Monday, February 27, 2006

On Crushes, Love, and Fantasy Life

I've been thinking about this topic for a while. Ever since an interesting discussion with my mom on the topic of crushes. It seems that she and I have a very different conception of a crush, and a very different use for them.

To my mother, a crush is the first step of a genuine love interest. It doesn't seem to connect much to her imagination (I'd say that my mother doesn't have an imagination, but it's really more that she doesn't consider it imaginary). For someone married to have a crush on anyone would be, in my mother's world, a terrible sign for the marriage.

I view crushes entirely differently. Perhaps it's because I've never in my life had a crush on someone even remotely accessible. A crush couldn't be the first step of a genuine love interest, since there was no possibility of such a thing developing. My first crush was on a guy in my math class in middle school - a popular guy, though not the most popular - at a time when no one in my class would even talk to me unless forced by a teacher. I think the crush was engendered by Ben actually looking in my direction once. My second crush was on my boyfriend's best friend - not exactly available romance fodder. Especially not after his father was killed in a car crash, an event that increased the crush by making him a tragic figure, while driving it all the more home that a romance with me was the last thing the poor guy needed.

So for me, by the time I reached adulthood, a crush was firmly entrenched as someone to fantasize about, but not someone to approach. I viewed crushes as something entirely separate from my actual romantic life, and the pattern of having crushes on people who would be entirely inappropriate romantic fodder in real life has continued. Perhaps because of this my romantic fantasy life is pretty active, and has gone in directions I would never choose for my real life. By now, even were I unattached, developing a crush on someone would cause me to shear away from them, largely because my fantasy life has much in it that would make for truly lousy reality. Instead I use my crushes to explore things that I would hesitate (or completely avoid), bringing to my actual life and marriage. Safe in my head, well away from any real people, I can explore dynamics I can't explore elsewhere. I would never feature my husband in a rape fantasy (for example) - I know all too well that it's not something I would ever want in real life - but my imaginative world sometimes explores such things. When I tried to explain this to my mother, she didn't get what I was talking about at all.

Maybe it's odd of me. My mother doesn't see why anyone would waste time imagining things they don't want to have happen. To me it's strongly attached to my story writing. I want to be able to make sense of horrible things, and it's much better to do so by imagining the horrible things than by experiencing them. Frankly it's pretty hard to make sense out of horrible things when you're in the middle of them. You're too busy simply getting through them. Writing a story lets you do it in the third person. Crushes and a fantasy life allow me to explore in the first person.

RIP Octavia Butler

Science Fiction writer Octavia Butler died after a fall outside of her Seattle home.


I, for one, will miss her writing greatly. Her imagination stretched in directions no one else went. She took us with her, and showed us new places, gave us new quandries, expanded the horizons of our minds. There was no one else who could have written the books that she wrote.

I feel a burning need to go to the library and start rereading.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Sorry for the delays

Posting is rare at the moment, due to some entertaining internet connection problems. To wit, S broke the first rule of engineering - if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Until about a week ago my internet connection blinked out about 30 seconds or so out of every ten minutes. It rarely caused me any problems. If it interrupted a download, I would simply reload the page and continue on from there. I had never mentioned it to S, because it never bothered me. Unfortunately, he needed to use my computer for a little while last week, and noticed the "problem". Two hours later, my internet connection was no longer dropping out quite as often - it's down to one or two seconds every fifteen minutes. This would be wonderful, except that my download rate has dropped by an order of magnitude, and it now takes me about five-ten minutes to bring up a web page. Given that before it took about 10-30 seconds, and that even a couple of seconds interruption is enough to disrupt the process, I'm having significantly more trouble getting around on the internet than I was before.

I've stolen a section of S's computer and set it up for myself, but I don't have the long bookmark list to aid navigation - plus I don't like to work in the basement nearly as much as up in my office.

However, S swears that he will fix my connection this weekend. Keep your fingers crossed.

Perhaps I should have called this post How Not to Help, Part II.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Arguing with the Choir

Grrrr. I should know better than to wander over to Dawn Eden's blog. I know I will find something really annoying, and if I try to post about it, I will be stuck arguing with a bunch of people who will not hear any point of view but their own.

Dawn, for those who haven't run into her, is a very conservative Catholic. Not just against abortion, but against birth control. Loathes Planned Parenthood with the hatred of a thousand suns. Thinks feminists are out to murder babies for kicks. She generally makes me want to pack up and move to another country. Preferably on a different planet.

The most recent post was on abortion once more. Someone had made the comment that society at large should get to vote on whether they want all those aborted babies, rather then the women having them. I commented in return that I didn't want to give society a vote on whether I took a chance on bleeding to death or not. Which got the standard "That's what medical exceptions are for," response.

I've argued this with them before, and they never hear me. I probably won't even bother this time because they won't hear it, or Dawn will moderate it out of existence (she does that a lot, don't believe her when she says something was edited for being off-topic).

I would not be a medical exemption for an abortion. I'm only 36, and I'm generally healthy. I have no conditions that would lead an obstetrician to expect I was unusually at risk, no diabetes, no existing health problems at all except mild overweight.

Fifty years ago, either of my two pregnancies would likely have killed me. The second one easily could have even when it occurred. Thanks to an alert nursing staff, and a very speedy OB, I didn't bleed to death. Thanks to a well-prepped hospital (which I didn't have the second time), my first birth was merely traumatic. Had birth one occurred in hospital two, I would have had to be airlifted 100 miles to get the care I needed. Had birth two occurred in hospital one, I probably would have bled to death. Those are closer odds than I care to think about most days.

My point is that both of these were normal, healthy pregnancies. I was then, an even better candidate for a picture perfect pregnancy and childbirth than I am now. Neither of the births went wrong due to circumstances likely to repeat themselves.

So what if I get pregnant again?

In all likelihood I would go through with the pregnancy and have the child. Do my best to find a good OB and facility and pray a lot. I'm not a fan of abortion, personally speaking, so I don't intend to ever have one barring truly extreme circumstances. But I do not think that society should get a vote as to whether my risk is high enough to warrent an abortion. I shudder at the idea of a woman in my physical circumstances with a pregnancy she absolutely didn't want being told she has no choice but to cross her fingers and hope she survives.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

How Not to Help

I have found the digital camera - now I just need to figure out how to use it!

Contrary to how it must seem over the blog, I'm not actually a technical idiot. In other times and other places I'm actually quite apt with most technology. However, over the last few years I've begun slipping further and further behind the curve, until I don't know how to do a lot of things that I know are quite common, and probably not difficult.

I blame my husband.

Well, OK, not entirely directly. It's not like he tries to keep me from learning this stuff. It's indirect and, I'm quite certain, unintentional. But it's mostly his fault anyway.

First there's the reproduction thing. Eight years ago I actually was in charge of a database, creatintg, updating, etc., etc. Not exactly a job for the technologically challenged - and I wasn't. I did my job damn well, far better than my employer had any right to expect, truth be told. Then we had a kid. And then we had another kid. Suddenly the first requirement for figuring out a new bit of technology (a little peace and quiet time with the item), was out the window. What little uninterrupted quiet time I had was devoted to more important things than learning new technology - like basic hygeine. My computer time plummeted, my desire to put time and mental energy into learning new things also plummeted. At least new things that could be easily destroyed by a small child. I did start learning Latin, but Latin isn't going to go up in smoke because my child just peed on it.

Second, there's the helpful thing. This is possibly the more insidious part. You see, before we had kids, if I had to learn to use a new program, or operate a new digital camera, or anything of the sort, my husband might make a helpful comment or two, but he pretty much left me to figure it out. After all, it didn't cost him anything but listening to my muttering or an occassional swear word while I got things straight. Post-child, he tends to be more helpful. I.e., if I need something done, he will tend to do it for me, rather than give me a hint or two and let me figure it out. He means it to be helpful and save me time, but it ends up leaving me ignorant of things I really should know. Partially I think the new behavior is altruistic, but suspicious old me also suspects that letting me figure things out by myself now costs him something (he has to keep the kids out of my hair), and he'd rather I watched the boys while he did the more interesting bits.

Which brings us back to the digital camera. I really need to figure this thing out. S doesn't remember where he left the directions, so that's out. I can make it disgorge already taken photos, but I can't seem to find the right mode to let it take new ones - yet. I'll get there. But I don't dare go ask S for a hint, because sure as shootin' he'll take the pictures I need, and leave me as ignorant as ever as to how the dang thing works. And I hate being ignorant.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Thoughts on Weight, Health, and Functionality

Some interesting posts look to be coming up via Alas, a Blog and the Big Fat Carnival, which I will post a link to when it arrives. I was vaguely thinking about submitting a post, but missed the deadline, so perhaps next time.

I find myself ambiguous on much of what Amp writes about fat and fat acceptance, even while I think he does a marvelous job of it. His major points I think are hard to refute.
1) There is little to no good evidence that being fat in and of itself poses a threat to health. The studies that have been done are deeply flawed for any number of reasons - varying from study to study. Generally methodology on obesity studies is very poor.
2) There is no effective treatment for obesity. Diet and exercise have a tremendous failure rate - one that would get any other treatment regime blackballed. Rates for weight loss maintained over a period of five years are so tiny as to be practically non-existant, even when the bar for success is set very low. Yet the same things keep being recommended over and over again because obesity is seen as a failure of willpower.
3) The medical community and society are both so obsessed with weight that they will do truly horrible things to people "for their own good" if those things have to do with weight. The case of the girl whose treatment for psychosis was diddled with because the drug that worked caused her to gain weight comes springing to mind. I am loathe to subscribe in any way shape or form to the idea that being overweight is some horrible fate to be avoided at any cost whatsoever.

Nonetheless, I find myself currently trying to lose weight. In my defense, I will say that my goals are actually pretty modest. Mostly I'm bothered because over the summer I put on about 30 pounds, attributable to hanging out with my family for a good portion of the summer - even a weekend with my parents is good for five pounds. I think that dropping that recently gained weight has a pretty good chance of succeeding. That last ten pounds in particular seems to be causing some knee strain that I'm uneasy about, so I'd like to get rid of that. On the other hand, while I would love to go back to my pre-child weight (165), I seriously doubt that's ever going to happen. I'm simply not the person I was then, physically or mentally. I'm pretty comfortable at a weight around 180-185, so that's where I'll aim for.

Interestingly, the charts say that my ideal weight is about 150, another fifteen pounds below my percieved ideal weight. Which gives me serious pause about the charts seeing as I've been 150 - it's clearly underweight for me. I looked like death warmed over. I was constantly cold. I had no stamina. This is healthy? I don't think so.

Mostly I'm annoyed that fat is such a loaded issue that I can't make a simple decision to aim for a weight I'm happy and stable at without having guilty feelings that I ought to be aiming lower. And that my doctor may be more concerned with the number on the scale than my eating and exercising habits. Our priorities as a society are badly screwed up on this issue, and it makes it difficult for individuals to think clearly about it.

And having gotten that off my chest, my weight this week is 213.8, the same as last week. On the other hand, I gotten enough more flexible to be able to grab my toes, and I can do 14 laps of the dojo without getting into serious gasping. Given this last week (more later, when the results of the tests come in), I'm reasonably satisfied, if not precisely happy with that.

Friday, February 03, 2006

False Expectations and the Dichotomy of Art and Personality

One of the hazards of poking around the Internet is that you can run into people you feel you know. People you don't actually know, mind you, but feel you have some claim on because of their publicly available work. Writers are classic for this, but it can happen with anyone who offers a portion of their personal creativity up for public consumption: painters, musicians, dancers, athletes, you name it.

It happened to me today, and now I'm feeling a little let down. Because an author who's work I adore, and whose lead character is one of my favorite novel characters of all time isn't at all what I expected him to be. It's unfair, but there it is. Where I expected someone witty, quirky, and stylish, classy perhaps, I got someone, well..., crass. And the crassness doesn't alter my opinion of his writing, but it still dissappoints me. Like I was expecting a friend, and got someone I wouldn't want to sit next to on a bus.

The sad thing is that it is frequently thus, but that doesn't alter the expectations. Someone can be sublime in print, transcendant in the notes, and excreble in real life. Wittiness cannot be created from nothing, but there's no law that says the person who writes wittily has to manifest that in their daily life. Madeleine L'Engle's mother was always dissappointed that Wagner, whose music she loved, was such an awful person. Christie Brinkly noted after her divorce from Billy Joel that there's a tremendous difference between being able to write a wrenching love ballad, and being able to show your emotions to your loved one in your daily life.

It does make me wonder, though, what opinion people will form of me by reading what I write, and whether I would meet or destroy their expectations if they met me in person. For that matter, it makes me wonder if they would expect very different people if they were to read my non-fiction writing as opposed to my stories. At the moment it's not much of a concern, seeing as how I have no published fiction, but someday that might change. I suppose if and when it does, somebody will probably meet me after reading, and either tell me "You're just as I expected!", or just possibly, feel the way I'm feeling right now.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

At Least I'm Submitting

Writing that is. I've been writing for years, but had never submitted anything for publication anywhere until last year. Last year I sent one short story to Glimmertrain, which received a very nice rejection letter. It was the only thing I submitted, though I actually found the letter encouraging rather than discouraging. I think I still had a hard time believing that I could write anything that other people might want to read. Nice comments from friends and family are all very well, but they aren't the people who will send you checks.

Being on Damn Interesting! seems to have given me the boost I needed, though. They may not be paying me, but people are reading, and they seem to be liking what I write - even though non-fiction essays aren't my best medium.

And that may be what it took to kick me into action. Because it will be at least another six to eight months before I have a novel I can start sending off, if I'm going to publish anything in the meanwhile, it's going to have to be in my less preferred modes. But if my non-fiction, which I never even considered as a possible publishable commodity is being well received, then surely my short fiction will be passable somewhere? And (God knows) possibly even my occassional forays into poetry - though a poet I am definitely not?

So, I have another short story out with Glimmertrain (they write such nice rejection letters), and the original one simultaneously submitted to The Missouri Review and Ploughshares. Later this week I'm planning on revamping a somewhat tongue-in-cheek poem for submission to Cicada. I'm a little nervous about the simultaneous submission, but MR responds in 30 days, while P takes five months, and both allow for simultaneous submissions, so I'm thinking it's relatively safe.

After that finding things to submit gets a little trickier. I have about three poems, none of them horrible, but not any great shakes either, and four short stories, three ultra-shorts (< 200), and one longer one still in draft. I'm going to have to get cranking to keep up with my self-imposed goal of one submission a week.

On the novel front, I have made some progress in planning the revamp of Ghost Dancer (all right, I'll start actually using my working titles. Initials were just too coy.) A friend made a brilliant suggestion for a secondary plot, which if worked right should solve many of my character continuity problems. (Thanks, Beth!). The Flayed Queen is mostly on the back burner right now, though I really need to hump my way through the first draft. The Oddities (my collaboration with a friend - more hers than mine at this point), really needs some more attention from me. I have two scenes in mid-write right now, and I'm trying to poke my brain to come up with some more.

Mostly I need to get out of crisis mode, and back into regular daily writing. Daily fire-fighting is not conducive to good output.

But tomorrow is S's birthday, and the kidlets still need to get him presents, and we're suddenly having a school crisis ('nother post aborning there), so there are a couple of crises yet to deal with before I can settle.

I just wish I could be certain that by the time I deal with a and b, c, d, and e won't have arisen. Given my usual life, it's almost a guarantee that they will.