Leap Day — A New Holiday?

February 29, 2008

How many times have you wished for an extra day?  How many times have you thought that if you just had one day without obligations you could catch up on chores long neglected, or take the time to write a letter to that friend you’ve been missing, or spend extra time with your kids or spouse or partner without feeling that you were shirking professional responsibilities?  How many times have you thought that it would be great just to slip away unnoticed and give yourself a day to do whatever you wanted to do — maybe go for a walk in the woods, or a drive in the country, or maybe just sit around and read a book, or pretend to read a book and actually take a nap?

That’s what Leap Day should be.  February 29th should be a national holiday.  It’s a freebie, an extra day.  It’s like found money.  We shouldn’t use it for business as usual, nor should it be commercialized into a Giant Sale Day, or a day for giving senseless greeting cards and chocolate.  (Though, if you have chocolate lying around and want to have some, by all means, go ahead.  It’s Leap Day.  Knock yourself out.)  Leap Day should be each of ours to do with what we want.  

So have a happy Leap Day.  Or not.  It’s really up to you.

Today’s music:  Lowell George (Thanks, I’ll Eat It Here)

Life Imitates Art

February 28, 2008

Okay, at the risk of revealing myself as a total West Wing nerd, I’d like to ask if anyone else has noticed the amazing similarities between this year’s Presidential race and the Matt Santos-Arnold Vinick race that dominated the show’s final season.

I was in Australia for the final season of The West Wing and didn’t get to watch the episodes as the season unfolded.  Instead, the Christmas after our return to the States, Nancy gave me the complete 7 season DVD collection, which I watched from beginning to end over the course of 13 months.  That’s right:  I only finished watching season seven a few weeks ago.  And I was blown away by how closely the narrative of the 2008 race has followed that of the fictional election.

On the Republican side, you had Arnold Vinick, played by Alan Alda.  Vinick was from California rather than Arizona, but in other ways he was the television doppelganger of John McCain.  He was a moderate Republican who had bucked party orthodoxy on a number of issues, earning the admiration of centrists and independents, but alienating the party’s right-wing base.  Now the fictional Vinick was actually to the left of McCain on social issues — he was pro-choice, supportive of gay rights, and in favor of gun control — but he was also a fiscal hawk and someone who had extensive foreign policy experience.  As the campaign went on, he was forced to take stances on issues that were more conservative than he would have liked, but his appeal to the political center made him a formidable candidate.

The Democratic nominee, Matthew Santos, played by Jimmy Smits, was a Texas Congressman with relatively little political experience.  But in this fictional America he was perceived as being honest, he inspired voters with brilliant, passionate rhetoric, and he came to be seen as an agent of change. He was also a minority candidate, a Latino who was seeking to become the first Hispanic President in the nation’s history.  He ran an insurgency campaign against the better known establishment candidate and managed to win the nomination after a bitter primary battle that went all the way to the Democratic convention.  Any of this sound familiar?

I’m not going to give away the ending, though if you know anything about The West Wing and it’s creators you can probably guess.  But one of the things I always loved about the show was it’s uncanny ability to be utterly original while so closely mimicking real-life political circumstances.  Still, I never would have believed that the show’s creative team could so accurately predict what has happened so far this year. 

Various Updates

February 27, 2008

First, a birthday shout out to my friend Stephen Leigh!  Hope it’s a great one!

Things here remain as they have been, with a snow day for my younger daughter thrown in for good measure.  My older kid and I go back to the doctor today to see if the injection of antibiotics she got yesterday did any good.  If the doctor isn’t satisfied with her progress, the next step is admission to the local hospital.  We’d all like to avoid that, thank you very much.

On the professional front, I learned the other day that of the 5,500 hardcover copies printed of THE SORCERERS’ PLAGUE, fewer than 120 remain in Tor’s warehouses.  There will be returns, of course, but that’s a pretty good sell-through.  Maybe they’ll even go back to press with it.  Fingers crossed.

I also seem to have sold the first of the two short stories I’ve written in the last few months.  There are still a few editing details to be worked out, but barring something unforeseen, I’ve got my first sale of 2008.  The second story is out, but I’ve yet to hear anything back.

And that’s all the news that I’m fit to print…..

Today’s music:  Unidentified classical piece on NPR

Sick of Being Sick

February 26, 2008

I should have known that it wouldn’t be easy to get my kid healthy again.  We thought she was recovering nicely.  Her fever vanished over the weekend and by Monday morning we felt confident in sending her to school.   We had her sit out gym, of course, but we figured she’d be fine with the rest of it.  I picked her up after school at 3:00 and she complained of being tired.  She’s never tired during the day.  We got home and she went upstairs to take a nap.  She NEVER takes naps.  When she woke up her fever was back, her cheeks were flushed, she was still fatigued.  We were supposed to go back to the doctor today for a follow-up, but at this point I expect that the doctor will prescribe new drugs.  

My poor kid.  She’s sick of being sick, she’s tired of coughing and taking medicine and having her temperature taken.  She’s sad that she can’t see her friends or go to school or do any of the things she wants to do.  She can hardly remember the last time she felt “normal” or actually had an appetite.

Enough already. 

More Than An Escape

February 25, 2008

Today’s post, which deals with the nature of speculative fiction, can be found at http://magicalwords.net/.  Enjoy!

Odds and Ends

February 24, 2008

My local newspaper ticked me off this morning.  At least half of it did.  For those of you who don’t know, the Chattanooga Times-Free Press used to be two papers, one progressive, the other conservative.  The papers merged and since neither editorial board was willing to cede control of content or opinions to the other, they both maintained (and continue to maintain) editorial pages.  Anyway, the conservative side of the paper was attacking Barack Obama today for saying that he thought the United States should use foreign aid funds to combat world poverty.  According to the paper, Obama’s proposal would cost up to $865 billion over 13 years.  Nevermind that the war in Iraq, which this side of the paper supports wholeheartedly, would cost more than twice that amount over the same period.  Wouldn’t combatting poverty be a better use of our treasure and power?  Isn’t it possible that we’d be thought of better throughout the world if we were as generous with food and medicine as we are aggressive with guns and bombs?

My daughter (the older one) is reading the Constitution and Bill of Rights for homework.  And because it’s densely written, and because Dad has a Ph.D. in history, we’ve been going through it together whenever she has trouble deciphering a section.  Reading it through once more, explaining to her what the clauses mean and why they’re important, I’m struck repeatedly by the genius of the Founders.  In particular I was struck by the following clause in Article I, Section 8, which gave Congress the power “To promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”  My daughter thought it very cool that the copyright I enjoy on my books is provided for in the Constitution.  I thought it was cool that our Founders so prominently recognized the importance of the arts and sciences, even if our current leaders do not.

One of my dearest friends from college, Carla Wise, a brilliant, wonderful woman who has studied science and ecology for years and years, is now making a go of writing professionally.  Her focus is on sustainable agriculture and the local foods movement.  Here’s a link to her latest blog post, which is well worth reading:  http://eatdrinkbetter.com/

A Typical Saturday

February 23, 2008

My daughter’s temperature (notice I’m not using the word “fever”) is down to 98.7.  Yay!  It’s been great watching it go down; the decline has been steady for two days now.  She’s still coughing like a three-pack-a-day smoker, but she’s supposed to be coughing.  She’s got stuff in her lungs that she has to get rid of, and I guess you could say that cough of hers in nature’s sump pump.  The thing is, she’s better.  [Knocks wood.]

I have stuff to do around the house.  My older daughter has homework to do.  My younger daughter has to clean her room and play her violin.  My wife has to go to the office for a while.  It is, in just about every way, a typical Saturday. 

Thank goodness.  Right around now typical sounds pretty good.

A Post About Beginnings…

February 22, 2008

Today’s post can be found at http://magicalwords.net.  Come on over and check it out.

Just went to CNN where people are posting ridiculous comments about how the story on John McCain that appeared in this morning’s New York Times is a hatchet job.   I’d like to make the radical suggestion that people withhold their judgement on this until they’ve actually read the article.  It’s easy enough to do.  Just go to www.NYTimes.com and you’ll find the piece there, front and center.

In no way is this article a smear job.  It’s a powerful and persuasive piece of investigative journalism.  The point of it isn’t to say that McCain had an affair.  Rather, it points out that he was so closely allied with this lobbyist that his aides feared the appearance of an inappropriate relationship.  Further, the article shows that throughout his career McCain has struggled to reconcile his rhetorical opposition to lobbyists and inappropriate campaign contributions with the reality of campaigning and the need to raise funds.  He talks like a crusader, but at several points in his career he has behaved like a typical politician.

Let’s think about this for a moment, people.  Regardless of what you think the paper’s political bias might be, the New York Times is one of the three most respected newspapers in the nation. They endorsed McCain in the GOP race less than a month ago.  They would not risk their own reputation with this story unless they were reasonably certain of its accuracy.

Patience, I Hear, Is a Virtue

February 21, 2008

My email server is down and I’m shocked and dismayed to find myself totally debilitated by this.  I feel as though I’ve been cut off from the world, though of course I haven’t.  My phone works.  The internet connection works.  I assume that my mailman will stop by later.  But I keep on having to resist the urge to try the server again, to see if they’ve managed to fix the problem in the last seven minutes.  Pathetic.

Update on my daughter:  She’s still coughing and still carrying a low-grade fever.  It’s hard to say if the antibiotics have had any effect yet.  She certainly doesn’t seem to be getting worse, but as of yet, I see no evidence that she’s getting better.

Patience has never been one of my virtues, and today it seems I’m being tested on several fronts.