Actual Reader Comment!

From reader "Ann."  This one was so awesome I thought it deserved a post of its own:

"I am half way this this [sic] book and I have never read such trash language in my life in a mystery book. I can read 3 to 4 books a week just reading at night and I was totally disgusted with this one. I chose it because of the setting...Cape Cod..which I love and I am enjoying the mystery part of it but I feel all the foul mouthing [sic] crap in it is uncalled for. I cannot believe you come from a place like Wisconsin and write such trash but of course you are far left (from some of your writing in the book) so that figures...anything goes. I wish you well but if this is an example of your type of writing I will not buy your books again. Yes I am a female. "

She seems to have mistaken me for the author(s) of the Nancy Drew series.


Government Doesn't Create Jobs

So, what--I don't have job?  The other thousand-odd people employed by UWEC don't have jobs?  This is one of the Republican talking points that's always mystified me, and both of the Republican front-runners for governor here have adopted it, big time. 

The idea is so pervasive in our culture that it was even parroted recently by Obama: never mind that it's obviously, patently untrue.  Government creates millions of jobs, many of which even pay reasonably well and offer decent benefits.  Government workers in turn create other jobs: we hire plumbers, babysitters, a kid who mows the lawn; we spend our money on the same stuff private-sector workers spend theirs on--maintaining our house, car payments, dry-cleaning, food; most of what we make goes right back into the local economy.  Universities, in particular, have a known multiplying effect: for every dollar the state of Wisconsin puts into the UW system, it gets back something like $1.60 in economic activity--and, of course, it gets a more educated populace. 

The other hot Republican idea right now is eliminating pensions for public-sector workers (and then, no doubt, they'll go after our healthcare, and then and then and then).  Here's the rationale, as I understand it: most private-sector workers no longer receive pensions—they were swindled out of them a generation ago, and told to go gamble their savings at the Wall Street dog track by putting them in 401Ks.  So why should-public sector workers be any less fucked over?  People should not have to pay taxes to create jobs that don't suck as bad as theirs!  Basically, the fact that some government jobs don't completely suck flies in the face of Republican ideology, so the obvious thing a Republican governor would want to do is insure the total sucky-ness of all those government jobs the government doesn't create.  Or something.


UWEC installs new sculpture!

It's entitled: "The Study of Structure, Blood Cells and Magnetism," and according to UWEC's press release, it was "designed by artist Susan Walsh to represent the values and activities within the science facilities at Phillips Hall."  I get the magnet and the comparatively huge strand of (grey) blood cells, but what's with the tomato cage?


Little-known perks of being a published author: true story.

So we spent a week at the in-laws out in L.A., fine time had by all. Saturday, the day before we're scheduled to fly back, I discover that my wallet's missing--flat gone. We turn the house upside down, search the cars, retrace our steps back to the noodle joint where we'd had lunch (last time I'd taken my wallet out to get at my Visa card), no freaking wallet, nada, zilch, vanished, gonezo, n'existe pas. It's really just a card case--Visa, debit card, faculty ID, insurance cards, driver's license. No driver's license! I'm screwed! How am I going to board a plane at LAX, which has the meanest, most pissed-off TSA crew in the country (outside of Philadelphia, maybe) without a government issued photo ID, which, we're told, we MUST have?

I call Delta--they tell me that yes, I am in fact royally and completely screwed. Good luck getting home, buddy. I try to call TSA: turns out you can't actually call TSA to ask a question—they have a phone number, but you can only use it to apply for a job or report suspicious persons. So my wife and I drive out to LAX a day early to see if we can talk to a TSA supervisor. We actually get to do this--very nice guy named Supervisor Serrano, of the baggage screening department. He says, "They'll take you aside, put you in a booth, ask you some questions to try to prove who you are. They got you in the data base--don't worry about that. It may take a few minutes, but probably they'll let you on the plane. Big brother is watching, right?" This is both reassuring and disturbing, but we go home feeling a bit less stressed about things.

Still, when we get to the airport the next morning, I'm a little apprehensive. What will they ask me? How long will it take? Will the TSA agent be reasonable, or in the more common body-cavity search mode? We check my bag with my wife and kids' stuff, then head upstairs to security. When I get to the podium, we explain what happened--wallet lost, no government-issued ID.

"But," my dazzlingly intelligent wife says, "he does have an unconventional photo ID."

"Okay," the TSA guy at the podium says--he's young, friendly. "Let's see the unconventional photo ID."

I pull a copy of HIGH SEASON out of my briefcase, show him my name and author photo. "That's me," I say.

The TSA guy laughs. "That's a first," he says, initialing my boarding pass. "Have a good flight."



Trying to make the blog a bit more apropos. In keeping with the new theme, about three chapters into FIRE SEASON; I'm working at a library carrel this summer as the office in Hibbard is too noisy and home is too busy/distracting (kids! Guitars!). Hoping to get to 200 pages by summer's end. I know, I know...


iPad: Best Gadget Evah

I'm not much of an early adopter but my lovely spouse surprised me with an iPad for my birthday last week (the $500 mini, as opposed to the $800 maxi). Like all Apple products nowadays it's a little marvel of design--extremely tactilely rewarding--and none of the early criticism holds much water, IMO. I should do the full disclaimer thing here and admit that I'm a total Apple fanboy--just about the only Apple product we don't have in our house is an iPhone, and that's mostly because I hate AT&T with a white-hot, burning hatred. Back to the iPad: first, the screen is bigger than you expect it to be, and very high res. It's a superb device for intertube surfing and email. In landscape mode the pop-up keyboard is very usable: fine for email and note-taking, posting to web forums, etc. I paid $10 for the Pages app and it works beautifully--took a bit of getting used to not having to save things, and there's a bit of awkwardness with having to shift to the .?123 keyboard for exotic punctuation like hyphens and quotation marks. I wouldn't want to try to write a whole novel on it, but very workable for roughing in scenes, say, or early drafts of poems, or letters, etc. Exports by email seamlessly, in either.doc, Pages or PDF format. The calendar and address-book apps are first-rate. iBooks is incredible--in portrait mode the pages are big and very book-like. The backlit screen is gorgeous and doesn't cause any more eyestrain than reading a printed book, as far as I can tell (all the "butbutbut it doesn't use e-ink" panic is goofy. Who cares?)--plus you can read without an external light-source, which will make spouses of nocturnal readers very happy. The Marvel Comics app has to be seen to be believed: if you like comics, it will rock your world. Great device for sharing photos, watching video, listening to music, etc. Excellent little gamer--I'm old, so I've only tried Scrabble, but it's superb. Yes you can read an ebook or do whatever while listening to iTunes. Free apps for Weather Channel, NPR and BBC, Epicurious, Netflix, eBay, etc. The lack of a USB port seems awkward at first, until you realize you can easily export photos or Pages files through email. There's also an inexpensive app that allows you to export files through your docking port, if you really, really want to. The lack of a camera and a phone seems like an issue until you hold the iPad in your hands, and then you think "this thing's way too big to be a phone--I'd feel like a complete dork trying to talk into it." There's no obvious place to mount a camera because the entire back surface is curved--plus if you use any kind of case to protect it the camera lens would be covered up. A pinhole webcam in the bezel would be nice for Skypers; look for it in the iPad.02, I'm guessing. In short, mega thumbs-up: if you're a gadget-lover like I am, you'd probably really like this critter.


Many thanks to Michael Feldman

producer Todd Witter, Mike Perry and the band, all the staff and crew of Whad'Ya Know, and the great crowd at Eau claire's State Theater. Tons of fun. Should've brought some books to sell in the lobby.


Is it me

or is everybody losing their freaking minds?

Going to be on Michael Feldman's "Whad'Ya Know?"

Next Saturday, March 20. Show airs at 10:00 a.m., central time. They do it live, of course. Terrifying.