Archive for October, 2010

Oct 29 2010

I love weekend links

Published by under follow the link chain

Links going up a day early this week, due to some time-sensitive links.  Enjoy!

Neil Gaiman attempts to start a new Halloween tradition (with the support of others like Stephen King) of gifting a scary book to someone else for Halloween.  Check out All Hallow’s Read for details!

I’d been skeptical of Jon Stewart’s Million Moderate March — until I read this article, and realized that no, Stewart and Colbert are still brilliant as well as funny.  Check out the psychological angle on Colbert’s “March to Keep Fear Alive” here.

Neil Gaiman gives a serious answer to the perennial writer question “Where do you get your ideas?” (found through Matt Arnold’s post about creativity and inspiration)

Gorgeous speculative archaeology concepts from BLDGBLOG

Climate change is real — not news to most of us, but here’s a nice collection of links

What if the universe were a 3D hologram?

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Oct 23 2010

privileged weekend links

It will be tempting to skim this link, since it’s long and repetitive in structure.  Don’t.  What are your privileges? (link from John Scalzi)

(some) Privileges I retain: the privilege of intelligence, education, and a quick-processing mind; the privilege of a good upbringing; the privilege of good partnerships and family; (these days) the privilege of not worrying about food on the table

(some) Privileges I have lost: the privilege of not worrying about where my daily energy comes from, or what can get done before I run out of steam; the privilege of presumed good health; the privilege of ignoring my body’s signals; the privilege of presumed pain-free existence; the privilege of spontaneous event scheduling

Interesting article about Google’s proposed book settlement monopoly; another step away from the “Don’t Be Evil” company motto?

For the body-modders: Implantable LEDs

Another thought-fodder piece from Futurismic: Wikiversity

Here’s one for my brother:  33 Conspiracy Theories That Were Proven True

The divine Emma Bull expounds on how the problem of bullying is everyone’s responsibility.

4 responses so far

Oct 18 2010

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

It’s October, and that has been declared Breast Cancer Awareness Month by the Powers That Be who declare such things.  I’d like to ask something of my Fearless Readers.

No, I don’t think you need to go out and buy pink ribbons, pink t-shirts, pink shopping bags, or really anything pink that you wouldn’t have already purchased.  Nor do I think you need to make a donation to a cancer organization, or walk for a cure, or adopt cutesy slogans about saving ta-tas.  (If you feel moved on your own volition to do any or all of the above, do so … but you won’t hear me asking for it. And please, do your research before handing hard-earned money over, not every organization is efficient at getting donations to the research and patient help that they claim to do.)

What I am asking for this year is that all females reading this commit to giving themselves breast exams at least monthly.   Those few of you who are already in this habit, take a moment to pat yourselves on the back. (and don’t forget to keep it up!)  Before any excuses begin from the rest of you, here are answers to the most common objections.

I don’t know how to do it right — If your annual physician check-up is sometime soon, then get them to show you the proper way, and practice it a few times so you won’t forget.  If it’s not upcoming and you’re local, set up a meeting with me and I’ll show you how.  If neither of these options apply, ask around of trusted friends:  at least one of them is likely to know how even if they don’t practice regularly.  Finally, here’s a handy list from the internet if all your friends are similarly clueless: 5 Steps of a Breast Self-Exam

I feel weird/uncomfortable/embarrassed about it — Obviously, cancer is way more uncomfortable than giving yourself a breast exam, on both physical and psychological levels.  Sometimes our emotional brains don’t listen to such logic, and then you have to create some brain hacks.  Do you have a significant other?  Make a deal with he or she to do your monthly breast exam for you (it’s up to you to decide what to negotiate in exchange).  No S.O.?  What about a female friend who similarly feels weird, with whom you can exchange moral support?  If no other people are available, are you more of a “carrot” or a “stick” motivator?  Figure out some goad or reward for doing your exam that will work for your hindbrain.  I’d say just lie back and think of England while you check, but you should probably be thinking of more flat terrain with less mounds and bumps during a time like that.

I forget about it — Check your life for a semi-regular activity that you could associate your breast exam with.  Are you a church-goer?  Give yourself a quick check before getting dressed on church day.  Menstruating?  the last day of your period or the day after might work.  Monthly pedicure?  perhaps after you get home from that relaxing footbath.  Keep a calendar of events or daily planner?  Schedule it in every month and prioritize it like you would any important meeting.  I’ve even heard of someone posting a breast exam chart up in their shower so they had to look at it each time they showered.

I can’t tell what I’m feeling in there — Breast tissue isn’t homogeneous, and some women can have cystic breasts or other lumpy-feeling tissue that is normal and benign.  Honestly, the best way to compensate for this really is to do your exam regularly, and use the same pattern of motions each time.  After a few sessions, you’ll begin to get a real sense of your particular “normal” breast environment.  Then you’re only looking for changes in that standard environment from exam to exam, and you don’t have to worry about every tiny pebbly thing that’s been there for years.  And of course, if you find something even remotely questionable, don’t ignore it in the hopes that it will go away.  Go to your doctor (or a Planned Parenthood or walk-in clinic if you don’t have a doctor) and get someone to double check the area for you.  It’s not worth carrying around extra worry about such things, find out!

And finally, if you have anyone in your family who developed breast, ovarian, or uterine cancer before age 45, please consider getting genetically tested for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene mutations. They’re only responsible for about 5% of all breast cancers but they are some of the more potentially deadly, as well as affecting a much larger age demographic.  There are many more health options available to someone who tests positive BEFORE they develop a cancer than there are after cancer has already shown up.  Most insurances will cover the test especially if you can cite a family member who had the disease, and the last price I heard quoted was around $600 if you don’t have insurance.

Guys, it IS possible for men to get breast cancer — most often through one of the genetic mutations mentioned above.  If you have a family member with a breast cancer mutation, please get tested as well.  And while you’re at it, here’s a handy and informative link for testicular checks; just because breast cancer gets all the funding these days doesn’t mean that other cancers aren’t just as problematic.

Please share this with the important people in your life, and feel free to re-link or comment and ask me any questions I didn’t cover here.

3 responses so far

Oct 16 2010

weekend links prevail

Another example of the problems of intersection between capitalism and the scientific process: what they didn’t tell you about honeybee death research

and a really interesting sf-flavored article about a designed eco-city in Portugal.

more cool science:  white hole phenomenon found in kitchen sink

The comments on this are almost more interesting than the article:  Centauri Dreams on interstellar flight

I really adore the architect-futurist writing at BLDGBLOG and likely won’t stop linking to cool stuff like his article about trap streets and trap rooms, complete with deliciously sciffy ideas.

A humorously written article about the deliberately addictive properties of video games.

Margaret Cho has an awesome rant on Columbus day here.  Thankfully, the Kid’s school doesn’t celebrate it…

Some decent news, for a change: Judge orders military to stop enforcing “don’t ask, don’t tell”

OKCupid weighs in on the gay vs straight issue with some interesting statistics.

And not a link, since it’s in many many internet places, but for National Coming Out Day, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the definition of “coming out”, in your own words.  I posted that on my FB and got several interesting responses, but I’d love to hear more!

8 responses so far

Oct 15 2010

A Message Goes Out

Published by under callie

Upon awakening, Callie first reached under her pillow to ensure the metallic feather was still there.  She kept hold of it as she dressed, only securing it once she’d finished.  The more vibrant feather she had clipped at the base of her neck, where it was hidden under her shoulder-length hair.  That solution would only work for a short time, as a haircut was one of the necessary steps in the plan.  She dressed for the day.

She reacted before she consciously noticed the change.  As Callie exited into the main room, she tensed and felt her senses go on danger alert.  A quick scan of what she could see showed one significant alteration:  the door now had a mail slot.  She looked at it long enough to note its proportions and shape, then decided to search the rest of her space.  She didn’t exclude the bedroom simply because she’d been in it; it had long been obvious to her that there were unpredictable elements in this situation, so it mattered more how she reacted to them when they happened.  Thorough investigation had saved her life more than once.

It took several minutes to determine that there were no noticeable changes to the rest of her home that she could find, so it was time to return to the new opening in the door.  She was pleased that its color was just the right shade of gold to compliment the blue velvet curtains over the door’s viewing window.  Random chaos was so much easier to deal with if it came complimentary to the decor.

Callie retrieved a bamboo spoon from the utensil jar on the counter and approached the door.  The mail slot hadn’t changed since she’d sized it earlier.  It was the normal shape for the inside portion of such a device: a rectangular opening with rounded edges, wide enough for a large envelope or several fingers but appearing too narrow to fit an entire hand through.  She bent down and looked in; it seemed to be covered on the outer side by what one presumed to be a metal hinged flap, if the normal construction applied.  When careful visual examination detected no other features, she reached out with the spoon and pushed it into the slot.

Nothing happened other than a small clinking sound congruent with wood hitting metal.  Callie moved the spoon along the length of the opening, then extended it further inward to see if the outer covering moved.

It did.  The opening showed daylight on the other side, though she couldn’t see anything different in the small section of front walk and street that she could see through the gap.  It was a lower and narrower version of the already-familiar view through the door’s window.  She could smell the green of the outdoors as a gentle breeze found its way into the mail.  She had no urge to explore with her hands, but did relax enough to start thinking about other options as she inhaled deeply of the fresh air.

She moved to the kitchen and gave the spoon a quick wash and dry while she pondered.  She instinctively distrusted any change to her environment not under her control, especially one that seemed to benefit her with no forthcoming explanation.  It’s the sort of trap she’d think of creating.  However, she couldn’t deny that an opportunity to get a message out would drastically speed up her plans, and that advantage seemed worth the risk.  Hopefully awareness of the trap’s presence would be enough to signal her before it closed around her.

She mentally drafted the note before she wrote it, as she didn’t want spare copies lying around.  She selected a mottled beige sheet of paper and forest green ink, then glanced over at the nearly completed project on the dressform for any last-minute inspiration.  She wrote in a clean flowing script, and signed it with an embellished “C”.  She selected a matching envelope and wrote the recipient’s name on the outside, sealing it with a swipe of a dampened sponge for moisture.

Callie took another deep breath, bent down, then thrust the envelope through the slot as forcefully as she could, so her hands would spend the least amount of time in contact with it as possible.  The outside flap shut with a muted clang.  Callie stood up and peered through the curtain.  She could just see part of the envelope face up on the front walk if she looked down at an angle.

“For Z’Aria”

Satisfied, she turned toward breakfast, suddenly hungry.

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Oct 12 2010

Seeking Your Bliss (and Sometimes, Finding It)

There’s a large amount of screwed up social programming floating around out there, and few people escape its tangles entirely no matter how enlightened you attempt to be.  A good upbringing helps, and a strong self of self does as well, but you can’t avoid every message that gets repeated at you from the surrounding world.  The best you can do is learn to analyze your own behavior to identify when certain thinking patterns have been heavily influenced from outside sources.  Even then, that doesn’t mean you automatically jettison it; quite a few social structures exist because they really do make getting along with your fellow monkeys easier.

One area I’ve managed to avoid (for the most part) myself, is heavy neurosis surrounding what I do for a living.  All of my blended family of origin has a strong and principled work ethic, so I was certainly influenced by that while growing up.  What I remember more, though, is the sacrifice they and so many of my parent’s generation made:  several of my parents ended up in middle-level corporate-style jobs because that was the easiest way to stability for a family, not because they were passionate about what they did.  (At least one was doing what they liked by the time I knew them and that was a good perspective to see.)  I don’t remember them complaining about that choice, and as the years progressed I got to see them successfully change where they started from into something they DID like more, through excellent work and additional education.  But from my child mind’s perspective, one of the largest messages I took away from observing this is that I absolutely did not want to stay long in any job where I wasn’t being challenged, or didn’t care about what I was doing.  Thankfully, I also had the sort of family where making my own way was encouraged, even though my early career goals were certainly an attempt to balance doing my own thing with the concept of job security (like choosing veterinary science over acting).

My first job was a crap McD job to learn what the working thing was all about, and I still managed to learn how to do every non-management job including the grill.  My next job I decided to do something closer to what I liked, and worked at a local pet supplies store.  The next two jobs after that were at veterinary clinics, since that’s what I wanted to be when I entered college.  Unfortunately, working at vet clinics helped me realize I didn’t really want to deal with pet owners for the rest of my life, so I had to do a quick life goal readjustment.

In the meantime, delivery driver seemed like fun, and it was!  Minus the fact that what I earned during those several months just about covered the car repairs necessary due to the wear from delivery driving.  The next couple were crap jobs again, due to the fact that my ex wouldn’t hold a job himself and my scholarships and loans didn’t quite cover the room and board for two people alone.  But I fairly quickly during that time realized that even as a scantily-skilled college student, I could still choose to go for the “crap jobs” that were more intellectually or socially interesting, or that actually contributed in some way toward learning new skills, over mindless drudgery.

During this time I also embraced the “jill of all trades” philosophy, a bit of an iconoclastic departure from the “pick a job and do it unto death or retirement” programming so prevalent at the time.  I figured since I was smart and quick to learn in so many different areas, it would be pretty limiting to narrow down to just ONE area of focus for my entire working life.  I was still in school then, and still in an animal-intensive major (Animal Science), and switched to a crazy-intense summer job working with horses that probably merits its own post one of these days.

The three years as a Biology Dept inventory clerk probably sound tedious to some, but getting to organize data and inventory and go into cool science labs to find mad-scientist equipment with a barcode scanner at night when no one was around were definitely fun.  And my first major trained-skill career, body piercer, was absolutely something I wanted, sought out, trained hard for, and did for years.

Even my Freebirds time was useful.  After a particularly rough and desolate patch job-wise (third-shift custodian — definitely a crap job, but I learned a ton about classist assumptions among other things), during which I was also isolated from family and friends geographically, I thought I’d try the siren call of the steady paycheck and benefits, but went with a small corporation instead of a big megacorp, thinking it would better suit my inclinations. (I also moved closer to friends.) I was the fastest promoted female from crew to general manager in the company, and in case I ever need it I have restaurant managing skills to fall back on.  (Sadly, if I want to manage my health to live some semblance of a normal lifespan with my new health condition, I probably can’t realistically do that again because of the body energy load.)

Owning a small business is a leap I definitely wanted and worked my butt of to achieve, though health issues have absolutely made it much harder to maintain than it would have been otherwise.  I likely won’t own this shop forever, as I hope to be able to someday sell it to the employees who have been so awesome working for me, but I might own a business again in the future.  I have confidence if I do I’ll be much more versed in the common mistakes and able to avoid them.

Now I’m a home-based mom, and anyone who doesn’t know THAT’S a full-time job obviously grew up under a rock with no parents.  I also manage the flow of the household (with lots of help!), making sure chores and food and re-supply and all that good stuff happens when it needs to.  Additionally, I’m working on a full-time fiction writing career, and while the full-time part has definitely suffered while I adjust to the other new jobs, I still do something writing-related every day, even if it’s just some research.  (And with my projects, it’s never “just” research.)  I don’t have time or energy for creative hobbies at the moment with all the other work-load, but even that I expect to change with time.

It was evident even while I was still a kid that the world was changing, and it wasn’t going to be as easy to stay with just one career for an entire working lifetime.  As an adult, I’ve previously considered returning to school for something like nursing (job security anywhere you go!  high demand!  flexible hours! good pay!) but no matter how shiny all those other bits sound, I strongly suspect I wouldn’t have any more fun dealing with sick patients and their families than I would the pet owners as a veterinarian, especially those many many conditions where people willingly keep engaging in the behaviors that keep making them sick and don’t follow health advice.  I’m not sure I want that sort of extra stress, and I don’t really think the job security and benefits outweigh the impact, especially long-term, of such chronic stress.  I’d say that as a cancer survivor I have to be concerned about the impact of stress more than most people, but that’s a lie.  Stress damages or kills anyone given enough time and presence, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to not take on avoidable stress, since life gives us so much of the unavoidable kind.

These days, if I go back to school, it’ll likely be for a psychology-related degree, since one thing I never get tired of is the workings of the human mind.  I think that fascination would definitely sustain me through the stressful parts of that career.  Plus, it’s a job I can largely do sitting on my ass and thinking, and I’m now of the opinion that the break-your-back on-your-feet go-go-go jobs are for the teens and twenties time whenever possible.  I’d like to actually live a long time in reasonably good health, and I don’t think it requires a round of cancer to teach one about the importance of energy management.  Unfortunately, too many people (far too many) wait until such a health crisis (and possibly some measure of irreversible damage) to make those life changes.  If they do even then.

It is not easy.  It’s not easy to work against classist disadvantages, and might not even be available for everyone given our current societal structure.  But it IS possible.  It’s hard to work against the “shoulds”, like “I should stay with this soul-sucking job because my family needs a paycheck” — and that, too, might not be avoidable if you don’t have a partner or support network willing to help you through such a transition.  But it IS possible.  And for those of you that DO have the education or latent brainpower to learn what you want to learn, and have a family that is willing to work with you to make sure everyone’s goals can be achieved…

Well, where are the remaining stasis holds?  (Not a rhetorical question)

If my Fearless Readers like this and want more in the same vein, I can easily go on.  Ask questions, discuss your own perspectives in comments, share!

8 responses so far

Oct 09 2010

pathfinding weekend links

Follow up to last week’s “Goldilocks exoplanet” excitement.  Centauri Dreams writes a much more balanced look at Gl 581g.

And yet more nifty science news: The Post-Singularity Future of Astronomy

Because neither weekend links or this blog exist in a vacuum, another follow-up of sorts.  Elizabeth Moon (not very) obliquely comments on the horrible rash of recent gay teen suicides by discussing an incredibly important angle, that of learning to cope with and survive failure. (I absolutely recognize this lesson as both having been incredibly important to my life goals, and something I’ve noticed many many friends struggle with since they didn’t have anywhere near the awesome upbringing and parents I had.)

A different perspective on how it might not always get ALL better: Better is in the eye of the beholder

And yet another way you can help at-risk LBGT youth!  Inspired by Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project, check out Make It Better.

Wow, do I want more people to be thinking about concepts like THIS: Trust and Credibility

And if youre anyone with an opinion or a stake in the following, you might want to do your civic duty and weigh in:  Commerce Department Seeks Comments on Protecting Copyrighted Works on the Internet

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Oct 05 2010

The Sundress

Published by under callie

orange light-weight linen base

Callie awoke after a dreamless sleep just as determined as the previous evening to take action.  A new project always helped focus her thoughts, and this time was no exception.  After her recent adventures she had some ideas on the nature of her feathered nemesis, but if even half her guesses were correct, this promised to be one of her trickiest endeavors to date.  There was no room for substantial error, so everything had to planned quite carefully.  She began by examining all areas of assumption, looking for anything that could easily trip her up later.

silver thread

She discarded the first couple of obvious approaches, but her third idea was more promising.  Rather a shame to have to choose that, but if she bothered to get sentimentally attached to everyone she met, her career would be much harder. And really, she could have guessed from the first subconscious design choices who the final result would choose.  So, then.  With that decision settled, Callie gave it no further thought, trusting that her plans would present her the ideal opportunity when she needed it.

pleated shiny cotton inserts, canary yellow

Lunch was necessary protein for heavy brain work: several layers of rare roast beef and spicy mustard on rye, with cherry tomatoes arranged on a forest green plate, accompanied by a tannin-rich bitter merlot.  She licked a drop of the mustard off her finger, contemplating that bright accents would thematically enhance the whole of the piece.  As with art, so with life, though she could see a few different options for the latter and spent some time reflecting on approaches for each.

braided orange and silver shoulder straps

There were so many pieces to fit together that Callie had a rare moment or two of doubt.  The penalties for missing something seemed quite high.  She reviewed every inch of the plans, trimming and revising at length until she could find no flaws in the pattern.  She then spent time creating B and C versions with the sure knowledge that she was operating with incomplete information and every good plan allowed for unexpected adaptation.

She wasn’t quite sure if she could find the key again; she suspected it wasn’t in her home this time, as that would make the next steps far too easy.  She planned to do a thorough search after her creative session to confirm her suspicions; someone had to make a mistake at some point, and Callie preferred it not be herself.

one-inch electric purple lace skirt hem

As she added the finishing touches, she realized that the element of the strange permeating this whole business was one factor she couldn’t safely plan around.  Nor could she trust her life to the half-formed theories she’d derived from her recent experiences.  However, it wasn’t her life that was next on the line, if all went well — and something had to change.  Stasis was no longer an option.

One response so far

Oct 02 2010

weekend link spectrum

I laughed until I cried, then laughed some more:  for the grammar lovers out there… (the rest of her blog is funny as well)

Are they out there? Two alien-news sightings here: Interstellar Archaeology and UN alien-Earth liason (yes, really); also follow-up to a previous weekend links reference with this article here: Earth-like planet found? (Linked everywhere this week. Not sure I’m as enthused by the stated findings as some of the quoted scientists are, doesn’t sound quite as certain as the headline implies — also, life as we know it needs liquid water, but stating that all life definitively needs liquid water seems to me a bit limited an idea in a very very large universe)

And can we find them? A mostly theoretical (but still cool) article about warp drives.

Canada does the right thing, let’s hope they don’t screw it up in appeals.  At least now there’s more legal precedent for the concept that laws against prostitution endanger sex-workers.

My will to survive has proven to be phenomenally strong, and even so I still passionately believe in the Right to Die.  So does Terry Pratchett: read about it here.

Along the lines of last week’s links about the current epidemic of gay teen suicides, here’s one person’s attempt to educate on the realities for many queer young people: just because I didn’t kill myself, doesn’t mean I didn’t feel like I was dying

The fabulously talented Andrea of Natural Obsessions Fiber has an unexpected car repair, so if you’ve been craving some new fiber, now would be the time to buy some!  She has top quality, gorgeously-dyed natural fibers just begging to be spun or knitted into beautiful wearable art!  Also, a 40% sale going on this weekend, even more reason to buy pretty things.

One response so far

Oct 01 2010

Cancer Chronicles: State of the Writer

Energy and stamina are still coming back online from being almost dead and the subsequent recovery.  For your information, being almost dead is apparently really draining on the body’s resources.  Surgery also.  Combine the two and you’re looking at a minimum of several months of not-optimal functioning — and that’s if you’re healing rapidly!

As you can imagine, any major change in activity or health during this time will slow down recovery even more.  Since surgery, I’ve taken back over house management duties including meal supplying and prep; taken on full-time parenting duties, including two hours a day of chauffeuring; had several weeks of sinus drainage and subsequent nausea; and one or two other things I might discuss elsewhere that are nevertheless similarly physically draining.

Needless to say (but I will), the writing has suffered.  Surprisingly, I was actually managing to sustain regular writing and editing up until this month’s sinus/allergy attack (fuck you, autumn).  The past three weeks I’ve averaged maybe one or two writing sessions a week (mostly blog entries, though the Callie ones definitely count for writing), and tons of reading research (back to the Crime Library and Wikipedia).  This is significantly down from 4-5 sessions a week plus research time, much of that non-blog writing.  Le sigh.

I’m obviously past another level on the path toward pro if I’m whining about ONLY getting 1-2 writing sessions plus research time a week like that’s slacking.  Which, for where my writing is at and needs to be, it IS slacking.  It’s good to remember where I’m at and where I’ve been, how doggedly I kept writing and editing up to a week before surgery, how quickly I was back to it afterward given my health levels (research from the first week out, writing from a month out).  And also remember how much I am daily pushing my body to the limits of what it can do, so that I can extend those limits, and how careful I must be to not over-extend past limits — there’s a very important difference between pushing and pushing over.  And one thing the cancer experience teaches even us incredibly stubborn over-achievers is how to discern the healthy side of that limit line.

I’m mostly past the sinus stuff.  My always awesome and excellent editor Mary Bass (message me if you need contact info for pro editing!) has given me edits for most of the stories I currently have finished (there might be a couple I haven’t dug up to send her yet somewhere).  This weekend I might even get some editing time in on updating a few.  I suspect over the next few months I’ll ramp up and wrap up a few large outstanding projects as well as meet my “stories out circulating” goals.

And then I’ll take a month off to just read.  Read for fun, what a shocking idea!

After that it’ll be time to start the second novel.  Which already has half-a-dozen people eagerly awaiting it.  That’s a nice feeling.

Staying alive is definitely worth the journey, but only if you fill your life with as much love and creativity as you can fit in.

3 responses so far