Tuesday, June 30, 2009


It's time for my annual internal debate about whether to renew my membership in SFWA, the Science Fiction Writers of America. Every year I wonder if there's any real point to it. This year, I'm also worried about the money. I suppose if I get a job before the deadline, I'll probably sigh and grumble and shake my head and write the check, just as I did last year.

Coming up: the same internal debate about renewing my membership in HWA, the Horror Writers Association.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The economic upturn that matters most

I’m seeing more job postings for developers and tech writers, and I’ve been getting more nibbles, including an interview today. All of which is of course very encouraging and a hopeful sign for the future.

But I’m wondering when we’ll see the rise in the statistic that matters most: number of new books being bought by publishers. That one should be explooooding any day now!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Stop living from paycheck to paycheck!

I just got an e-mail that promised to tell me the secrets that will enable me to stop living from paycheck to paycheck. Hah! I cast heaps of scorn upon your secret information!

All on my own, without the help of strangers who send spam e-mails, I have learned how one stops living from paycheck to paycheck. Me and millions of other people. All you have to do is get laid off.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The explosions in the street have finally stopped for the night

The yahoolings are nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of cherry bombs dance in their heads.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

David’s Definitions for August 2009


The man in a marriage. Originally, the word had a rather different meaning, which survives in specialized ways. It comes from the Old Norse word husbondi meaning “master of a household.” That word had nothing to do with whether the man was married. When the Norsemen settled in England, they often married local, Anglo-Saxon women. The Anglo-Saxon word for a married woman, wif, continued to be used for those women. That became our word wife. But because such marriages were so common, the Anglo-Saxon term for a husband, wer, was gradually replaced by the Norse husbondi, which became our word husband. The master of a household took care of the land, the animals, and all the other resources associated with his property — good care, if he was a good husbondi. So farming was once called “husbandry,” and taking care of farm animals is still called “animal husbandry.” We also still speak of “husbanding resources” — i.e., taking care to preserve them. In nautical usage, the person who manages a ship’s expenses and receipts is called the “ship’s husband.”

(Will be published in the August 2009 issue of Denver's Community News.)

I'm collecting all of these at: http://www.dvorkin.com/davidsdefs.html

Monday, June 22, 2009

Arc of the moral universe

“Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” – Martin Luther King, 1967

I’ve been seeing this line quoted a lot lately (or misquoted or paraphrased). The sentiment King expressed may be a comforting one, but it’s bullshit.

It boils down to karma, what goes around comes around, and similar nonsense. Obviously, such beliefs make no sense unless you believe in a guiding force or principle behind everything. Karma, the moral universe, God – at base, it’s all the same thing and it’s all wishful thinking.

It’s uncomfortable to think that the universe has no form of intelligence or morality, that evil goes unpunished, that good is not rewarded, and so on. But that’s what the lack of evidence for the opposite leaves us with.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Only theologians can be atheists

At least, that’s the conclusion one has to draw from the latest ploy used by a certain contingent (cabal!) of theists to argue against atheism.

More properly, they’re arguing against public expression by the most visible atheists – e.g., Dawkins – rather than against atheism itself. But of course their real purpose is to keep those visible atheists from making atheism respectable and appealing.

So they’re now grumbling that Dawkins and his like must not publish books attacking religion unless they can show that they’ve studied the literature of theism in depth. Unable to defend their wacky fundamental belief – the existence of invisible Sky Daddy – these theists are trying to divert the debate into an argument about irrelevant details. If you can’t demonstrate an intimate knowledge of all the convoluted arguments about just how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, then you’re not allowed to ask for proof that angels exist.

So let’s engage in a thought experiment.

Suppose that long ago, a hunting party of American Indians in western Colorado, while sitting around the campfire in the evening, had a religious experience, a series of visions, orgasmic and transporting. They imagined that somewhere nearby was an immense but invisible and undetectable rock, and that the rock was speaking to them. They dreamed that the rock told them it had created the world, including them. So they worshiped the invisible rock and sacrificed animals and passing Spaniards to it.

Once Anglos began pouring into the area, large numbers of the white settlers converted to what they called Rockism. From the city that grew up around the imagined site of the invisible rock, thousands, then millions, of pages of detailed theology flowed out around the world. Hundreds of millions of people converted to Rockism.

Rockist theologians, including some of the most brilliant minds on earth, spent their lives arguing with each other about the exact order in which the rock created the various parts of the world, and whether it created the rest of the universe first, or later, or simultaneously. Should they use the newest technology to try to actually detect the rock and determine its nature, or would that be blasphemy? Did the rock extend down to the center of the earth? Up as far as the orbit of the moon? And so on and on and on.

Any sensible person would say, “Prove to me that this rock exists.” Who in his right mind would think it necessary to read all of the Rockist theological drivel before declaring the whole religion to be utter nonsense?

Using Windows Live Writer

I created and published the previous post using Windows Live Writer, a blog editor for PCs, that I had just installed.

I’m very impressed with it and would recommend it to anyone who blogs from a PC. And no, Microsoft did not pay me for this endorsement. If they want to send me a check for a zillion bucks in gratitude, I won’t say no, despite being an obscure blogger whose blog hardly anyone reads and whose opinion is therefore of little moment.


Missing the secret, important stuff

Being unemployed means having to fill in lots of forms and notify lots of people and offices about your status and needs. I think everything’s now put to bed and copacetic and stowed away safely, cap’n. But I keep thinking it’s not, that I’ve missed something vital, and it’s going to rear up and tear off my head. Metaphorically speaking.

I often feel this way about the various obligations, duties, processes, and procedures that life subjects us to. Part of that is because I have a bad memory and I do indeed tend to forget important steps. But I just realized that it’s deeper than that.

As a semi-deaf and severely nearsighted kid, without either glasses or hearing aids, I always missed important things in school. I sat at my desk lost in my own world, neither seeing what the teacher was writing on the blackboard nor hearing what teach was saying. Which was fine with me, but I’d show up without homework assignments that I didn’t know had been assigned, and when called on in class I’d either ignore the caller or would have no idea what the subject under discussion was. Other kids looked at me as though I were crazy. Teachers assumed I was stupid or disobedient or both. This probably has a lot to do with why I disliked school so much.

It probably contributed to my habit of losing myself in escapist fiction, and later writing it. It also probably explains why themes of secret, important stuff happening in the background, beyond the ken of characters who are endangered by their not knowing, crop up so often in my fiction.

Maybe that’s also why I got hooked on Philip K. Dick from the first novel of his I read.

Monday, June 08, 2009

He was asking for it

Here's a thought experiment.

A man, smaller than average, less strong than average, walks down a street in the evening in a dangerous part of town. He's dressed in an expensive suit, wearing rings, Rolex showing, and he's counting a big wad of money. He is attacked, robbed of everything but his underpants, beaten severely, wakes up in the hospital, or doesn't wake up at all.

Surely no one will say that his attacker had the right to do what he did. And surely no one will say that the victim had it coming to him. Or that he was asking for it.

But surely it's proper, even while expressing sympathy for the victim, to condemn him as a damned fool. Surely it's proper to point out that human predators exist and we should be aware of them. That's not excusing the predator. That's self-defense.

(I'd like to observe in passing that many, maybe most, human predators are born, not made. Their daddies should have taught them properly? Oh, hell, their daddies probably tried their damnedest and finally gave up in despair.)

I used this invented example years ago, when I was discussing rape with a friend of mine. Unlike some people in today's blogosphere, she didn't blame all men for the rapes committed by a few. (Although she was the first person I heard express the wacko and sexist contention that all men are obligated to teach all other men how to behave.) She did, however, insist that women should be free to go wherever they want and dress however they want and be safe from attack.

And I agree. Of course they should be. Just as men should be, just as the guy in my example should be free to walk down that street, dressed as he wants, flashing his money. That's the way the world should work. It's just not the way it does work.

Most of us realize that. We start learning it when we're kids.

Well, most of us. Some kids never do. All the way up to adulthood, they expose themselves to the predators. It may be dress, it may be behavior, it may be location, it may be dating bad boys. The result can be tragic.

Pointing out the dangers isn't vindicating the guilty or blaming the victims. It's simply pointing out that we don't live in an ideal world.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Three phrases that stifle dissent

Earlier today, I commented negatively regarding some statements about men in a blog post. One reaction to my comment was that it sounded "dismissive to women". It struck me that that phrase is often used to stifle dissent.

It also occurred to me that, in that respect, it's much like the phrase "insulting to Muslims".

The third phrase, which was used against me by my parents when I was young and disagreed with them about Jewishness or Israel, is "Jewish anti-semite".

The phrases may be completely inapplicable in the particular case. That doesn't matter. What matters is that they can be used as weapons to intimidate someone into shutting up.