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When I was little, maybe five or six, I knew that a cheetah was an ape. I also knew that a cheetah was a spotted cat, the fastest land animal. For a long time, both facts existed without collision, because one of them was true at home, and the other was true at school. Eventually I noticed the contradiction and figured out that the incorrect fact came from the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies.

I tried to tell my dad, who was the one who liked the Tarzan movies. (My dad is not a native speaker of English, but I didn't realize that that was relevant. I knew his first language was Spanish, but I didn't really understand that. I remember not being able to understand why he hadn't been teased about his name, which was Joaquín.
"Didn't kids call you Joaquín Walking Down The Street?"
"No, because where I grew up, that would have been said, 'Joaquín, caminando por la calle'. It isn't funny."
Did not compute.)

Anyway, I tried to tell him that a cheetah was a cat, and he said no, a cheetah was a monkey, and I said I used to think that, because Tarzan called his friend Cheetah, but "Cheetah" was just Cheetah's name. The kind of animal he was was a chimpanzee. And my dad said no, a chimpanzee was a different kind of monkey, bigger than a cheetah, almost as big as a man. And I went away and thought. How did I know that a cheetah was a cat, given that some people said one thing and some said the other? Books! I realized. All the books said that a cheetah was a cat. So I got Volume C of the World Book Encyclopedia and brought it to my dad. He looked at it, and-- and this was not all that many minutes after our first conversation-- and said, "You see, I was right, a cheetah is a cat."
"No, daddy, I said a cheetah was a cat. You said a cheetah was a monkey."
"No, you thought a cheetah was a monkey. You said you learned that from the Tarzan movies."
I argued, he yelled at me for being arrogant, for always needing to be right. I ran away crying. He yelled after me that I was crying because I couldn't stand being wrong.

My mother said that what really happened didn't matter: what mattered was that I should have known better than to correct him. Ever. And even if I was sure that I was thinking that a cheetah was a cat when I went to get the book, I couldn't be sure that I hadn't said it the wrong way around. And if I was so smart, why couldn't I learn not to say things to Dad that made him angry?

Well, my dad was always a little bit angry (except when he was very angry) and I was always a little bit afraid (except et cetera), but I have always been stupid about feelings and I never did learn how to avoid setting him off.

I was reminded of this by [ profile] amaebi's observations on conversational rules of correction. Rules are helpful. Rules I can learn.
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This is the view from the house where I used to live with my husband.
double rainbow
There's a panorama of the whole double rainbow here:
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• What are you reading?

This I Believe: the personal philosophies of remarkable men and women. For book group. Mostly, they are nice. The only one that has given me to think is William F. Buckley, who says,
I've always liked the exchange featuring the excited young Darwinian at the end of the nineteenth century. He said grandly to the elderly scholar, "How is it possible to believe in God?" The imperishable answer was, "I find it easier to believe in God than to believe that Hamlet was deduced from the molecular structure of a mutton chop." That rhetorical bullet has everything -- wit and profundity.

Come on. Yes, if atheism means that Hamlet was deduced from the molecular structure of a mutton chop, then atheism is nonsense. But atheism does not mean that Hamlet was deduced from the molecular structure of a mutton chop. Here's what I believe, Mr. Buckley: you should not argue against someone else's position unless you know what it is. And if you cannot say what it is in a statement that your opponent agrees is true, you do not know what it is.

• What did you recently finish reading?

And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini

Content notes: Read more... )

There are a lot of twos in this book: Two disfigured little girls. Two highly privileged young men who have a brief but intense connection to someone whose desperate state inspires a mercifully fleeting desire to become a better person. Two people who spend decades with the object of their unrequited, unspoken love. I think this must be some literary technique at work, reflecting or reinforcing the main pairing: two women named Pari, one of whom used to imagine the other was her invisible identical twin.

There are sibling or sibling-like relationships in all the stories in this book. The ones between people who are actually present in each other's lives are strong but unsatisfying, as real relationships tend to be. The ones that are broken or only imagined are far more compelling than reality.

If I weren't reading it for book group, I wouldn't have gotten very far with its mood of longing for a different, better world combined with the futility of making any changes in this one.

No Man's Nightingale, by Ruth Rendell. Satisfactory. Inspector Wexford is old, and he investigates things as an old man would. He putters around. He is reminded of things. He thinks about the way things used to be. He forgets things. He remembers them again. Not very exciting, but I enjoy it. It confused me that two of the main suspects (and one minor character) were men with the initials D.C. I know real life is confusing that way, but fiction doesn't have to be.

The House on Fortune Street, by Margot Livesey.

Content notes: Read more... )

This book is preoccupied with the question: When is love wrong?

Interesting. Well-written. Very sad.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

Maybe Three Parts Dead, for SF bookgroup.
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I had some space, and some leftover seed, so I seeded a fall crop of basil and two kinds of kale. The seed were two or more years old, so I seeded thickly. Now I have many kale seedlings and many many basil seedlings, waytooclosetogether. I should just thin them, but-- Think of what I could do with all that basil!

I could try to separate them and grow them all on. I could find more space. Pricking out seedlings is going to be a lot harder stooping over a bed than standing at a counter, and a lot lot harder when you're pulling the seedlings out of clayey soil instead of lovely loose seed starter, but-- I could at least try.

This is going to hurt.
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Couldn't sleep at all last night.
Could walk the dogs before it gets hot.
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The Creative Process spread is designed specifically to peer into the nature of a project or creative undertaking, and shine a spotlight on the evolution of its parts.

The card in the middle represents the creative force behind the project, be it a person, organization, or other entity. Queen of Swords: The essence of air behaving as water, such as a refreshing mist: A person gifted with both keen logic and natural intuition, giving them uncanny powers of perception and insight. One who easily sees past deception and confusion to the heart of a matter, and understands both sides of any argument. The embodiment of calm, forthrightness, and wit, in the face of even the most trying circumstances.

The card on the top represents imagination - the prophetic image that stems from the creative force of the previous card to initiate the project. This is the poetry or voice of the undertaking. Wheel of Fortune, when reversed: An unexpected turn of bad luck. A broken sequence of events. Outside influences for the worse. An inescapable descent due to Fate or Karma. Great changes taking place as a result of earlier actions that cannot be taken back. Misfortune, failure and reluctance to use free will.

The card on the left represents emotion - the feelings aroused by or surrounding the ideation of the project that takes place in the previous card. This is the music or scent of the undertaking. Page of Wands: The essence of fire behaving as earth, such as wood or coal: The surprising appearance of a new passion. An adventurer who blazes through life, acting as a catalyst that others may harness. The intense enthusiasm and childlike imagination that fuels any new venture, needing only the application of mind and material to make it a success. Inner fire that can drive away fear and replace it with fury. Can represent a person of some timidity, but whose innate passion can be easily ignited. May indicate the birth of a child.

The card on the bottom represents thought - the analytical process of organizing the project and capturing the emotional content of the previous card. This is the science or vision of the undertaking. The Devil, when reversed: Resistance of temptation. Freedom from bondage. The pursuit of higher goals despite the influence of luxury and pleasure. Release from obsession with money and power. Liberation from fear, weakness and indecision through communion with higher powers or the inner voice.

The card on the right represents manifestation - the real work involved in completing the project, and the form it will take upon culmination. This is the painting or touch of the undertaking. Two of Cups (Love): The perfect harmony of union, in romance, friendship, or business. A deep and palpable connection radiating joy and contentment. A great concordance or pledge of fidelity. The joining of male and female interpreted in the broadest sense. The sanctification of the natural through that which exists on a higher plane. May indicate the meeting of a kindred soul, marriage, engagement, merger, or partnership.


Jul. 5th, 2014 12:17 pm
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The dogs and I spent the night at my husband's house to escape from the sound of fireworks. Newt prefers men, and adores my husband; he adores Mungo too, but Neal is very much his favorite person. But when Neal came down in the morning to tell me breakfast would be ready in fifteen minutes, Newt raced ahead of him, jumped on the bed where I was sleeping, and swore vociferously that he would tear Neal limb from limb if he got any closer. Dogs!

(Newt is the 10-pound (4.5 kilo) terrier. Aiko, the German Shepherd, has his own set of irrational fears but expresses them by hiding behind my knees.)
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I got to look at a male Blue-eyed Darner in the back yard. I am somewhat more resigned to the presence of mosquitoes there.

Here are some pictures of Teak's new stablemate:

pitch and teak
This is Pitch. Isn't she pretty? Those stockings!

saying hello

Sleep schedule is out of whack again.
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One of our horses died this spring. The other one, her son, is living alone for the first time in his life. Horses are happier with a companion, so Neal advertised for a horse boarder, and found some nice people who are saving up to buy a house and expect to need to board their horse for three years or so. They don't have a trailer, so Neal said they could use his, except that we didn't take the horses anywhere for years and let the registration lapse. The boarders offered to pay to renew it.

So, Neal went to the DMV today to renew the horse-trailer registration, which will be $65. Except that there is a new policy that if you have let your registration lapse, you will be fined $25 per month, up to four months. So if Neal registers the trailer, it will be $165.

Neal asked if he could sell the trailer to his wife and avoid the fine. Yes, said the DMV employee. You'll have to pay sales tax and you'll get a new plate. That is stupid, said Neal. I know, said the DMV employee.

So he got the title out of the safe deposit box and signed it over to me for the price of $1, and tomorrow I have to go to the DMV and register the sale and get a new plate. Hope this works.
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Here are two good writeups of this panel:

This was a good panel, well-prepared and well-run, yet still frustrating in all the topics it opened up but didn't have time to explore. [personal profile] firecat wanted more analysis of the politics of what makes people more likely to be socially isolated. I wanted more brainstorming of strategies and tactics to break out of isolation. There we were, a room full of people, most of whom had experience with social isolation and attempts to break out of it. I wanted to know, what techniques have you tried? How did that work for you? How did it fail?

--Volunteering is a common suggestion. What if your social isolation is exacerbated by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Have you found a way to volunteer that works with unpredictable energy levels? What about if volunteering triggers your Imposter Syndrome? What about if you have already spent enough of your one wild and precious life among people who are only willing to tolerate you as long as you provide a service and don't ask for anything in return?

--Gaming works very well for some people as a low-stakes social activity with explicit rules and roles. What if competition gives you intolerable levels of anxiety? Are there cooperative games that work in this context?

--First Wiscon Dinner works for some people. What if you have to work around food allergies or difficulties with communication or mobility? What if you would really like to share a meal with up to four people, but more than that is kind of terrible? Have you found a way to say, I like you all, but could we split into two smaller groups?

And so on.

I'm pretty sure the story I told at that panel (went to another con that was billed as small and inclusive, could not persuade anyone to share a meal with me, even when I was armed with restaurant reviews and bus schedules; on the last night of the con, I gave up and went down to the hotel restaurant. After I had been seated but before my food was served, all the other people who hadn't found a better option came down as a group, and were seated as a group, and ate as a group. Next to my table. I have often wondered whether it is possible to literally die of embarrassment) managed to convey how terrible that felt, but I don't remember whether I ever got to the point of telling that story, which was: if you ever feel that terrible, you can talk to me.

Someone in the audience at this panel (who also attended the con that was terrible for me) offered to share a meal with me when I was lonely. And then she followed up and checked in with me from time to time for the rest of the con. That felt so good. I don't know how to solve the problem of how to get enough social credit in the first place, so you can tell your story and have people respond with kindness, but if you can find someone to do mutual checking-in with, it is a great comfort.


Jun. 23rd, 2014 02:29 am
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Scorpio novelist Kurt Vonnegut rebelled against literary traditions. His stories were often hybrids of science fiction and autobiography. Free-form philosophizing blended with satirical moral commentary. He could be cynical yet playful, and he told a lot of jokes. "I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over," he testified. "Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center." He's your role model for the next four weeks, Scorpio. Your challenge will be to wander as far as you can into the frontier without getting hopelessly lost.
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I want to post about my panels even though I don't remember enough to make writeups that are useful to anyone but me.

Teaching Consent had two panelists with parenting experience and two with experience in sex education, but one of the sex educators dropped out at the last minute.

Most of what I remember about this panel are the weird tangents that can be summarized as Don't Be Creepy. Don't Be Creepy is a very important part of talking to kids about sex, but it is not the only thing.

The most important thing is to teach children that they have the right to decide what happens to their own bodies by respecting their right to decide what happens to their own bodies. Really. Seriously. Even when they are very young. Even when they make bad decisions. Even when it is hard. Especially when it is hard. I think the most useful thing I did to protect my children from sexual predators was to let them see someone who loved them, and was in a position of power over them, and really really wanted them to eat their vegetables, and did the work to make the vegetables palatable, and explained how eating vegetables would make you feel better and be healthier, and still honored their decision not to eat the vegetables at this time. Because their body, their decision. Really.

I draw the line where my duty to protect overrides their autonomy between "Is their decision going to hurt them?" and "Is their decision going to harm them?" Because every time I violate their autonomy, I may keep them from getting hurt but I am also causing harm. So, I decide whether they get vaccinated (yes) but I don't decide what or how much they eat.

Teaching kids to respect other people's rights seems to me to flow naturally from respecting their rights. Do you get to cut your hair? That's your decision: it's your hair. Do you get to pull my hair? Not unless I say okay: it's my hair.

That leaves the third part of Ed Lane's anti-bullying injunction: "Don't be a perp, don't be a victim, and for God's sake, don't be a bystander." This is not as straightforward. It requires empathy. A useful tool is to talk about stories and imagine yourself into them from each person's point of view. So, I don't want you to be a victim, but I'd like you to imagine getting bullied in front of a bunch of kids who stand there staring: the bystander may be thinking "I cannot believe this is happening" or "I don't know how to stop this," but what the victim sees is a ring of people who are all letting this happen. Or, I don't want you to be a bully, but I'd like you to try to imagine what the bully is thinking. What makes you think this is okay? What could make you see that it is not okay?

As kids approach the age when they're going to put this knowledge to use, they stop wanting to talk to their parents about it. Don't try to override this. It is an important step on the road to independence. It's good to make good books available (on the shelf with all the other Books About Interesting Facts. Do not put the book on their bed. That is creepy.) It's good to tell them about and other people who want them to have good information, and want them to make good decisions, but will not freak out or take it personally if they disclose that they have made a not-so-good decision. It's good to talk to your kids about these issues as long as you don't personalize it: talk about stories you've heard from other people, news stories, movies, books. Tell them your whole truth, what you believe and why, and be willing to listen to what they think, but don't demand that they tell you: that is creepy.

Nixie attended this panel and my next one. I worried that she might be uncomfortable, but she was curious and said that she'd be fine as long as I didn't point to her to say, "Behold the proof of my excellent theories!"

(Nixie and Mungo are my proof though.)
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I just got back from seeing Andrew Bird and the Hands of Glory at the Chautauqua, a.k.a. "This is definitely the most beautiful barn I've ever played." I don't know what else I did this month. I haven't evicted the raccoons yet. And I haven't -- literally, it is June and I have not stopped to smell the roses. Andrew Bird was great though. They played "Near Death Experience".

ai yi yi

Jun. 15th, 2014 12:12 am
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I saw Mungo today and said, "Holy crap! What happened to you?" He has a red spot in one eye, and big livid bruises around it, and a dark shadow around the other.

He shrugged and made a deflecting gesture with one hand. "I got hit in the face."

"With what? By whom?"

"A fist."

"A fist? Somebody punched you in the face? Why?"

"I was talking to his girlfriend."

"One punch?" Nod. "Did you hit him back?" Headshake. "Is there anything you need to do to take care of it?" Shrug. "When did this happen?"


Monday! I haven't seen him, since he's been working or sleeping, but we have talked on the phone since then.

His nose is straight, but still swollen. It's probably broken, isn't it? A doctor wouldn't do anything with it, since the bone is in the right place, right?

How common is this, for boys? I don't think his dad ever punched anybody or got punched.
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The man who led SF book group last night sent out an email recap to everyone today. He attributed what I said about the book to me, but what I said about The Cloud Road being reprinted to the other fat woman there. The other fat woman and the man have been attending this book group much longer than I have, but I've been there almost every month for two years, sheesh already.

It's funny; the last time I was confused with another person who looks nothing like me except for fat and glasses, I thought of it as an individual problem: doesn't she like me? Is she maybe a little bit face blind? But this time I'm just, pfft, men, how can they be expected to tell one woman they're not attracted to from another.

xkcd: How Sexism Works
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I am very glad I went to book group today, even though I did not finish or like the book, because I got to tell everyone that we don't need to choose a substitute for The Cloud Roads, because it is being reprinted -- and maybe it was our bookstore's query as to why their order hadn't been filled that tipped the publisher over to reprint! -- and also because one of the other book group members told the story of how her brain fused and poured out of her mouth this morning, when she interrupted trying to finish the book for book group to call the book store where we meet to ask about bringing books in to sell, and someone who sounds exactly like me answered the phone at the same time that she (the person telling this story) got email from her least favorite client, so suddenly she was expressing how much she loves me to the person who answered the phone-- except-- the person who answered the phone wasn't me. Because I don't actually work at the book store.

I know she likes me -- it's implicit in the way we laugh at each other's jokes and support each other's points -- but I doubt I would ever have heard her say it if I hadn't gone to book group tonight. And that is really nice to hear! So if you like someone, tell them!
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• What are you reading?

Bitter Seeds, by Ian Tregillis. For the book group that meets tonight. Not going to finish it, partly because I kept losing it but mostly because it is so boring. I just found it again, though, so I will read some more before book group so I can make a better statement of what is wrong with this book. Although I think the what is wrong showed up in the first pages: We've got ravens, atrocities, the aftermath of war, special children, atrocities performed on special children, the First World War setting the stage for the Second, British class issues, and demon-summoning. There's a little girl, a special little girl, with Gypsy blood in her. The first action we see her take is to surreptitiously trick a towheaded boy into coughing, so the mad scientist decides that he's not healthy enough, has him disposed of with a shovel, and chooses her and her brother for experiments. I realize that Tregillis could be setting up a sneaky tricksy female Gypsy trope in order to knock it down, but it hasn't happened yet.

ETA: When I flipped to the end to learn how many pages of boring there were (428) I discovered that this is the first book of Ian Tregillis's Milkweed Triptych.

• What did you recently finish reading?

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie. You know how everyone has been telling you how good this book is? It really is.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini, for the book group that meets Sunday.

Since I got back from Wiscon I've been trying to comply with a Weed Violation Notice from the city. I think I have fixed it, but the way you find out whether the city is satisfied is by not getting a ticket, so... we'll see. Also I learned that the raccoons that were banging on my roof late winter have torn off some siding and moved into the attic. So I feel even more like the ladies of Grey Gardens than usual, even though I'm not putting out food for them. Technically my neighbors aren't putting out food for the raccoons either; they're putting it out for the feral cats. Fortunately I do not live in one of the states that says trapped raccoons can't be relocated, only euthanized.


May. 24th, 2014 07:34 pm
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That moment when you have acquired a large chai and a pesto, tomato and cheese sandwich with avocado, and you sit down for an hour of silence in preparation for your two panels in a row, and you discover that the last time you took the strip of lactase out of your purse you neglected to put it back in.

And then you learn that someone neglected to pick up her children when childcare closed for lunch, and can't be reached by phone. You are the childcare coordinator, so you get to go sit with the children for the rest of lunch break. And you get to talk to the parent when she finally does show up.
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Eat dinner outside at Himal Chuli. (Wish you were here, [ profile] lcohen.) Notice cute guy walking toward the restaurant. Cute guy is wearing an "I love Threadless" t-shirt. I am wearing a Threadless t-shirt. Begin to lean back, point at my t-shirt, and smile, in a gesture of solidarity. Suddenly realize that the two blue-footed boobies printed on the chesticles area of my t-shirt give this gesture an awkward double meaning. Cringe in embarrassment. Gah!


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