Iron Chef Pear or What I Did On My Birthday

I’m in Chattanooga, Tennessee (the ‘nooga as us hep kids call it) at a combination writer’s retreat and birthday celebration (not mine, but our host’s, Mary Robinette Kowal.) It just so happens that her BD is one day (and fourteen years) after mine.

I was supposed to be the offeeeeeecial photgrapher for the following event but one of the Team Mary’s sous chefs came down sick and I was roped in.

Nobody really lost, especially all of us who got to eat it.

Cause With This Economy

…you never know.

How to Live in Your Car – wikiHow

  • Once you find a spot, try to arrive late at night, and leave before 7am. This will draw as little attention as possible to yourself.

How to Live on the Street – wikiHow

  • Another place to sleep relatively safely at night are rooftops of public buildings.

How to Survive on the Streets of Manhattan – wikiHow

  • Avoid bumping into the New Yorkers. They will bump you back. It isn’t pleasant.

How to Survive on the Streets – wikiHow

  • Avoid wearing sandals or flip-flops, and high-hills. If, on your way there’s a rock, you may trip on it, fall or even die, hit by a car. USE TENNIS SHOES!

How to Be a Hobo with a Web Based Income – wikiHow

  • Buy backup batteries for your laptop to continue working until you can reach civilization.

How to Urban Camp – wikiHow

  • Showers!

How to Be a Street Musician – wikiHow

  • Be prepared for requests. People who request songs can be annoying, especially if you play originals, but they also tend to pay you. It’s good to know some covers, and if you can’t play the exact song someone requests, offer a similar tune or one by the same artist.

How to Survive in Dangerous Parts of a City – wikiHow

  • You might have to stop for directions. If you do, try to ask an elderly person, preferably a woman, because there is less of a chance an older person will try to rob or attack you.

How to Keep Chickens in a City – wikiHow

  • Are they all there? Count your chickens every day, especially if you have more than ten.

How to Urinate Outside Discreetly – wikiHow

  • If pants are equipped, carefully zip them once you are done. Careless zipper operation especially in males can cause great pain.

How to Survive a Super Comet Hitting Earth -wikiHow

  • Your Government will likely set up “public shelters” for people to ride out the impact aftermath. Do Not go to these shelters. They are a perfect place for disease to spread and crime will be rampant in these places. If however, you cannot be evacuated from near the impact site, you will have to go into a nuclear bunker that you may have to share. If you are far away from the impact, making your own shelter out of a windowless room in your house or out of a cellar is the best option.

Just sayin’.

Remember John Edwards $250 Haircut?

Stylin' PalinThe Republican National Committee apparently spent one hundred and fifty thousand dollars on clothes for Sarah Palin and her family in the month of September.

John Edwards didn’t get a pass for his ‘spensive stylin’ but the RNC says that media attention on this is inappropriate.

“With all of the important issues facing the country right now, it’s remarkable that we’re spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses,” said Tracey Schmitt, a party spokeswoman.

(Laura remembered it as a $400 haircut but I checked. It was over $400 for TWO haircuts. Remember kids, shop in volume for big savings!)

Meanwhile, even Republicans are unhappy.

The Democrats are going to have a lot more fun with this than is prudent, but the heat for this story will come from Republicans who cannot understand how their party would do something this stupid … particularly (and, it must be said, viewed retroactively) during the collapse of the financial system and the probable beginning of a recession.

The Atlantic

Paris Hilton was heard to say, “Ohmighod. In one month? What a bargain. She’s a shopping genius!” Steve (not a plumber and not a hockey mom) Gould was heard to comment, “This is twice my average annual income.”

The only thing I can say is the RNC doesn’t have to worry about zombies. They are the Coke Zero of brains.

Addendum:I thought, okay, this is her RNC handlers making sure she looks good on camera.  But then I saw this:

AP INVESTIGATION: Alaska funded Palin kids’ travel

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Gov. Sarah Palin charged the state for her children to travel with her, including to events where they were not invited, and later amended expense reports to specify that they were on official business.

The charges included costs for hotel and commercial flights for three daughters to join Palin to watch their father in a snowmobile race, and a trip to New York, where the governor attended a five-hour conference and stayed with 17-year-old Bristol for five days and four nights in a luxury hotel.

In all, Palin has charged the state $21,012 for her three daughters’ 64 one-way and 12 round-trip commercial flights since she took office in December 2006. In some other cases, she has charged the state for hotel rooms for the girls.


Laura pointed out that even if someone else is holding onto the credit cards, you can’t buy that many outfits without some idea what they cost.

Fun With (Electoral) Math; or, How Omaha Can Save the World

College Dean

Several different “Interactive Electoral Maps” for the 2008 Smackdown are available online . . . but my favorite is at  This one allows you to screw with the Electoral College in all sorts of ways, much as you probably did with your Actual College.

The best thing about this map, to me, is that it includes options for splitting up the Electoral Votes of Maine and Nebraska.  You see, unlike every other state in the Union, Maine and Nebraska do not have a winner-take-all policy regarding their Electoral Votes for President.  Instead, they use the “Congressional District Method,” in which the popular-vote winner of each Congressional District is awarded one Electoral Vote (just as each district has one Congressperson), and the state’s overall popular-vote winner is awarded the remaining two Electoral Votes (just as each state has two Senators).

So far, in actual practice, this has never resulted in a split Electoral Vote for either Maine or Nebraska.  But I want to believe that 2008 could be different, particularly in Nebraska.  For one thing, Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District is home to the University of Nebraska, where support for Senator Obama is reported to be strong . . . and the 2nd District is basically the city of Omaha, which (among other blue-leaning factors) is the home of billionaire, philanthropist, and Obama-supporter Warren Buffett.  (You can forget about the 3rd District, though.  They’re red ’til they’re dead.)

I’ve had a lot of fun playing Electoral God with the map as a whole, making swing-states like Ohio and Pennsylvania swing first one way and then the other.  But somehow I can never manage to convince myself, even for a make-believe moment, that Florida will ever wind up in the blue column.  (Comedienne Sarah Silverman thinks there’s a way it could happen, however.)

My favorite tweak of the map — and note that “favorite” doesn’t mean that I think it’s either likely or desirable, but wackily possible — gives WA, OR, CA, WI, MI, IL, IN, OH, PA, NY, VT, ME, RI, CT, DE, MD, NJ, HI,  and DC to Senator Obama.  Everything else goes to Senator McCain.

This results in a 269 to 269 tie, which throws the election into the U.S. House of Representatives.

Unless . . .

You click that tiny little box that represents Nebraska’s 2nd District, turning it blue.

And then, with its one Electoral Vote, OMAHA SAVES THE WORLD!!!

Well, I mean, jeez.

SOMEbody has to.

The Oceans are dying. Just thought you ought to know.

People don’t like bad news. They get irritated with environmental scientists and advocates who hit them with warnings. “Alarmists!” is a favorite pejorative.

I don’t like upsetting my friends, either, so I have been cowardly, and stopped posting on the ongoing march of destruction of the planet’s species. But this table, posted at Deep-Sea News by science blogger Peter Etnoyer, was pulled from his colleague Jeremy B. C. Jackson’s recent publication in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The table really says it all, and people do need to know. Even if we don’t want to.

Kate Wilhelm has a short story called “The Chosen.” It depicts the forests of the future, which have fallen silent. And still we mine them. This table is a glimpse at the reality that story predicted.

We are devouring our world. We are devouring our children’s future. Just thought you should know.

The Internet Is For . . . Sociopaths

He's out there.

In my fifty years, I have encountered only one person whom I have deliberately, unequivocally, and publicly cut out of my life.

That person then completely (and blessedly) vanished from my personal radar for eighteen years.

Some of my fellow Brainiacs, and some of our visitors, will recall this individual as well – or will after I describe him. Thought he was gone, didn’t you?

Well, thanks to the Internet, he’s back. So this is the latest and greatest reason why I don’t like the Internet. (Oh, sure, I use it. Here I am using it right now. However, as I’ve noted before: I don’t like cars, but I know how to drive. And I don’t like guns, but I know how to shoot. Life in the modern world often requires unpleasant compromises.)

What was the deal with this guy? And why did you shun him so utterly? many of you are wondering.

I’ll attempt to explain.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (as quoted on Wikipedia – a dubious source, but since it’s on the g***amn Internet, an appropriate reference point), a person must display three out of the following seven criteria to be diagnosed with “antisocial personality disorder” (that is, to be considered what a layman such as myself would call a “sociopath”):

1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;

2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;

3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;

4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;

5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others;

6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;

7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

The only one of these characteristics that this guy didn’t clearly display (from my admittedly non-professional vantage point) was Number 4.

But as for the rest – you better believe it. Six out of seven.

Add in a pretty high level of insidious personal charm, and you’ve got Poison.

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The Return of LAUGHIN’ BOY

Laughin' Boy - Wheatland Press - Darin Bradley cover

As I return to Eat Our Brains after an absence of a few weeks, I’m also announcing the return of my novel LAUGHIN’ BOY as a trade paperback.  It’s available for preorder from Wheatland Press right this minute.  The stunning cover art is by Darin Bradley.

LAUGHIN’ BOY was originally published as a limited-edition hardcover by Subterranean Press in 2005.  It was a gorgeous book, and it sold out . . . but its cover price and small print run meant that a lot of potential readers didn’t see it.  So I’m beyond delighted that Wheatland Press is now publishing this less-expensive but equally beautiful edition.


“[Laughin’ Boy] is one of the funniest novels of the past decade.”

                                  — John Clute in SciFi Weekly (

Happy Birthday, Jack

Jack Williamson died a year-and-a-half ago (November 10th, 2006 at the age of 98) but if he’d made it to today, he would be a century old.

May I propose a toast.

His niece, Betty says, “Jack would probably either have a gin and tonic or a tall buttermilk….”

Here’s some of the previous posts we did here about Jack.

And These Are Just the Novels

A Sky Thick With Stars

Laura J. Mixon on the Jack Williamson Memorial Service


The House That Jack Built

An Undeserved Honor

<Raises glass> To Jack.

Bulfinch’s Guide to Writing

I talked to 2000 Texas school kids yesterday using remote teleconferencing from a high-tech facility in Huntsville Texas. It was pretty cool. They would un-mute their microphones and their local camera would use that action to zoom in on the individual talking. Robot cameras rule!

I talked to these kids in four different sessions (3 different talks, one repeat.)

One of them was Myths about writing…

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Watch the Skies

The Great Bronze Jayhawk, or 'The Pterodactyl' 

I am writing today to warn everyone in every U.S. city, and perhaps every city on Earth, of impending danger and doom from above.

But first, some lengthy historical background:

In Lawrence, Kansas, in front of Strong Hall on the University of Kansas campus, there sits a 600-pound bronze sculpture that has been displayed on campus since 1958 and has been in its current location since 1975. This bronze, created by sculptor Elden Tefft, is ostensibly of that mythical flying creature (and KU mascot), the Jayhawk.

But everyone at KU refers to the Strong Hall Jayhawk as “the Pterodactyl” – perhaps because of its strong resemblance to the non-mythical (yet extinct) flying creature of that name, or perhaps simply to distinguish it from the various other Jayhawks to be found all over campus.

The night after the Pterodactyl first appeared at KU, the Mystical Oracle of Mount Oread (MOMO) convened at midnight at the Rock Chalk Cairn on the hill above Memorial Stadium in order to determine what unearthly powers the Great Bronze Jayhawk might possess, and how MOMO might shape them. For if MOMO did not do so, then the sculpture might shape its own powers – ensuring that havoc would ensue.

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Idiocracy — Drinkin’ It All In

This isn’t about something obscure, but we’re all really smart people here at EOB, so I thought it might be as obscure for you as it was for me.

Last night, while I was staying with She Who is Awesome and her intended, Jesse, she made me watch ‘Idiocracy’, the Mike Judge (he’s another Texas boy! Yee-haw!) movie about a future where the stupid people have so completely outbred the smart people that the world’s average IQ is somewhere around 50. Or maybe 20.

I normally despise stupid movies about stupid people. Couldn’t even finish the commercial for ‘Dumb and Dumber’. But this is a smart movie about stupid people. I suspect that it has metaphors and stuff in it. Maybe even some satires. Even though I’m ashamed, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It’s not for the faint of heart; I had an almost continuous cascade of ‘WTF! They can’t really be doing that’ moments while watching it.

The only drink in the world of the future is Brawndo. It now is a real drink, and here’s their web site.

They have a bunch of video commercials and they’re…. well… damned if I know how to describe them. But they make me laugh.

The same guy who did the voice on the first Brawndo commercial also did the voice on this commercial for Power Thirst. It made me want to eat my own head. I almost fell out of my chair when we came to the line about God and lemons.

None of these are safe for work, incidentally.



Try not to hate me for this post, guys. It’s our future, and it’s already here. We just have to learn to accept it.

(There’s probably an extremely serious, meaningful conversation to be had about some of the issues presented in this movie and these commercials, but I may not be the guy to have it with.)


Therapeutic Intervention

As you know, I was an addictions counselor for about seventeen years, on and off. I genuinely liked almost all of my clients. It helped if they liked me back, because it made the work go easier. But even if they didn’t like me, we still had work to do. And it was their work more than mine. Often, the hardest sessions were the most productive in the long run. Sometimes it could go something like this:


Good afternoon, Michael. I see you have a new bucket with you.

Hi, Mr. Harper. You like the Hello Kitty on the side?

Very much.
So, what would you like to talk about today, Michael?

Nothing much happening. Same old, same old, you know.

How’s your program going?

Um, work was pretty busy. I did a meeting on Thursday.

I think you told me last time that you might have found a new sponsor.

Yeah, he’s a good guy. Been clean three years now. You gotta respect that.


It’s hard, you know. Sometimes I think about the old days. Back when I was all crazy. I’m a lot better now, but —

But what, Michael?

It’s like… I dunno… I just don’t feel… happy hardly ever any more.

That’s the brain changes, Michael. Everybody struggles with it. When you give up your bad habit, and all the intensity that goes with it, it takes time for your brain to adjust. It’s okay to not be happy while you’re working through it. You have to honor your loss, and learn to move onward. It takes time.

Yeah, I know… I just… Is this all there is? Just making it from day to day? Is this any way to live?

You’re still not sure it was worth it.


You’d probably be in the ground, Michael.

Sometimes I don’t remember so good, but I was wild and… and free, you know? Going balls to the wall like nothing else mattered. On a terminal buzz twenty-four seven.

I understand. You’re having euphoric recall. You’re remembering the good parts, but not the bad ones.

It was so great!

What about your family?

That part was great, too!…. Oh, shit. That’s awful, isn’t it?

You killed and ate them.

: Continue reading

Only Women Bleed

I’m a Guy, as I’ve mentioned before, so I have no idea whether the device I’m writing about tonight is widely known in the not-Guy community.

However, She Who Is Awesome posted about it in her LJ last night, after learning of it this week, and considers it something of a revelation. She’s always near the cutting edge with her technology, as witness her independent discovery of the EeePC, so I thought I should mention it as a public service. She’s pretty ecstatic about its potential, and I figure that you not-Guys who haven’t heard of it might also benefit from hearing about it.

The subject is: the Diva Cup, a menstrual cup that might well replace other expensive, messy, and sometimes dangerous devices, for some women.

Here’s the vid that brought it to her attention. Darned if I know whether it’s NSFW.



Here’s the Wiki on menstrual cups.

I’ll never be able to personally evaluate whether it’s all that superior to other methods for dealing with lunar cycles, but the manufacturer’s website makes what sounds to me like a good environmental argument for promoting its use:

Since The DivaCupâ„¢ is reusable, it is very economical. As well, you can feel confident that you are doing your part in environmental conservation. Landfill and pollution problems are on the rise and continue to be a worldwide concern. In 1998, 7 billion tampons and 13 billion sanitary pads and their packaging made their way into landfills and sewage systems in the USA alone!

Furthermore, if only Carrie White had known about it, a lot of lives might have been saved. You pubescent girls out there with rage issues and secret powerful telekinetic abilities, which I believe includes all of you, should at least check it out.