Showing posts from October, 2015

Saturday Serial: Sherlock Holmes "The Case of the Belligerent Ghost"

Here is everyone's regularly-scheduled reminder that I write better when all my bills are paid, and I'm not in danger of starving. I have a GoFundMe account, currently running the Un-F@$k My Life campaign, and a Patreon account for rolling fundraising. If you wish to get my blog auto-delivered to you via Kindle, Amazon will do it for a dollar a month. Random free-floating money can be thrown in my direction by going to

Where does this money go? To rent, mostly; to paying various utility bills; to paying off the trainwreck that occurred when two of four roommates fucked off out of our last apartment without paying or leaving a forwarding address; and occasionally to keeping me from going any more insane than is reasonably entertaining.

By way of illustration, one of the recurring bills this goes towards paying is my monthly LinkPass, which gives me unlimited local travel on subways, trolleys, and buses. Without a LinkPass, I wind up walking everywhe…
Whenever I get down to a single critter, I make them a small bolster, about the size and shape of a rat, so they have something to cuddle with. It's usually out of old terrycloth or scrap fleece, and stuffed with a bit of the bedding their late buddy was sleeping on, so it smells right.

What usually happens is the rat drags their stuffed friend into their house, and nests with it. I spend a few weeks fishing it out of the old nest box and giving it back whenever I dump the cage, until it gets too disgusting for words, at which point I pitch it and make them a new one.

I made a bolster for Yuki in the usual fashion, out of a dollar-store towel. I scooted it into the cage next to her and nudged her with the nose, so she'd get the idea that it was soft and cuddlable.

She promptly whipped around and sank her teeth into its neck.

I left it in the cage in case she changed her mind. She's bulldozed it into the far corner with her hard, hard little head, and is ignoring it as hard…

I'm down a rat.

Requierat-- err, requiescat in pace, Edelweiß. I am so sorry that you did not finish your quest to nom all of the tortilla chips in the entire world.

Saturday Serial: Sherlock Holmes "The Case of Harry Crocker"

I cannot count how many times in my life someone I'm talking to has fixed me with a look and just said, "You're really smart." The specific look varies; sometimes it's dubious, sometimes it's blank confusion, sometimes it's deer-in-headlights. They say it in the same tone of voice one might have used to inform André the Giant that he was impressively large, or to comment to one's companions that the ocean is rather wet.

What makes them do this is a mystery I have never solved.

I know exactly why they think I'm ungodly smart. It's because I am. Aside from my self-evaluation, I have twelve years of public school records full of standardized test scores so high they broke the software used to print the results and sent parts of the bar graph shooting off into the margins. I also have confirmation from people who have been officially certified as smart by other smart people at large, well-regarded universities, who were themselves once certified, …
You learn interesting things when you go poking through biographies.

Sacks never talked about his love life in his books, aside from a few stray comments that implied that at one point, he'd had one. I did wonder from time to time, but given the depth and breadth of the things he did share, it felt ungrateful to perseverate on the one he'd decided not to. So I didn't.

I was interested to note that when he passed away a few months ago, he left a partner behind: Bill Hayes, another author who published essays at The New York Times. I found I was very glad to hear that. Sad for Hayes, but you know what I mean. Not that romance is the be-all and end-all of human existence, but Sacks had opted out of it for many, many years. I am glad that he lived through enough time and tide and social change that when he found he wanted that kind of connection, he also found he was free to take it.

I gather it was not easy. There are a few years between Hayes writing tactfully of, "my f…
I just finished a brief biography of Jon Stewart. It was a remarkably uncomfortable read. Not that it told me anything horrible, or that the writing was 50 Shades-levels of atrocious. My own brain just nagged me the whole way through, you know, he doesn't really like talking about any of this himself, isn't this obnoxiously nosy? Jon Stewart is the sort of person who will gladly tell you what he thinks of things whether you've asked him or not; it's just almost always in the present tense. He does not seem to have oodles of patience for navel-gazing, at least not with other people present.

I did finish it, although I needn't have bothered. It was cobbled together almost entirely out of things Stewart has dropped over the years in interviews, so technically it was all what I'd consider fair game. It happened to be by the same author as the Colbert one I'd dug up, and while I found it annoying that she paid little attention to internal motivation in that one,…
Still rummaging through the library for things involving Oliver Sacks. I've got a book by a long-dead neurologist who is not the same long-dead neurologist whose work I was trying to beat out of the Interlibrary Loan people, but which nevertheless coincidentally also has a foreword by Sacks. It's a very Sacks-ian foreword, aside from them not letting him take up half the page with footnotes. (The footnotes in Oliver Sacks' books make me feel that my incessant tangenting is completely reasonable. Minimalist, even. He's written entire parallel chapters at the bottom of his manuscript pages, and they're fascinating.) A R Luria is not as vivid and intertwined with his case as Sacks has always been, but I see where he got it from.

I owe a great many things to Oliver Sacks. Not the least of these is the idea that having a brain full of blue and purple wire is not necessarily a bad thing. Sacks was the first writer I had ever run across -- and still one of the very few --…
People ask me from time to time how I can pick up languages so quickly. My best guess is that it's down to a very high-order synaesthesia. I think we're calling them 'ideaesthesias' now. The basic form of synaesthesia is crossed wires between two senses; the classic case is of letters or numbers acquiring their own colors. Typically, one says that a synaesthetic 'sees' R as yellow, or something like that, but it's not quite that literal. The R flickers, as if one eye is seeing the real black ink it's printed in, and the other one sees it in yellow, and they go back and forth on dominance. If you've ever done those spot-the-difference puzzles by just crossing your eyes and superimposing them like a stereogram, then you've seen the way the differences sort of shimmer or glitter -- it's much like that.

[If you haven't ever done a spot-the-difference puzzle like that, then congratulations on learning a new trick. It's a brilliant way to …

Saturday Serial: Sherlock Holmes "The Case of the Cunningham Heritage"

I spent an hour tonight rummaging around the Boston Public Library website. I was trying to get them to give me a reprint of a 19th century book on migraines by a long-dead neurologist, in a specific 1997 edition that has a foreword by a slightly-less-long-dead neurologist. Strictly because I have a massive brain-crush on the late neurologist of the foreword, and he had a massive brain-crush on the late-late neurologist who wrote the original book.

If any of you were wondering where all of the randomness of this blog comes from, you got me. It's from the depths of the rat's nest that is my brain. If any of you were wondering how I got my writing style, that's much easier. I had a few very large influences when I was a wee babby scribbler, and one of them was the neurologist Oliver Sacks.

There is this persistent idea that intellectual brilliance and social competence are a zero-sum game. If you had asked Sacks, he'd be the first to claim he had fallen victim to it. He …

So much for doing okay.

Welp. I've just got an email telling me that my steady QA work, the one that paid my rent, is ending. In nine days.

I am not, apparently, being fired; no one has complained at me for anything, and so far as I can tell from the form letter, it is nothing I did. It seems to just be that someone's budget has been cut somewhere, and they are scaling back. I did assume that at some point they would reorganize and decide not to pick my contract back up, as such is the way of the world these days. I just figured it would be, you know, at the actual dated end of my contract, and not randomly in the middle of October.

I've been wondering what exactly I'm supposed to do about this, and I have decided that it is quarter to three in the morning and I don't care right now. What I am actually going to do is take as many of my legally-prescribed sedatives as I am allowed, stick my nose back into The Island of the Colorblind, and read until I fall asleep on the Kindle. Tomorrow I …
Funny thing about going and feeding someone's entire oevre into your head. You run across a lot of stuff that you wouldn't have touched in a million years otherwise.

I am definitely not a fan of Bill O'Reilly, and I hesitate to say that I like him, but I'm reasonably sure I could make it through a dinner party without punching him in the face. The angry shouty grandpa bit on The O'Reilly Factor is at least partly a put-on. Made me jump the first time I saw it, in fact, because my first exposure to him was on The Daily Show, where he is very dry and laid-back to the point where he is one of the few conservative guests comfortable enough to pull sight gags on the host. 
O'Reilly, so far as I can tell, is a fiscal conservative and hard-right on most military things, but also not an idiot and drifts remarkably centrist on some social issues. He sat down and looked into the legal arguments for and against same-sex marriage at one point, and came to the conclusion th…

Saturday Serial: Sherlock Holmes "The Case of Lady Beryl"

(Hi, everybody! Who the hell shared what out there, and suddenly made my pageviews jump by almost 50%? It's nice to see you all, and I would like to take the opportunity to point out, briefly, that I have a Patreon account and am currently running a GoFundMe campaign, the details of which are on their respective pages. Pledge drive over, back to your regularly scheduled content.)

I am amused and bewildered at the response Colbert's Myers-Briggs experiment got. According to TV Tropes, which posted the results about five nanoseconds after it aired, a lot of people were surprised that he wasn't declared an Extrovert. I wasn't; I expected him to come out Ixxx, and would have expected INxx if I'd thought about it, which I didn't -- that's the classic 'watchy thinky social scientist' class.

The idea of an introvert going into a public profession like performing is confusing to that class of extroverts who have a lot of instinctive empathy. They absolutely…
Apparently the general public is not as familiar with Meyers-Briggs personality types as I'd thought. Whee! Let's go through this, then.

Scale 1: Introverted vs Extroverted

Basics: Introverts expend energy to interact with people. Extroverts gain energy from interacting with people.

Introversion is not the same as shyness, awkwardness, or social anxiety. Extroversion is not the same as mania, obnoxiousness, or lacking any kind of verbal filter. All this scale measures is whether you go more crazy not being able to get to people or not being able to get away from them.

One of my readers over on Facebook expressed surprise that Colbert, being a performer who quite obviously is intensely curious about other people, would come out as an introvert on the Meyers-Briggs scale. Introversion is not the same as misanthropy, either. Introverts who like people just have the sociability on a toggle switch. It runs entirely off of battery power, so you have to plan ahead to charge it up, and …
I'm still watching The Late Show. I have mixed feelings about this. It's the first piece of network TV I've actually wanted to watch in, I dunno, a decade? I haven't really watched television since I moved out of my college dorm and into an apartment where I'd have to pay for it. I eventually got tired of moving the television, in fact, and got a TV tuner card for the computer, so I could ditch the TV and use the monitor for my Playstation.

I watch things that have been on TV, usually in large blocks while sitting at a computer, but I gave up on this scheduled-shows deal even before the Dawn of the DVR. This whole thing where I remember that there is a thing that airs on a regular basis that I have to also consume on a regular basis -- only has the last five episodes up for free, and remember, not paying for TV that already makes me watch ads to begin with -- is weird. I have this nagging feeling that a hipster is going to jump out of the bushes at me while…
I was really hoping Colbert would have a little more time before he had to write his first I Can't Make This Funny monologue, but it was not to be. Friday's opener, before the headlines, was Colbert being upset straight to camera about the most recent shooting incident.

My first thought was: Oh my God, Dad is so disappointed in us.

I think that's what Mr. Rogers would have looked like, if he ever got angry on camera. Which is disconcerting, because I've heard Colbert swear pretty creatively. He once capped off an argument over something biblical by crowing, "I teach Sunday school, motherfucker!", a sentence that just gets funnier and funnier the more you think about it.

The monologue is structured unusually. Traditionally, the arc on one of these things goes, 'I'm fucking upset by this, and I know I'm supposed to be funny now, but it's not going to happen until I get this out. What happened was horrible, and somebody needs to figure out how to…

Satuday Serial: Superman #17