Ursula K. LeGuin, Who Walked Away from Omelas

Letter to The Oregonian, published February 1, 2017:

A recent letter in The Oregonian compares a politician’s claim to tell “alternative facts” to the inventions of science fiction. The comparison won’t work. We fiction writers make up stuff. Some of it clearly impossible, some of it realistic, but none of it real – all invented, imagined — and we call it fiction because it isn’t fact. We may call some of it “alternative history” or “an alternate universe,” but make absolutely no pretense that our fictions are “alternative facts.”

Facts aren’t all that easy to come by. Honest scientists and journalists, among others, spend a lot of time trying to make sure of them. The test of a fact is that it simply is so – it has no “alternative.” The sun rises in the east. To pretend the sun can rise in the west is a fiction, to claim that it does so as fact (or “alternative fact”) is a lie.

A lie is a non-fact deliberately told as fact. Lies are told in order to reassure oneself, or to fool, or scare, or manipulate others. Santa Claus is a fiction. He’s harmless. Lies are seldom completely harmless, and often very dangerous. In most times, most places, by most people, liars are considered contemptible. — Ursula K. Leguin

I’m so old, my introduction to LeGuin was a third or fourth printing of the Ace Double Rocannon’s World, which I picked up because I was a major Andre Norton fan. When I discovered sf fandom in college, there were still malefen ready to explain that LeGuin wasn’t really an sf/fantasy writer — just a nice older lady who wrote “safe fairy tales for school librarians”. That was before The Left Hand of Darkness became… canon.

Ursula K. LeGuin, outside category, walked away from the sanitized, “civilized” communities of every literary genre she touched. She never explicitly set out to lead the rest of us away from those settled mental landscapes, but anyone walking with such determination and sparkle will always attract a following among the curious and the discontent…

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Patsy Marie (2009-2018)

She was a good girl. We are heartbroken. That is all I can bear to write tonight.

RIP Bailey, a Good Dog

Horrible news from Tamara this morning, as her beloved Bailey has died in her sleep. I will let Tamara fill you all in when she has more information, but we believe it was due to a ruptured diaphragm that was punctured and repaired during surgery when she was a puppy.

I spoke with Tamara this morning and she is devastated, so please send some good vibes in her direction and keep her in your thoughts.

RIP Gracie- A Good Cat


These are some of my favorite photos of Gracie. She had a good cat life and she had her uniqueness in our house. Gracie was nobody’s cat because she exerted ownership over Grumpy Code Monkey. Every night she would get into his lap (microseconds from his butt hitting a seat cushion), lean into him and gaze up at him with pure adoration.

We got Gracie from a co-worker at the software company we both worked at 16 years ago. She had followed his son home as a kitten and was completely enamored of little boys. Unfortunately, his son was very allergic to cats and we said we would be happy to take her. Whenever we had a little boy over at the house, from a contractor’s son to our nephew, she would follow them around and beg them to be hers.
She was horrible as a bed cat. When she wanted to get up or be let out of the bedroom she would lick Grumpy’s eyes. But she was actually more content to just sleep in the kitchen so she could let us know promptly when her meal was meant to be in front of her.

She was named after Gracie Allen for her wonderful, constant, always on meow and her complete and utter lack of grace when walking the furniture when she was a kitten. Gracie was our last tuxedo and I’m not sure our house looks right without one in it.

This has been a very hard year with losing Mishka, my heart cat, in February and now losing John’s baby just a month after losing one of our best friends to cancer at 49. Even though we don’t comment a ton, the Balloon-Juice community has been a source of sanity and hope for the two of us in this difficult year.

She was clearly such a good girl. I had the pleasure of meeting RonnieRoo and GCM a while back. Hope to do so once again next time I am in town. Give your pets some attention tonight.


I grew up in Bergen County and I must differ with Lucinda Rosenfeld’s attribution of Jared Kushner’s entitlement to his growing up there. I was there somewhat earlier than she was, though.

The neighborhood I grew up in was ethnically mixed, although yes, white. Czech, German, Irish, longer-time American, and, overlaid, Jewish and Christian. We were Democrats and Republicans. We were too working-class to aspire to the heights of New York society. We kids would have disdained that anyway. We had the local playground, the railroad tracks that our parents wished we wouldn’t frequent, and buses to get to the next town. Who needed more? We had good schools that continue to be good.  The diversity mix has changed, but diversity there is.

It particularly pains me when I read that Kushner attended a private school in Paramus. Paramus was, for me, a magical place. Read more

Cat Blogging: Rest in Peace, Dirk (August 2000 – Sept. 14, 2017)


Spare a thought for commentor Tissue-Thin Pseudonym (JMN) tonight…

I’ll never see him again; all I have is memories.

I remember finding him huddled under the tire of our car on a February morning when it was 0 degrees. He wasn’t moving anywhere, so our only choices were to take him in or run him over. He had worms and a horrible case of ear mites, so we didn’t bother trying to find the owner who had let him get into such rough shape.

I remember the cat who loved to pester Monster until she completely lost it and would repeatedly smack him in the head. He absorbed his punishment without complaint: that’s the price you pay if you pester the top cat. Dirk had no problem being at the bottom, but he wasn’t going to let Monster shirk her responsibilities.

I remember that he picked up more nicknames than any other cat I’ve had. One of them was Bus Person, from his habit of wandering around the house muttering to himself, like that guy who gets on the bus and you hope doesn’t sit next to you. He was loud enough to be heard from three rooms away.

I remember the way that he and Eddie would wrestle. The goal was to pin the other so that you could groom him. It was very sweet.

I also remember how quickly he grasped that Eddie didn’t want to wrestle anymore during the last year of his life. He treated sick, three-legged Eddie with great gentleness.

I remember how annoyed he got when three month old Harry followed him everywhere around the house. Harry worshipped him, and Dirk learned first to tolerate it, and then to enjoy it. And Dirk’s gentleness with Eddie was repaid by Harry seeking him out and snuggling with him when Dirk was declining. Harry still worships him, and I’m not looking forward to tonight, when Harry starts to realize that Dirk isn’t coming back.

I remember Dirk losing weight and kidney function over the last two years. My plan was to let him decide when to check out, when he stopped eating, but he defeated that. He kept eating, even as his kidneys and heart and brain failed him. He kept trying to move around even when he struggled to keep his paws underneath him. The last few weeks, he adopted a sprawled out eating stance as his hind legs, especially the left one, slid to the sides.

And I remember his exquisitely soft fur, the last thing I got to experience of him, even after he had stopped breathing. I’ll be cleaning that fur off of everything I own for years still.

I miss him so much, and it’s only been an hour.

ABL for the Win!

This was all over my facebook page this a.m.:

Even on vacation in Italy, our Angry Black Lady is killing it. Miss her here, glad I can follow her on twitter.

Meanwhile I’m thinking about all our BJ jackals in Florida. Stay safe and keep checking in with us over the weekend.

Open thread..