s the future of the Republican party.  By all means, let them crown her.  She’ll still scare the crap out of anyone with a functional IQ.  

 

I’d give a shout out to McCain for running one of the most inept political campaigns of recent memory, but I think that would be excessively cruel. The crushing he took at the hands of the electorate is enough.

 

But finally, let me give thanks to the person who deserves it the most: Barack Obama.

 

The guy is simply amazing.  Despite being a Barack delegate, he wasn’t my first choice among the Democratic contenders.  But his steadyness, his intellegence, and his coolness under, well, every situation won me over. 

 

Not only did he run a brilliant campaign, but he got elected by appealing to the best in our natures, not the worst.  And in modern American politics that’s nothing short of miraculous.

 

So, fellow Obama supporters, bask in the victory. Glory in a job well-done. Revel in being a part of making history.  Enjoy today.

 

And tomorrow, roll up your sleeves and get ready.   There’s a lot of work to be done.

We Like It Stupid…

In Friday’s Wall Street Journal, there was an article titled: What Makes Finnish Kids So Smart?

In the course of the article, it was revealed that, in Finland, there’s no mandatory testing for kids, little rote learning, and that, for the most part, the Finns prefer to let their teenagers be teenagers.

But buried in the middle of the article was an obvious reason the Finns are creating such bright kids: They actually believe in being smart.

For instance, the Finns are big readers.  They even have libraries attached to their shopping malls.  I’m pretty sure if there was a library attached to Barton Creek Mall here in Austin, the hoi polloi would beat a path through it to Starbucks and The GAP.

And even though the pay for teachers in Finland is roughly the same as what it is in the U.S., it’s a prestigious job there. Applicants for teaching positions in Finland must hold a master’s degree.  There are usually more than 40 applicants for every opening.  But here was another secret: Teachers have more freedom in the way they teach than American educators do.

The other interesting facet is that Finnish teenagers are better at deductive reasoning than their counterparts in other counties.

We don’t do smart here in the grand old U.S. of A.  In fact, we’re a country that despises smart people.  The smarter you are, the more you’re distrusted.  There’s been an anti-intellectual bent to our makeup since the early 1800s.

Our presidential picks are the most pronounced manifestation of this part of the American psyche.  Eisenhower over Stevenson.  Bush over Gore.  (Does anyone remember the sturm und drang over Gore’s “eye rolling” during debates with Dubya?  Yes, being dumbfounded by dumbness is a crime in this country.)

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Put on a Happy Face…

Since I wrote a piece about why I’m voting for Barack Obama in the primary two weeks ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about the persistent sexism in our culture.  When the feminist movement was in its second wave back in the ‘70s, I was in high school and college.  Despite what seemed to be big changes afoot, the attitudes toward women back then were still as entrenched as ever. 

Maureen and I grabbed breakfast the other morning and ended up talking about this.  We had both had the same experiences with weird male prejudice.  The first was being told by men — strangers and “friends” alike — to smile.  As in,  “You’d be so much prettier if you smiled.” 

To this day, I want to punch anyone who tells me I should smile.  To put it bluntly, maybe I don’t fucking feel like smiling. Why should I smile to satisfy you?  How dare you tell me how to feel?  Or that I should pretend to feel happy in order to satisfy you.

I suppose this doesn’t sound like a big thing, but upon closer scrutiny, it’s profoundly telling.  That these random men felt it was both their place and their right to tell women to “put on a happy face.”  As if women should walk around all day, grinning from ear to ear, in a perpetual state of compliant “happiness.”  The arrogance of those demands still staggers me to this day.

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Out Here in the Fields…

It was an interesting week.  Super Tuesday, not so super, leaving no decisive winner on the Democratic side.  And as Unca Buzzkill noted, Mitt Romney got “the talking to” by GOP goombas and dropped out of the Republican race, leaving like the pissy little bitch most of us knew he was.

And now with John McCain as the presumptive nominee for the Republican party, Democrats are left with a choice between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  Odds are we’re going to end up with a brokered convention, which would have been great had that been the case with the Republicans as well.

But here we are in a historic race – first woman with a real shot at the White House and first black man with a shot at the White House.  Given the fucking mess the Republicans have made of things (yes, with help from quisling Democrats) Democrats should be doing a happy dance right about now.

Except we can’t.

The cold hard facts are that we cannot afford to have four more years of Republican rule.  I know McCain is more palatable to many than most of the GOP candidates, but he’s drunk the Neocon Kool-Aid.  McCain has no intention of getting us out of Iraq.  He’s salivating to out-Bush Bush.

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This Week’s Excuse

It’s a doozy.  Instead of doing a brilliant, witty, and slightly scathing post on the foibles of nitwits and morons, I’m in New Mexico doing a signing for INSIDE STRAIGHT.

That’s right. At this very moment I am gulping gallons of water to stay hydrated and wearing my pencil to a nubbin signing books all in the effort to avoid writing this week’s post.  See, I do it all for you, little precious. (Preciouses?  Preciousi?  How the hell should that damned word be made plural?)

I’ll be posting pictures from this momentous event at some point, but if you’re in the Albuquerque area, and you have nothing better to do Saturday at 2 PM, stop by Page One Bookstore.  Maybe buy a book. Maybe get it signed.  From Page One’s website:

Meet George R.R. Martin and the other talented writers of Inside Straight – Daniel Abraham, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Carrie Vaughn, Michael Cassutt, Caroline Spector, John Jos Miller, and the mysterious S.L. Farrell.

See, how cool is this?  I get a great excuse to not post.  And I get to go to vintage shops. 

I had a friend who once explained to me that calories eaten while in an airplane don’t count.  I feel that way about spending money on a trip. Money I spend on a trip isn’t like spending real money.  It’s fantasy money.  It’s theoretical. (And if it’s in the candy-colored hues of a foreign currency, even better!)

And last but not least, my favorite headline from the past week:

Naked Mole Rat Has a Secret

And who doesn’t?

I Got Plenty of Nothin’…

I wish there was a Weekly Roundup today, but I’m afraid that the house remodeling adventures of the last two weeks have left me drained of my sanity, energy, and what little I have that passes for wit.

Remodeling, even the “easy” kind we’re doing (replacing our old, animal-ravaged carpets with new hardwood floors and painting), is a nightmare. It’s particularly tough at Casa Spector because The Dude and I are packrats.  The only difference between the two of us is that I tend to collect small stuff like vintage jewelry and The Dude has kept every piece of paper, toy, game, and hang tag that has ever touched his fingers.  This can add up.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but trying to move the, hrummmm, stuff out of The Dude’s room was a week-long trial.  It involved much dust, whining, and several threats.

Dante had Nine Levels in Hell. 

He had obviously never remodeled.

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Take Me Out to the Ball Game…

The Dude was out of town this week.  This usually means I do extensive household projects and indulge in watching even more chick-flickage than usual.  “Sense and Sensibility,” “Pride and Prejudice” — okay, Jane Austen anything — but you see where I’m going.  I really thought I knew the ultimate in chick-flickage.

Boy, was I wrong.

See, I was booping around the dial, and as there was nothing on TV thanks to the writers strike and coverage of the New Hampshire primaries (that’s what the Internet is for, fer crying out loud!), I found myself deep in HD land with sparse pickings from which to choose.

But then I see “We Are Marshall” is playing on HBO HD.  Yay, think I, Uplifting Sports Film.  As The Dude and I are both well into our ohmyGodhas”FridaysNightLights”jumpedtheshark? mode, I was ready for some good ole fashioned football as metaphor.

What I was not ready for was bawling my freaking eyes out for the entire hour and a half of the film.  And as I was dabbing the tears from my eyes for the umpity-umph time, it occurred to me that I should not have been surprised.

See, the thing that I finally twigged to after lo, these many years, is that the biggest tear-jerkers aren’t chick flicks.  No, little precious, they’re sports movies.

Yes, our macho, testosterone-laden men are secretly huge suckers for the most shameless emotional manipulation available known to well, man.

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Oh, whatever…

The Weekly Round-up

Wherein I have no real good idea for a blog post, so I just talk about some random stuff.

I confess, I was a wee bit disappointed by the results of the Iowa caucuses.  No, not on the Democratic side, that’s like, oh, any one of the candidates would be, you know, pretty much great. (And that’s “Democratic” not “Democrat,” for our Fox-News-listening readers.  I hate to confuse y’all with the actual name of the Democratic Party, but I just can’t stand how extra stupid you sound every time you deliberately mispronounce the name.  I’m talking to you, George.)

I was disappointed that instead of voting for the cross-dressing, philandering, shithouse crazy, pro-abortion candidate, the Republicans chose the former-preacher, shithouse crazy, anti-choice candidate.  Who, and god love ‘im, is advocating doing away with the income tax and instituting a 23% federal sales tax.

This idea plays well to his base:  morons.

Now, in all fairness, if you don’t actually think for longer than a nanosecond about how this whole thing would work, it might sound like a good idea.  You only pay taxes on the stuff you buy. 

But if you’ve ever had a class in ciphering, you know that there is no more regressive tax.  Doing away with the income tax places a far greater burden on middle-income and lower-income folks than on the wealthy.

The dirtiest little secret about this idea is that in order to replace lost income tax funds, we’d have to run the national sales tax at more like 50%.

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Whatever Makes You Happy. . .

As most of y’all have figured out by now, I am not, by nature, a cheerful sort.  But it being That Time of Year when everyone and their dog is making up lists of The Best, Worst, Blah-Blah-Blah of 2007, I thought, why the heck not get in on some of that action?

But, as I am in touch with the great powers of the universe, instead of looking back, I’d like to make my predictions for 2008.  I’m certain I will do just as well as any other real psychic.

In 2008, all the school boards across the US will simultaneously decide that creation “science” isn’t, and will boot all references to it from classroom text books.  They will also remember that one of the most basic tenets of our democracy is the separation of church and state and will start teaching that in school. But they won’t ignore the historical significance of religion, and will teach how it has affected our world — both for good and ill.  

In 2008, Americans in droves will voluntarily give up their gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient vehicles.  They will also pressure the government to support real energy reform, not just crony giveaways to develop ethanol.

In 2008, Americans will demand that oversight in government be reinstated.  Democrats and Republicans will drop their petty bickering and unite to clean up government, realizing, at last, that everyone loses when the government is run like a banana republic.

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Shameless Self-Promotion

Unlike Steve, I haven’t actually had anything to promote in the last year on EOB.  Happily that has changed.

Next month, Tor Books will be releasing INSIDE STRAIGHT, a new Wild Cards book.  I have a story in it.  It’s plunked down in the middle of the book and the title is METAGAMES.  As I am really not a short-story writer (I’m far too wordy for that), I was happy that this book is very tightly plotted and reads more like a novel than a collection of shorts.

Tor has launched a wonderful website to promote the book and there have been some very nice reviews on the web, including a review at Publishers’ Weekly.  (Scroll down for the review at PW.  No further.  No further.  Keep going…)  There are glowing reviews at Genre Go Round Reviews  and Fantasy Book Spot.  There’s also an “interview” with all the authors at Pat’s Fantasy Book List.  

I’m also happy to say I have a story in BUSTED FLUSH, the next book in the new Wild Cards trilogy. 

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Jargon Monkey

The heavens tumble, Darling, and I’m… Eliza . . .

Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through;

“Show Me” from My Fair Lady, Music by Frederick Loewe, Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner.

###

Unlike Eliza Doolittle, I have no problem with words.  In fact, I frickin’ adore words.  I’m so enamored of words that The Dude calls me a “Jargon Monkey.” 

I am not at all offended by this.  However, if he started calling me “Monkey Face” like Cary Grant does to Joan Fontaine in Suspicion, I might be less than thrilled.  (On the other hand, if he said it using a Cary Grant accent… but I digress.)

What got me started on the whole, “I love words,” thing, was catching a promo for some movie the other day and one of the characters used the word “shenanigans.”  I was gob-smacked with delight. (Gob-smacked is another word I like.  Okay, maybe it’s more of a phrase, but work with me here, people.)

How often do you hear “shenanigans” used?  Not very.  But it’s a fantastic word.  It rolls off the tongue — rich, full, polysyllabic, completely evocative of what it’s describing.  Damn, that’s some fine word there.  

Later that same day, I was in the pharmacy waiting for a prescription.  At the end of one aisle was an entire end-cap full of “curatives.”  “When did y’all start carrying nostrums?” I asked the pharmacist.  “What are nostrums?” he replied.  I pointed at the end-cap and said, “Palliatives. Potions of questionable efficacy.  Nostrums.”  He nodded.  “Good word.”

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My Fun Saturday Night . . .

I had a swell blog post planned for this week, but I was thwarted.  Instead of regaling y’all with my fantastic wit, I was spending my Saturday night at the emergency room, which isn’t as much fun as it sounds.

I was prescribed Cipro on Thursday.  Saturday night my shins started itching to beat the band.  A few minutes later I started coughing.  It felt like I had a cat hair caught in my throat — which wouldn’t be all that unlikely at Casa Spector — except the coughing wouldn’t stop.

I called the urgent care nurse and she said to go to the ER.

On the drive to the ER, I keep thinking, “Okay, how long does it take to die from asphyxiation?  Two, maybe three, minutes?  How long before there’s irrepairable brain damage?”  Okay, so perhaps I was getting a little melodramatic.  

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Oh, fine…

This week is a semi-kinda-sorta-annual-bi-monthly-whenever-I-feel-like-it column about whatever is interesting/pissing me off this week.

Let’s get started.

First the fun stuff:

Cupcakes

Apparently, there’s a cupcake zeitgeist out there.  Who knew. There was all that hubbub about cupcakes on Sex and the City. And The Dude informs me that there was a cupcake-centric storyline on some show called What About Brian.  Again, I say: Who knew.

I was on AOL today and they had an entire list of cupcake bakeries and their “specialties.”  Honestly, I almost got up to bake, but I took a few deep breaths until it passed.

There was also a link to what happens when cupcakes meet knitting.   Some people really need to get out more.

On to more serious matters:

Scott McClellan Finds Reality 

It was attached to his ass all along.

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