Changing All Those Changes

 Here They Played, and Still Play, Rock and Roll

At midday on Friday, June 19th, 1987, while en route to a convention in Minnesota, Barb and I stopped in Clear Lake, Iowa. I had just started writing my second novel, Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede, and Clear Lake was a logical place to take some pictures and do a little research. It was the town where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson had played their last concert on February 2, 1959.

At the Clear Lake Public Library, a helpful librarian told me a story about Buddy’s glasses. It seems that someone (the county coroner?) from Mason City (the county seat) had taken the glasses from the site of the plane crash . . . and as far as the librarian knew, they were still locked up in a desk at the courthouse. Buddy’s widow, Maria Elena Holly, had even asked for them – and had been refused. The county, for some odd reason, thought they should hang on to them . . .

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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 http://projects.washingtonpost.com/2008/pick-your-president/.  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.

Lonesome SugarLand Blues

I’m baaaaack!

Yeah, it’s been pretty dead in here for far too long. There have been a lot of reasons for that, and I’m delighted to see Morgan posting this past week.

One major reason for my not writing, that I haven’t mentioned before, is that I’ve been needing to spit out some poison for some time now. I’ve been planning this long, angsty post for the past couple of weeks. I started it today, then, as happens so often, I found myself saying “Hey, frak this. I wanna play with the toys!”

So I today uploaded my very firstest YouTube vid. Go Me!

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It is further evidence (as if that were needed) that the rest of Two-Headed Baby is wise to not allow me to sing with the band. It’s completely unedited, no audio or video processing whatsoever. I’m inordinately pleased with it.

I  probably still need to get that angsty post out of my system. But not today.

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A Wild and Crazy Truth

Let's Get Small 

I usually dislike books labeled as “memoir” (though I occasionally read them), because I’ve always known they can’t be trusted.

In fact, when the whole Million-Little-Pieces debacle unfolded a few years ago, I was bemused by the “Shocked! Shocked!” reaction it provoked. Seriously, now: Were daytime-television bookclubbers really surprised to discover that “memoir” is French for “big fat self-serving lie”?

Besides, even if a memoirist endeavors to be as truthful as memory allows, he or she will still get something wrong. I myself, the earthly avatar of Honesty and Cub-Scoutiness, have discovered that I often just flat misremember things. Last year, for example, I wrote an essay for Eat Our Brains in which I described a childhood game that I said had no name, but that I would refer to as “Dizzy Idiots.” Then, a few months ago, my Baby Brother (who could now crush me ‘twixt his thumb and forefinger like an overripe grape) reminded me that the game I had described did have a name. It was called “Tornado.”

[Well, Baby Brother would have a better memory of that game than I would. He was the one who wound up in the Emergency Room because of it.]

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Return of the Big Cheese

Mozzarella Machine 

I am a fan of cheese, especially a nice creamy-and-stringy mozzarella. So I was saddened to read of the current buffalo mozzarella contamination crisis.

However, I don’t believe I’ve ever had real Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, which has been made in southern Italy from the milk of Asian water buffaloes since the twelfth century. And I’m positive that I’ve never had the version made from unpasteurized buffalo milk, which must be consumed within twenty-four hours of its creation. That cheese is widely regarded as the best mozzarella in the world, a true delicacy, and you pretty much have to be in southern Italy to get a taste.

But until the current dioxin-contamination problem is solved (or proven to be not-all-that-bad), it may be that not even Neapolitans will be able to enjoy unpasteurized buffalo mozzarella.

The silver lining to that dark cloud, however, may be that the world will finally rediscover Mozzarella di Mammotha Titana.

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The Real Threat

Previously on Veronica Mars Eat Our Brains I talked about Elected Bigot Sally Kern and her perception that the greatest threat facing our country is the Homosexual Agenda. God, I love saying that. Ho-Mo-Sex-You-Ellllllllll Agenda. Makes me think of the spiral schedulers my kids have me sign every week or so except when they forget which is USUALLY. Or maybe something in a nice moleskin. Wait a minute–does that sound dirty?

But Sally Kern is wrong. I have seen the true threat to our precious bodily fluids National Integrity and it is:

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Work, Play, Sleep

Last week Patrick Nielsen Hayden came into town. (I love it when that happens.) Friday he and I sat in my kitchen, going over his notes for my SF disaster novel, Feral Sapiens. (It’s scheduled for release in March, 2009, btw, under my byline, M. J. Locke. Go now, order many early copies. w00t!) He’s an astute reader, and caught numerous potentially embarrassing flubs.

Saturday we played. In the morning we hiked through the petroglyphs. These markings on volcanic rocks are scattered through out the Three Sisters lava flows west of Albuquerque. Petroglyph literally means “rock picture” in Greek. They’re believed to have been carved by ancestors of the Pueblo peoples settled in the Southwest. Here was our favorite, hands down.

Attack of the ancient rock artists! Look up!

Compare and contrast.

Attack of the LED artists! Look out!

Coincidence? I think not! Clearly, the Mooniknights are time travelers. (Here’s a link to a different shot at Making Light. Yes, it’s for real. Also check out these shots of petroglyphs all over the world.) Then we ate green chile cheeseburgers at the Route 66 Diner on Central near the university.

That afternoon we attended a humongoid signing at Page One, the city’s biggest independent bookstore, along with about a kajillion others, wherein the Wild Cards authors signed, oh, maybe a googleplex of copies of Inside Straight. Verdict: big success. I bought Way Too Many Books. (Somebody stop me before I shop again.)

I learned that Melinda Snodgrass’s next book, The Edge of Reason, is due out in May. I can hardly wait! It’s been too long since we’ve seen a new Snodgrass novel.

The Edge of Reason, a new fantasy novel by Melinda Snodgrass

(I particularly love the idea of a god with Multiple Personality Disorder.)

Then I came home. I felt like I’d been hit in the psyche by a baseball bat. I fell over, and slept. And slept. And slept. What does it all mean?

Mysterious Postcard

I posted last week about an Ebay auction and low and behold, this week I received the following:

Mysterious Postcard

I have some vague idea who might have sent such a thing–it has a US stamp and an Oklahoma postmark. And so I deduce that it might be in Czech. The only words I know in Czech are…well, I don’t know any words in Czech. But I went to grad school, dammit, and I had a language requirement, and if that taught me anything, it taught me how to make a half-assed translation in a language I didn’t know. As best I can figure, the postcard reads:

I cannot resist. Muzete me this translate? “give me spout within beer.”

Much obliged!

And give my kind regards to the French Bean!*

I owe you a beer, Denton. Preferably at the Klášterní pivovar Strahov.

(Actually, it says ‘Give my regards to Bob’ but one translation software came back with this, and how could I not prefer ‘the French Bean?’)

Drive Someone Insane With Postcards

Drive Someone Insane With Postcards

I’m just got home from a business trip, I’ve had a hellish couple of weeks, and I have a cold. But thanks to Steve at Mysdirection, I have something to share with all of you. Click on through for the sheer genius of this.

Drive Someone Insane With Postcards

If I start getting postcards from Poland I’ll blame Denton. Why? Because when I first moved to Austin I was completely taken in by that Midwestern deference, but then my husband read Blackburn, which I had read many many years ago, and I was reminded that looks can be deceiving.

Me and My Shadow, Part 2

Rachael and I are trying to figure out the proper name for our personal biker gang. Open to suggestions. I made my first motorcycle trip into Austin on my Shadow this past Friday. I survived, because I utterly concentrated on the ride every inch of the way..

And it was really keen being able to blow into town on my bike and have Ritual Breakfast with the gang, who are sorta-kinda the Austin equivalent of the Algonquin Roundtable. Caroline, otherwise known as Dorothy Parker, was in fine fettle, giving no hint of the horrors to come later that evening.

I learned a few lessons:

1. I need to get my butt muscles a lot stronger. I’m not sure what the right exercises are for them, but I think I broke my butt this weekend, and I don’t want to do that again.

2. Even if www.weather.com says that there is a 10% chance of rain for the next two days in Austin, that doesn’t mean that it won’t rain like hell repeatedly during that period.

3. Austin has no, repeat no, level, flat surfaces anywhere. I thought I’d gotten pretty good at riding my bike, but the constant 3-D maze that is central Austin was a revelation. My bike fell over in slow motion when I was getting ready to park it behind El Mercado, with me on it, because I hadn’t quite absorbed that lesson the first night. I wasn’t hurt, except for the scarring of my ego.

4. I experienced an almost religious exaltation while rat-racing around town on motorcycles with my daughter. It’s a slightly terrifying, and incredibly exhilarating thing to do together. She’s a much better rider in Austin terrain and traffic than I am, perfectly at home in the topographic fractal chaos. Only yesterday, she was tiny enough that I could hold her in one hand. Now she’s a confident and competent adult, navigating gracefully through her life. My delight at still being allowed to hang out with her knows no bounds. We went all over the damn place, to Fry’s and the movies and Half-Price Books and Book People and a couple of restaurants. She let it slip that she was driving real slow so that I could keep up with her.

Here we are after breakfast bagels at Einstein’s on the Drag this morning:

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