Do any of you play the horses?

I have a question about hedging bets. Random House and a dozen or more friends have done a lot of editing and fact-checking for DOC, but I don't think any of us actually plays the horses. So I'm not 100% certain that I got this right: "We hedged our bets. Kate says they've been doing that on French racetracks for years. You take a hundred dollars and divide it. Say, twenty to win at long odds. Then make a couple of side bets, shorter: thirty to come in second or better, fifty to come in third or better. Unless the horse ...
Read More

Your tax dollars at work.

I'm getting my records organized so I can calculate my 4th quarter estimated tax payment for 2010. For a long time, I've wished that the IRS would include a survey at the end of our tax forms where we could express spending preferences. I'd like to indicate, somehow, that "I resent every penny spent on this criminal waste of money, but that expense is wholly justified and I wish we'd spend more on it." Here's something close: a website called Stabilize the Debt that lets you take a theoretical whack at the U.S. budget. You work through 7 or 8 categories ...
Read More

Utter, absolute, glorious JOY

No, I am not announcing that Johnny Depp has called, pleading to play Emilio Sandoz in a movie adaptation of The Sparrow, although that would merit the same subject heading. I am simply wanted to share this YouTube video of a 3-year-old boy "conducting" the 4th movement of Beethoven's 5th symphony. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0REJ-lCGiKU&feature=player_embedded Grownups have learned to sit quietly in symphony halls, but with a gigantic smile -- far too big for his face to encompass -- Jonathan shows what's inside so many of us when we are utterly transported by music that is too glorious to bear: we want to fall to ...
Read More

Wiki Leaks Seriously Unshocking

So far, I've yet to be startled by anything in the leaks. In fact, my take on international politics is being validated. Kim Jong Il is bat-shit crazy. Angela Merkel is kind of boring. Nobody likes Mr. Imadinnerjacket. Vladimir Putin is hand-in-glove with the Russian kleptocracy. Americans are in Pakistan and Yemen, calling in drone attacks on Al-Queda camps. Afghani politicians are corrupt. If any of that surprises you, you'll be amazed to learn that people in Cleveland don't like Lebron James anymore; Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds did take steroids, as did about 85% of all major league baseball players in the 1990s; Hollywood is about to ...
Read More

First Day of Chanukah

And here's the Russell household's gift to you. Don and I love the NPR show WAIT, WAIT... DON'T TELL ME. We also enjoyed Animal Planet's show Emergency Vets, which featured Kevin Fitzgerald, DVM. For big laughs, click on this: http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=35 and scroll down to "Veterinarian Keven Fitzgerald plays 'Not My Job.'" Wait'll you get to the part about the spider. We wept ...
Read More

First interview about writing DOC

Last September, I had a grand time with the incoming Honors students at Rutgers University. A journalist named John Connelly asked if he could do a follow-up interview about the new novel. The interview will be published in the Rutgers Review in December, 2010, but here is the link to Mr. Connelly's new on-line  outlet. http://ofpensandswords.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/a-conversation-with-mary-doria-russell/ ...
Read More

In defense of Bristol Palin

I deplore anti-intellectualism. I cringe when a somebody brags about "going with my gut" or sneers at smartypants Ph.D. eggheads who think climate change or natural selection are real. Unlike a majority of my fellow citizens, I actually even like that our current president is emotionally continent and speaks in paragraph form. My television habits are decidedly skewed toward PBS and the Science Channel, although I admit to watching way too much HGTV. I have never seen America Has Talent or Dancing with the Stars or any of the modern variants of Ted Mack and The Original Amateur Hour. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7KCCiX3cuA When those competitions ...
Read More

And people wonder where I get my ideas…

People always ask writers where they get their ideas. What I want to know is, where do microbiologists get their ideas? What kind of person looks at a bug and thinks, "Hey, I bet if we isolate protein from a bunch of cockroach brains and sprinkle it on stuff, it''ll cure something!" http://www.rationalskepticism.org/general-science/cockroach-brain-can-help-fight-superbugs-t12298.html I'm sure their moms are proud, but microbiologists are very strange people ...
Read More

Merely a thread of grace…

Several readers have told me about a N.Y. Times article entitled  "Italy's Treatment of Jews in World War II is Reconsidered." I just read the article, and I think it's fair. Mussolini's government promulgated anti-semitic race laws in 1938, which is long before the Nazi occupation began on Sept. 8, 1943. Those laws were damaging, insulting and ugly. (You can read Tullio Bertini's translation of the ordinances by clicking on the FAQs for A Thread of Grace and scrolling to the end of the page.) The difference in Italy was that such laws were not impossible to get around. While doing ...
Read More

I am efforting not to have a stroke.

Okay, this has just got to stop. Twice now, I've heard reporters on CNN use effort as a verb, as in, "I'm efforting to find out, Wolf!" No, darling. You are trying to find out. Or, if you're not into the whole brevity thing,  perhaps you are making an effort to find out. But you are not, ever, under any circumstances, efforting ...
Read More