I'm reading "Laugh Lines", a collection of humorous science fiction stories written by Ben Bova, which I bought in paperback at the bookstore last week. They're more wry-grin than laugh-out-loud and they're dated, which adds some tangential interest. The anchors are two full-length novels and there are six short stories; all have introductory notes by Bova. The interesting thing is the subject matter of the two novels.

'The Starcrossed', written in 1975, is a skewering of the television production business, inspired by the troubles Ben's friend Harlan Ellison had when he got involved in an unnamed science fiction series, possibly Star Trek - Ellison wrote at least one episode. The series is to be filmed with a "new and improved" version of the 3-D TV currently available in the slightly dystopian then-near-future, which also features floral-scented, pink-tinted smog blanketing Los Angeles and other absurd touches. The struggling studio ships production off to Canada to save money (not so absurd after all) while borrowing from the Mafia, they have unpaid high school kids write the scripts, and a Canuck hockey player with a thick Quebecois accent is cast as the starship captain. The science fiction author who is consulting on the series and the tech whiz who improved the 3-D system are, of course, saints. Well, the author, accurately modeled on Ellison, according to Bova, is only saint-ish. But it's funny that, here in the real world, just in the last month they've started announcing that 2010 will be the year of 3-D TV.

'Cyberbooks', penned in 1989, is a similar tale set in the publishing world of New York City. A lone inventor has developed an electronic 'book' that's the size of a paperback and can be used to read novels stored on recordable wafers which are slipped into it. The content can even be delivered over the phone! He gets caught up with the failing mid-sized publishing house he's sold on the idea, while a larger publisher that's a subsidiary of Tarantula corporation tries to steal it. The mid-level editors and sales staff are portrayed similarly to the TV people in 'The Starcrossed', with the inventor, a noble (and nubile) editor, and a veteran sales guy portrayed as squeaky-clean. The woman who runs the mid-sized publisher is even cast in a sympathetic light. This one is the more comic of the two, with some slapstick set pieces and swipes at efficiency experts and two-bit underworld types. There's less description of the outside world and it isn't very 'futuristic', but the pink smog gets a mention. Meanwhile, here in 2010, we're seeing the first real round of the e-book battles.

At least somebody at Baen Publishing Enterprises has a sense of humor. Or is it irony?

I've been commuting to my locum tenens job for three weeks.

It is a long commute. About 87 miles, and a slow down where 16 meets I5. This is the worst time of year to commute, it rains, rains, rains. But I like the rain better than the first week, when it was frozen. We get black ice on the Peninsula and it's bad.

I am driving my partner's Subaru down and back. I have a 1986 Honda Civic, which is great for milage, but would not be fun in a wreck with an SUV. The 1995 Thunderbird totally sucks on ice. The Subaru is a 2005. It has front and side airbags. I feel wrapped in caring. Ten years ago I would have never accepted a loan like this, but my porcupine independent suspicious prickles have quieted down a lot. And the commute takes anywhere from an hour and 40 minutes to two hours.

Two days ago I was driving down and warning lights lit up on the dash. Oh crap, I thought, I've broken his car. I stopped and read the manual. The cruise control had stopped working and was flashing at me and the "check engine" light was on. I found the "check engine" information. It said that it lit up for emission control, but also if you don't turn the gas cap enough to make it click. I checked. Hmmmm. I'd not only not clicked it, but the gas cap was hanging out of the little door. oooops. The manual said that the light would not forgive you for a while. I decided it was safe to drive it and continued.

I called and confessed to the owner. We haven't yelled at each other at all, hanging out for nearly 7 months. We occasionally have had to ask what the other one meant or intended. It is really nice. He didn't yell this time either. I was to stay near the job for the night, to save me from getting too tired driving. He would research it a bit.

I stayed in a small hotel and went to sleep by about 8:15. The car kept blinking on the way back. I am hoping that it will cheer up soon.

I am doctoring for the military while my clinic gets set up. I have been there for three weeks and am still being oriented. The orientation is thorough, much of it online, and covers many topics. I am finding it very interesting. But after three weeks, I'd like to actually do some work. I miss seeing patients. I "shadowed" a doc for a couple days, mostly because the electronic health record is a booger. However, not more of a booger than the one I've used for the last 4 years and I am MUCH better at both navigating the computer and working around it. I am unfazed by weird quirks like I've got to have my CAC card in the reader to log on to everything EXCEPT the main electronic health record and for that, I have to take it out. Ok, mine not to wonder why, except that I do, of course. It is a very compassionate clinic and I feel welcomed. I have also learned about 50 new acronyms in the last three weeks.

I have also listened to more NPR than in years. Poor Haiti. Pat Robertson sucks. I need to earn money so I can send some. I've donated some for a shelter box. I'm wondering how to store food and water so that I can get at them for our next earthquake. I am thinking of burying plastic bins in the ground in the backyard. I have a section that is covered with black plastic because of an awful weed, Mexican Bamboo. If the garage or house falls down, what good are supplies inside?

The introverted thinker is doing fine with all this. More single parent juggling, as I am staying down there 1-2 nights a week and have her going to friends' houses for the night or her uncle coming to stay here. So far so good. It was trickier fall of 2008, trying to keep track of two kids, football games and synchronized swim meets. I am having a bit of "Let's see, this is Tuesday, what was the plan for Tuesday?" The IT swims on Tuesday and Thursday for two hours and for three on Saturday. Whew. Wish I were in as good shape.

I haven't heard another peep from the Rotary, so after three weeks, the Extroverted Feeler and I think that he will not be sent home until the normal time. That is, May or June. He is arguing with them a bit, which I think is fine. He is expressing scorn about adult hypocrites, which I think is pretty well on track for a 17 year old. I am just feeling happy at the moment not to be the target of that outrage. I think that is a function of exchange programs: you discover that maybe there are some good things about your parents. Maybe.

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