Inhuman Swill : Page 57
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.


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An anonymous reader points out that I did indeed hear Africa referred to as "the dark continent" on NPR last week, and that they apologized today on air:

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Chicago has defeated us

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No, not in the sense that we're running back to New York City with our tails between our legs. But we are going to become car owners for the first time in 13 and 15 years, respectively. It stings.

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Don't drown!

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I am a huge fan of the warnings and advisories from the National Weather Service. It's something about the matter-of-fact cataloging of the various ways weather phenomena can take life. These reports are marvels of terse concision, and I recommend them to anyone who delights in language.

This, for example, from today's flood warning for Northern Illinois:

Masterful. If you don't hear the music, there's nothing I can do for you.
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Natural ass

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So Wednesday afternoon I smelled natural gas in my home office.

Some of you will recall what happened a couple of years ago when I smelled gas in our Queens apartment but didn't call the gas company until after I'd gone to work. This time was not like that. Our landlord had had a guy in working on installing some new laundry equpiment in the basement, so I headed downstairs. The smell was much stronger in the basement.

I called Peoples Gas, and Ella and I hung out in the back yard to wait. With the basement door propped open, you could smell the gas from the top of the steps heading down the concrete stairwell. The gas men arrived and found not one but three leaks in the new lines. One was due to a fitting connected to the new dryer that was the wrong size.

I left a message with the landlord while the gas company was repairing the problems. He called me back later. I saved his voice mail. Sounding laconic, he says, "I guess that's what happens when you pay top dollar for the best."

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Texas steel

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The mere sound of Dubya's voice makes my skin crawl at the best of times: the petulance in it, the nervous laugh that always accompanies the dopey statements he thinks should be self-evident, the lack of any statesmanlike timbre whatsoever. Whenever he opens his mouth to address an audience, any audience, he sounds like a dull bully being called on the carpet and defending himself incompetently.

Hearing him yesterday on the news, though, I heard a chilling new steel in his voice. As he was chiding the House of Representatives for not rubber-stamping the Senate's wiretapping reauthorization bill, telling them they must do so immediately, I swear God it sounded like he was about to say, "That is why I have taken your congressmen hostage, and I will execute one representative every minute until this bill is passed. That gives you ... um, less than a week, heh heh, so let's hurry, people!"

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February's CD mix of the month

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My virtual contribution to February's CD Mix of the Month club was The Answers That You Want: Rockin' Straight from '70 to '74.

(The story so far.)

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Say what?

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Did I really hear a newsreader on NPR yesterday refer to Africa as "the dark continent"?

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Discover Magazine, February 2008
Hey, I have a reporting credit in the February issue of Discover magazine!

Discover does a humorous monthly column at the back of the magazine called "20 Things You Didn't Know About..." February's column was "20 Things You Didn't Know About Science Fiction," and its posting online seems to have stirred up a small pot of controversy over at io9, Gawker's SF blog. Seems as if a lot of people were not amused, and in turn Discover was not amused that they were not amused. (Thanks to John Joseph Adams for being one of the voices of reason in the io9 comments, and defending my honor.)

For the record, my reporting duties consisted of supplying the Discover writers with about a dozen pieces of SF trivia, of which they borrowed maybe four, putting their own inimitable spin on the material. I'm happy to say I gave them the one about Gene Wolfe and Pringles. But to balance that out, I also gave them the one about some fans not liking the term "sci-fi." (An example of one of my nuggets that didn't make the cut was that Heinlein Crater in the Hellas Southeast Quadrangle of Mars is named after Robert A. Heinlein. So there you go.)

I would have posted about this sooner, except that I didn't become aware that the column was online, or about the attendant flamewars, until early last Saturday morning as we were preparing to leave for a weekend in Iowa. And to be perfectly clear, having my name in Discover is totally awesome.

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When I was much younger, I had some serious financial problems. I fell behind on a lot of credit card payments, and I was dogged by bill collectors for several years. My credit report was in the toilet. Over time I settled most of those debts, and I was delighted a few years back to realize that I'd kept my nose clean long enough that my credit reports were pristine again. Now I keep only one credit card, and I'm paranoid about carrying a balance on it for even one month.

So I was quite distressed recently when we started getting automated calls from a bill collector. Finally I called the outfit back yesterday. They claimed to have two credit card accounts of mine in default that had been charged off to them. The account numbers seemed vaguely familiar, but the whole situation struck me as fishy. I said I would call the bank and verify those accounts before continuing any discussion.

The bank in question happened to be my current bank, and the issuer of my current credit card. The bank could find no record of those two accounts, which they said meant one of two things: either those accounts had been charged off to bill collectors so long ago that they no longer had active records of them, or they had never existed at all. They advised me to fax an inquiry to their security department for further investigation, and to get copies of my credit reports to make sure there's nothing wrong on them. They also told me that from my records I looked like an excellent customer.

I grabbed copies of my annual free credit reports from the three big agencies. All clean.

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Let's hear it for some of my Blue Heaven cohorts this week.

Tim Pratt is interviewed this week at Sci-Fi Weekly about his burgeoning career, which includes selling film and television options to his Marla Mason stories and novels.

[info]paulmelko's excellent debut novel Singularity's Ring gets well-reviewed over at Sci-Fi Weekly as well, even if it's a bit of a slapdash writeup. You should go out and read this novel now. I loved it.

And last but not least, congratulations to [info]gregvaneekhout on selling his debut novel NorseCODE to Bantam! This is a terrific novel, too, or at least the earlier drafts I read were, and I have no doubt it grew even more awesome in revisions. In a perfect world, you would be able to go out and read this novel now too.

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William Shunn