Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Star of the King of the Dead


Planets, once thought to form gradually out of coalescing dust and gas, are now viewed as the survivors of a violent process of collision and accretion, the winners in a Darwinian competition to build up enough gravity to control one's own orbit."--From Newsweek's article on the demotion of Pluto to dwarf status.

Aren't we all just trying to build up enough gravity to control our respective orbits?

There are some days when I suspect that a group of people are meeting somewhere plotting my fate. I imagine I will receive a press release telling me that I have been recategorized, demoted, dwarfed. My own description of myself is that I am not as tall as I feel I ought to be (and, like many small animals, not as large as I often believe myself to be) and not as grown up as my age would suggest, so why wouldn't a group of experts determine that after having weighed all the evidence, I don't quite make the cut?

Of course, this begs the question "what are they categorizing? How will you be diminished?

I have absolutely no idea. No one actually tells you they are deciding on your fate until after a decision has been made. And one wonders if it really matters how one is classified. I mean, does Pluto care if the citizens of Earth consider it to be a full-fledged planet? Probably not. Just so long as one has enough gravity to control one's own orbit (or share orbital control with a partner, as it appears Pluto does with Charon*) everything else is peripheral.

*Is anyone else irritated that Pluto's moon and orbital partner is not named Proserpine? She was Pluto's bride and co-ruler of the Underworld, shouldn't her name be up there as well?

P.S. ENTER THE CONTEST! YOU MAY WIN SOMETHING!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Something's Gotta Give

Today, we were packing up some boxes and Fred stumbled upon five vintage cashmere sweaters. Cashmere sweaters which I had thought he accidentally threw away years ago. I had bought them for a couple of dollars apiece with the intention of reselling them at a vintage store, so I had considered the loss to be more annoying than painful. It was a nice surprise. I am not sure what I will do with the sweaters in the long run, but for now, my closet has annexed them (in case you have forgotten, the portion of my brain which is dedicated to these things has the same attitude toward clothing that Bismarck had toward German Princely States). So I was trying (and failing) to pack up some of my sweaters and found myself saying the words which I never believed it possible for a human being to utter, words which, frankly, sound like heresy: "I think I own too many cashmere sweaters."

Clearly the impending move is driving me insane. And people wonder why I have no will to knit right now.

I forgot how much stress moving caused. Or rather, I remembered precisely how much stress moving causes which is why we haven't moved in nine years. The stress, in this case, is compounded by our not having a clear date when we will actually move; we have been "moving in a couple of weeks" for a month now and while we seem a lot closer to moving than we were last week, we haven't yet scheduled a date for the burly men with the big trucks to haul our sofa and china cabinet. We are trying to be proactive, trying to address our growing sense of dislocation and dis-ease by packing up stuff. Nothing of value, nothing we feel we need available to us at all times, nothing we are so attached to we would be sad if we lost it. (Of course all my Neil Gaiman and Salman Rushdie books are still on the shelves, as are my journals and my copy of my thesis. It probably goes without saying that all my clothes seem incapable of leaving my closet).

The problem, for me, is that while I know intellectually that the big items are relatively easy and the small things are what kills you when you move, emotionally, I feel like we have made no progress and that it is just impossible to even imagine we will be able to move. We'll have to live here forever because we keep finding more clothes hidden away in a corner or a box we had thought was empty.

So it is slowly beginning to dawn on me that I may be spreading myself thin. The irresistible force of moving (added to the equally irresistible forces of raising a child and agreeing to understudy a show which opens in the middle of September) is meeting the immovable objects that are my desire to write and develop all the ideas flitting around in my brain. Yes, I want to be witty and profound, and, like The Stone Roses before me, adored. But I have to be realistic about all this and maybe, just maybe, accept that I can't do it all right now. I may have to let my ego step aside for a bit or it may be flattened by the steamroller of current events.

Request and Reminder

Check out the black dress blog and let me know what you think of the project thus far (or rather, the parts of the project I have posted).

Also, the contest is still going on, don't let Heather's story about dating the boy who claimed to be Satan intimidate you (Yes, I am daring you to outdo "Satan's" ex-girlfriend). If a lot of people enter, I may be inspired to have these little giveaways on a semi-regular basis (and, admit it, the fact that you don't know what you might win adds a certain mystery to it all).

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Boy and His Cat

In honor of Love Thursday.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Staring At The Sky

I climbed the mountain so that you wouldn't have to. You can't see the entire world from the top of Everest. The view from there only reminds you how big the world is and how much more there is to see and learn.

- Tenzing Norgay, in a letter to his son.


Outside Magazine is doing a retrospective on Mount Everest. Ten years after the worst climbing season ever, ten years after the Jon Krakaur article which became Into Thin Air, they go back to see how much has changed and what happened this past May (which was the worst season since 1996 in terms of death).

I have very little personal experience with mountain climbing. I will admit, every time I read an article about expeditions, I feel a profound urge to abandon everything and strap on some crampons (even articles about disasters-I know, I am way too susceptible to suggestion). But in terms of practical experience, I only have been on a very high mountain twice in my life.

On our honeymoon, Fred and I took a stargazing tour at Mauna Kea, Hawaii where our guide drove us up from sea level to the observatories (yeah, that was a total shock) before we were brought back to 9,000 feet (where it was cold, but at least we could think straight) to see the stars. It was absolutely fabulous, but also instructive to see how our brains shut down as we got higher up (and keep in mind that Everest's summit is nearly twice as high as Mauna Kea). Of course, we went from sea level to 14,000+ feet so our bodies were unprepared.

A few years before that, we were travelling in the Pacific Northwest and ended up hiking to base camp of Mount Rainier. We hadn't intended to do so when we began our hike, we only had two bottles of water and two power bars (can you say remarkably unprepared?) and I was wearing sneakers and pyjama bottoms. We were just following one of the trails and we looked on the map and saw that we could hike to base camp and, because the map was not drawn to scale (and not at all because we are foolish or anything), we had no idea that it would mean walking through snow for hours. Luckily, we met some other hikers along the way who kept us company (and shared their water). When we reached base camp, it was a total pit and all I could think was "I am so glad I will be going back down where there is running water and warmth." I remind myself that I don't like cold or human waste whenever the urge to summit a mountain strikes me.

In addition to many other topics regarding the lawlessness and carnival that surrounds climbing the world's tallest mountain (Total digression: Interesting thing I heard on NPR this morning: apparently, gravity forces objects to be round and a mountain can only get so high before Earth's gravity pulls it down. Mount Everest is pretty much as tall as a mountain on earth can get) the article touches on the notion that we expect people on Everest to display a level of kindness and concern for others that we do not necessarily display on a day to day basis. We hear about climbers passing other climbers who have stopped on the mountain and we ask, "How come you didn't stop to save a dying man?" Sometimes the climbers say that they thought the person was just resting or was already dead or, in some cases, they didn't even see the person lying there. We, here on the ground who have never been on the mountain, don't want to accept this, we want to believe in the noble climbing tradition of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. We don't want to think about how EVERYONE above base camp is suffering from exhaustion, cold, and a lack of oxygen. But, as the article points out, we often don't stop to help the people who may need it when we encounter them in our daily lives; how often do we pass a person stuck on the side of the road? How often do we fail to see the person slumped in the doorway? How many times have you seen someone in tears and looked away? We expect people in a life or death situation to act with a generousity, selflessness, and humanity that we do not always demand of people when they are at sea level. Maybe instead of looking to others on a mountain, we should look inside ourselves.

In one of the other articles in Outside, Mark Jenkins tries to determine what happened to Sue Nott and Karen McNeill, two climbers who were lost in May while climbing Mount Foraker. I was so impressed to read about how these two women tried to encourage other women in climbing and how they did not give up. A friend of Karen McNeil's said of her, "She didn't have many female role models so she lived her own dreams and grew into the role model she wished she had."

I may not have it in me to withstand the cold or lack of air at 27,000 feet, but I hope when I die the same can be said of me.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Force of Habit


I heard an AMAZING STORY on All Things Considered today. A neuroscientist, Robert Sapolsky, determined that there is a point when many people lose their sense of adventure. The window of adventurous living slams shut around the age of twenty-one for musical experimentation, thirty-nine for gastronomic experimentation, and twenty-three for tongue piercings. This is for most people. It is a side effect of doing your job well and achieving a position of eminence. Some people do tend to remain open all their lives, but they tend to be less successful in their careers. The report went on to explain how this period of adventure and its end can be observed in mice and baboons as well.

It seems that you are damned if you are stuck in a rut (for who wants to be stuck in a rut?) or damned if you are not (oh, of course YOU are adventurous, you are a failure!) So I found myself saying stuff like "I wouldn't have gotten my tongue pierced at twenty, my obsession with Modern Primitives and body modification notwithstanding" and "But I LOVE Franz Ferdinand and Nightmare of You" and even "Bring me an armadillo, I'll eat it with fava beans and a nice Chianti!" Because no one would ever suggest I have been successful in terms of my career objectives ("how's that novel you're working on, hmm?") But then the fog clears and I can admit that, yes, I am totally set in my ways. When I was sixteen, I bought a record every single day, oftentimes by an artist with whom I was only barely familiar and, when I was eighteen, I got a tattoo I don't even like anymore. Now I rarely wear the ring in my nose, all the new bands I like are referencing the bands I liked twenty years ago, and, on any given day, most of my calories come from soy milk lattes and granola bars.

The thing about being an intelligent creature is that you are able to perceive your environment around you as being something over which you have a certain amount of control. It makes sense that during adolescence, a period wherein one's desire for control is growing and constantly being thwarted, one would be trying anything and everything that comes one's way. Your experiences are limited, so how can you decide you will like something if you don't try it? But then you grow up and you construct the world around you to conform to the shape of your wants and needs. You have past experiences to draw from to aid your decision making and you know what you know, so why take a chance on disappointment when you can go with a sure thing?

But change and adventure can find you when you least expect it. Isn't it a bit limiting to reduce our definition of adventure to the sounds that we choose to go in our ears, the foods we choose to put in our mouths, and the holes we choose to put in our membranes?

Perhaps coincidentally, both my brother, Jeff, and I are standing on a cusp, we are both looking at the future and determining what to do with our lives, we are both embarking on adventures.

In Jeff's case, the adventure is more concrete as he is talking about quitting his job and going to India for five months. Actually, he has pretty much decided that this is what he will do and any suggestions that this may be a bad decision are met with scorn, derision, anger, a series of arguments which cannot be refuted, and laughter (it depends on the circumstances). I think it's a terrible idea. Not because I am incredibly jealous that he does not have the responsibilities which would make it impossible for him to go (I am, by the way), but because, I fear he has developed a need for constant change. It seems like every time he grows dissatisfied with his career situation, he leaves the country for an extended period of time. Isn't this need to forever be pulling up roots (or a refusal to really lay down roots) a habit? Might not a desire to forever seek out change and new experiences be a rut of a different sort? He says he wants to have a wife and kids and I worry that he is developing a pattern which will ultimately prevent him from having the life he claims to want, for isn't routine a significant portion of family life? He is frustrated that he can't meet anyone, but he gives off the "I am not sticking around, I have big plans and dreams that will require me to leave this city in the near future, I am a fling at the most, not boyfriend material" vibes to any girl he happens to meet. Then again how lucky is he that he can afford to just leave his life for a period of time without concern that he will starve to death and/or commit irrevocable harm to his future prospects and wouldn't he be a fool not to take advantage of his situation? How much damage can a five month break do to his career anyway? There are always girls willing to marry a tall, dark, well-educated man when he decides to set aside his wanderlust, regardless of his age, right? My concern for him is probably a result of my own fears with regard to change and my aforementioned jealousy.

In our case, the adventure is far more mundane. Fred and I decided, within the past month, to move. In about two weeks, we will be leaving our home of nine years. Intellectually, I can see all the reasons why this is a good decision (among the many reasons: the fabulous park two blocks from the house, the garage and back deck and that it is a house to which we will be moving, so I won't have to climb three flights of stairs before I enter my front door, Julian will have his own bedroom as opposed to a sectioned off area of a larger space and I will be able to watch television at night without concern that I am disrupting his sleep). However, emotionally, I am focusing on all that we will lose when we leave this place (among the many: the 9' x 9' windows and our view of the sky and the buildings, the energy of living in one gigantic space and the connection with one another which this gives us, the cache of living in a really cool loft in a converted church). It perhaps goes without saying that I am also dreading the hassle of packing and moving. But then I look at the situation and think how lucky I am and how utterly selfish it is of me to even complain--I mean, people are starving to death in Africa and I am worried about losing street cred? Next, I'll be whining that the granite in the kitchen is the wrong color (yeah, it is, but I am telling myself it will grow on me, really, because I know it is such a spoiled, bourgeois thing to even think about). So while I am beating myself up for not appreciating my good fortune to have been born into the circumstances in which I was and for the things to have turned out the way in which they have, I also realize that all this anxiety on my part is a result of my being in a rut. If I really want to prove how open my mind is, I have to jump off this cliff.

Then again, it is entirely possible that none of the above will come to pass. Jeff may choose to stay in LA and things may fall through and we may be in our loft for a few more years. Maybe the only adventures waiting for us in the near future will be found trolling MySpace for new music and ordering the various alternatives to foie gras which the restaurants will be forced to create. Because maintaining one's sense of adventure is really important; to quote the last line of the NPR story, "An open mind is a prerequisite for an open heart."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Good Day


Not having a job which requires one to leave the house places bizarre pressures upon a person. At least, it places bizarre pressures on me. I find myself needing to accomplish certain goals in order to call the day worthwhile, not a waste, good.

Over the course of any given day I expect myself to:
  • change out of whatever clothing I happened to fall asleep wearing (that sounds so rock and roll, except one must remember that since I wear a nursing bra to bed every night, I end up feeling like I go to bed fully dressed if I wear pyjamas. Also, I sometimes wear my pyjamas out and about in the world anyway.)
  • shower
  • walk at least 1/2 of a mile and/or engage in some extra physical activity for at least an hour-at the gym, on a bicycle, walking around with Julian, yoga or pilates in the living room, etc. I do take the recommended daily allowance of 10,000 steps seriously
  • write at least 1,000 words. Lately it has just been blog postings, but I do have projects which languish in various stages of unfinishedness and I occasionally touch them. In the event I do not write, I expect myself to knit.
  • LEAVE THE HOUSE
The last one often feels to be the most important. There can be a day when the only walking I do is from my front door to my car, from the car to the door of my destination, and back again , when I am unshowered and wearing the clothes in which I slept, and do absolutely no writing or knitting, but still feel the day was productive by virtue of the fact that I left the house. Then there can be a day like today, a day where I shower, put on a dress, post to two of my blogs (alas, no knitting occurred), and still end up feeling the day was a waste because I never left the house (alright, I didn't exercise either.)

I am exhausted all the time. The growing sense of dislocation I have been feeling due to events in my life manifesting itself physically only further increased my stress levels. Of course I am stressed, I am the mother of a toddler. Yet I find it hard to relax when I do have periods of down time. I use the hours of his naps to write and/or procrastinate on the internet. My mother babysits a couple of hours 3-4 days a week, but that is when I can get to the gym and get some errands done. I can't sleep at night because that is my time to read or write (though in truth, I have been doing neither lately. I have been wasting my time doing sudoku puzzles.) Even on a day like today, a day when I had another person here to carry some of the childcare duties (and, to be entirely truthful, I tend to foist as much as I can onto Fred so he ends up doing much more than I do on the weekends, at least in terms of taking care of Julian), I felt guilty for sleeping in while Fred made breakfast and, during the day, even when I was doing nothing, I had to be doing something (I did evil sudoku puzzles-instead of knitting-while watching television and, during the commercials, I packed a couple of boxes). I know that scientists believe that doing nothing is not the best way to recharge one's batteries, that there is value in activity when it comes to rejuvenation. However, I haven't yet found the way to relax which doesn't make me feel like I am wasting time.

So today was not a good day. But tomorrow is almost here and who knows what will happen?

Literary Crushes

John Green hopes to start a meme and asks for everyone's Top 5 YA literary crushes. He defines the crush as follows

I mean non-romantic crushes. My definition of literary crush here is someone whose writing makes you wish you could hang out with them all the time. It's like when you meet someone and they're really cool and you think, "God I hope I get to become friends with that person."

I will play along, though I have difficulty coloring within the lines.

Top Literary Crushes (more than 5 and more than what most would classify as YA, though quite a few of these authors were on my bookshelf when I was a teenager.)

1. Salman Rushdie-Who doesn't have a crush on Salman Rushdie? And I am not confining my crush to the narrow terms of John Green's definition, I am perfectly willing to expand my crush on Salman Rushdie to encompass a whirlwind romance. I met Salman Rushdie on September 7, 2001. He is sexier than you ever believed a chubby, bald, short Indian man could be. Would I love him if he weren't brilliant? I have no idea. Of course, an affair with Sal is doomed from the start. I'm married, he's married (and the fact that he has an impossibly beautiful and incredibly talented wife would make me feel very self-conscious and insecure). And I would feel compelled take him to task for his need to murder off every single strong female character he creates (of course, I wouldn't phrase my criticism in this way. I would ask him, so sweetly, "WHY did you kill Zeeny? How could you do that to Jenny and I? We loved her and even created a move in our dance piece which we called 'Zeeny'.")

2. Neil Gaiman- Another literary crush which could slip into a real crush at any time. He loves cats and wears leather jackets, obviously I would find him appealing even if Neverwhere and Good Omens and American Gods did not exist.

3. Ursula Le Guin- Bookshelves of Doom got it right when suggesting she may be the coolest person on the planet. She was my favorite writer when I was in high school. I forget to even mention her most of the time because, well, it just seems so obvious to me and I forget that other people don't know I have read all her books. Including ones like Rocannon's World and City of Illusion.

4. Douglas Adams

5. Christopher Moore- I haven't read everything he has written. Yet. But I find my crush building with every subsequent book I read. It started so innocently, I stumbled upon Bloodsucking Fiends in a thrift store, but now, four books later (Lamb being the most recent), I find I am smitten. This man is funny and brilliant.

6. Terry Pratchett- I have read every single book he has written and always feel profoundly depressed as I approach the end of one of his books because it means I will have to wait for him to write another.

7. J.K. Rowling--Because how could I not want to have coffee with the woman who created Harry Potter? I am sure the very cool readers out there would remind me that there are so many great writer's out there and I am just caving to media hype and whatnot. But the thing is, I actually really enjoy the HP books, I find the world she created fascinating, and I am impressed by her because you can see her develop as a writer with each book. It is a rare thing to get to watch someone learn and grow right before your eyes (and to be able to identify it as such.)

8. Jane Green. When I first picked up one of her books, I though "fluffy beach read." But she has the ability to describe circumstances and personality types so well that I find myself thinking of her books long after I have finished them.

9. Nick Bantock- Run right out and buy The Venetian's Wife.

10. Anne Frank- alright, perhaps this is cheating because 1) she wasn't writing for any young adult reader other than herself and 2) if it were possible to have coffee with a 16 year old Anne Frank, the only way for it to be truly satisfying would be to be 16 as well. But doesn't everyone develop a crush on Anne Frank the first time they read her diary? Don't we all idolize her a little bit? Didn't we all wish there were some way we could go back in time and save her? How could I not include her on the list?

11. and 12. J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis--they would both have to come for tea (hopefully at the same time J.K. dropped in)

13. Sara Paretsky- Not only is her heroine a strong woman with a clear sense of social justice, V.I. Warshawsky is a Cubs fan!

So, which writers would you want at your kitchen table for coffee (or on your kitchen table for something else)?

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

No Sugar, But Add Soy Milk

You Are an Espresso

At your best, you are: straight shooting, ambitious, and energetic

At your worst, you are: anxious and high strung

You drink coffee when: anytime you're not sleeping

Your caffeine addiction level: high

It sounds remarkably accurate. Except for the part about my caffeine addiction being high. I can stop anytime I want. In fact, I have stopped drinking caffeine at various times in my life. But life with a small child is so much easier with coffee and tea.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Horoscope

This is an essay I wrote while I was pregnant. I was thinking about it in relation to my other post about astrology. By the way, there is a contest going on. Tell me your story. I am convalescing and could use a good laugh.

For years I believed I was born in the year of the Rat. This was due to Chinese restaurant placemats which arranged the horoscopic years to correspond to the Western Calendar. I saw 1972, saw it was the Year of the Rat, felt a bit uncomfortable (who wants to be the dread parasite rodent?) but saw myself in the descriptive blurb on Rat characteristics (these placemats were very informative.)

About five years ago, I discovered that, as my birthday is in January, I am not, in fact, a Rat. Rather, I am a Pig. Not just any Pig, but a Metal Yin Pig (as opposed to the Water Yang Rat.) This made me sad, at first, because it felt like someone had switched some facts about me without consulting me first. It was like looking in the mirror and seeing your eyes were a different color than they had always been. Well, not quite that dramatic. More like finding out you were born in the night as opposed to the day. Not important facts in the whole scheme of things, but disconcerting to find they had changed nevertheless. Eventually, I forgot about the whole thing, putting the energy and thought I reserved for frivolous stuff into Western astrology and dieting.

Until now.

We were discussing the baby and when he would be born and what his sign might be. I was complaining about the people who have encouraged me to have this baby early, so that he may be a Libra, because a Scorpio is less acceptable somehow. I was commenting that while it was something I had considered, I thought it was a bit odd that others would say it to me, that others wouldn't consider the most important goal for me would be to have a safe delivery and a healthy child. This conversation inspired my mother to bring out the book on Feng Shui. She is ordinarily not a frivolous person, but clearly the impending birth of her first grandchild has made her a bit addled. She turned to the section on astrology and started discussing the various personalities and compatibilities. It all sounded so reasonable and safe. Later, I examined the book more closely. Now I don't know what to believe.

For starters, I do not resemble the Pig person. Now I know that this is entirely a subjective thing to say, that others may see traits in me that I do not see in myself. However, the Pig has traits I would never in a million years claim to have (not just traits I choose to ignore) and I would bet most of the people I know would agree with this assessment. I totally match the description of the Rat person. I know that people look for themselves in their horoscopes which is why they so often see their reflection looking back at them. But in this case, the resemblance really is uncanny; I have always seen myself in the Rat description, this isn't something new and it is something I am saying now because I can't accept my Pig status.

Another thing is the compatability factor. My husband is a Wood Yang Dragon. My child will be a Wood Yang Monkey. According to the chart, they will get along excellently with one another. Both are completely incompatible with the Metal Yin Pig. Damn. (I find myself wanting to draw a frowny face after that sentence to make clear how sad I find that information to be.) However, both signs get along excellently with a Water Yang Rat. I feel doomed, as if my true self and future relationships have been hijacked by an accident of birth (the accident being I was born too early.) Had I waited a few more weeks in my mother's womb, I would have been born in the correct year.

However, looking at the chart causes further confusion. Not only am I supposed to be incompatible with my husband, with whom I have an excellent relationship. I am supposed to be highly compatible with my younger brother, a Wood Yang Rabbit, with whom I have always had what could be called a contentious relationship. Of course, I guess the Wood Yang part would cancel out the symbiosis of the Rabbit and Pig. Perhaps. I have looked up every friend and family member I could think of. Everything seems to suggest that I am more whiskered than porcine.

I am beginning to doubt the efficacy of this whole Chinese Astrology thing and the alleged compatability or lack thereof of different signs.

Unless a mistake has been made.

I have decided that there must have been a mistake in my case. Clearly, I was meant to be a Rat and I was just born a few weeks too early. So I have decided to ignore the details of the actual Chinese year in light of the descriptions and compatability chart. I must be a Rat.

I feel so much better now.

However there is still the problem of the traditional Zodiac with which I must contend. My husband is a Gemini. I am an Aquarius. We are both air signs, highly compatible. This baby's due date places him in Scorpio, a water sign, with which we are not so compatible. This is what people were warning me about. While I feel it is inappropriate of others to comment about this, I do worry that his astrological sign will be bad for all of us.

Hopefully, this little baby will be able to do what his mother could not and come a couple of days late. That way, he will be a Sagittarius, which will be so much better for everyone concerned. I have my fingers crossed and am hoping that all the stories of full moons inducing labor are true (as the moon will be fully waxed just a week after my estimated due date, which would place him firmly in Sagittarius.)

Not that I am superstitious.

I just want to make sure I have all my bases covered.

P.S. Julian was not born super early and is a Scorpio. It has not yet been a problem.

P.P.S. I found this calendar which indicates that the new year started early in 1972 on January 15, so I am a Water Yang Rat after all! Woohoo! Maybe there is something to this horoscope thing after all!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Personality and The Stars

Joel (who is making a lot of appearances on this blog as of late. Too bad he doesn't read it) sent me an article, years ago, about how the Milky Way is "eating" the Sagittarius galaxy with the comment "even my galaxy hates me." He went on to ask if the whole "science" of astrology would have to be redefined if one of the signs of the Zodiac were to disappear.

My response to this was the following:

Well, yeah, if you want to be TECHNICAL about it, but I would assume that the Milky Way has been chowing down on Sagittarius for millennia, but only now are we puny humans capable of realizing this. The stars have probably been complaining about this for years. In fact, maybe now astrology will accurately interpret what the stars have been telling us.

Instead of:

"If the old adage that you reap what you sow is true, dear Sagittarius, you are in for a great harvest in the months to come. Your hard work and focus will start to pay off handsomely with promotions and raises just when you may have given up ever being acknowledged for all you do. Hang onto your great energy, passion and enthusiasm. Doors are about to open for you. Get ready to walk on through them."

It might more accurately be:

"Oh man, we TOLD you to get out of the Milky Way's way. Now look what it is doing to you. That's just not right."

or

"Hello, um, I would like to report an emergency. See, my neighbor, he has been getting very close to me and has been eyeing my outer star systems quite, well, I hesitate to say this because it sounds silly, but hungrily. Um, if it's not too much trouble, could you maybe send someone by to-"

or

"I don't want to get involved. I mean, what is going on over there is between Sagittarius and the Milky Way. I have my own constellations to worry about, you understand. It ain't right, sticking my nose into other Galaxy's business."

Joel asked if this was a bit (well, duh) and went on to make his general reply about astrology which is that it makes no sense that gigantic flaming balls of gas would have an opinion about our futures. Which I happen to agree with although I like astrology and find it helpful in that it provides a window into how a person views themself. Obviously, I can't believe that every Aquarius out there will have a day like mine (unless you all dislocated your elbow Sunday), but I do expect there to be some affinity among us, if only because we all have birthdays within four weeks of one another and we have all grown up being told what sort of personality traits we are supposed to have because of our astrological sign. We've been told which signs we are supposed to have a connection with and which signs will conflict with us. Surely hearing the same things about ourselves over the years would start to affect us similarly, don't you think?

Far more telling, I would think, would be a personality test.


My Personal Dna Report

Thank you to The Welblog for finding and disseminating this test.

I like it a lot because it allows for nuanced answers with sliding scales, grids, and buckets to be filled. Too often, a personality test asks for "yes or no" (or "agree strongly, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat, or disagree strongly") when the real answer isn't quite so clear cut and simple.

I like taking tests on the web (I know, this shocks you all). When I had a day job and would get all my work done, I would take IQ tests to pass the time; constantly being told by a computer that one is a genius is one way of making an administrative job bearable, but one runs the risk of ending up like Marvin from the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy: "Here I am, brain the size of a planet and they ask me to take you down to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction? 'Cos I don't." Which, as you can imagine, does not endear one to those one works for, especially when they expect one to type letters without correcting their misuse of the English language.

I am not one hundred percent sure what these tests are meant to show one, what we are meant to learn about ourselves based on test results. I mean, I am sure they may be able to weed out he psychotic, but what about the sociopaths? One would imagine that a brilliant sociopath would know how to manipulate these tests in order to get less sociopathic results. Of course, maybe the tests control for that? Is a personality test anything more than a much more detailed astrological chart?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Typing With One Hand

One day, back in 1995, I was riding my bicycle home and fell. I fell because some other bicyclists were coming at me from the other direction (we were in an alley, so it is unclear which one of us was going the wrong way) when we did the bicycle equivalent of constantly blocking the other person by trying to get out of the way by going to the right, then the left then the right and all you do is mirror their movements. This little two wheeled two step ended when I fell to the ground.

I sprained my shoulder, broke my wrist, and dislocated my elbow. That last injury was the one which caused all the pain. So much pain that I had difficulty answering basic questions, like my birthdate, as I was being admitted to the ER. So much pain, I begged the nurses to give me more Demoral because the shot they had given me had no effect. So much pain, I ceased to remember what it felt like the moment after the doctor pulled my arm and the bone snapped back into position--probably an innate coping mechanism on my brain's part because I am positive if I did not forget, I would never be able to leave the house, much less get back on a bicycle. (Of course, one may argue that forgetting the pain was also a result of the Demoral finally taking effect.)

That was eleven years ago.

I may not remember the quality and intensity of the pain itself, but I will never forget how much it hurt. I still use the experience as a gauge by which I judge all other pain. During labor, when asked where, on a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate my pain, I never said anything over an 8. I said 8 when my contractions were coming every 30 seconds and double peaking, when my OB recommended I get an epidural because I wasn't progressing and she feared I would not have any energy left to push. I constantly thought back and knew I had felt worse, I knew that the pain of my arm muscles being forced into unnatural positions trumped the pain of my uterine muscle doing the thing for which it was designed.

It would be dishonest of me to say that I have noticed no changes in my body due to that injury. I lost a good deal of muscle tone in that arm during my recovery, muscle tone I never completely got back. Some of my affinity towards ambidextrousness was lost as well, the sling on my left arm forcing me to do more with my right arm. Occasionally there's an ache in the muscles surrounding the elbow which has no real cause. Minor things which someone else may not even notice and about which I gave little thought. I certainly never favored that side. At this point in my life, I hardly ever even think about it.

Until today.

We were out riding, Fred on his bike, Julian and I on mine, and I approached an intersection. I was distracted. I slowed and my front wheel hit a break in the rode. My leg went down, but that was not enough to withstand the force of gravity and its pull on the weight of me, my bike, and Julian. My arm went forward to slow the fall and to protect Julian.

Apparently, once you dislocate a joint, that joint becomes more susceptible to future dislocations and there is no statute of limitations on this susceptibility.

I sat on the road and noted that I didn't really feel any pain, but I could tell something was very not right in my left elbow. You could kindof see the bone jutting out in an unnerving way. I told Fred I dislocated my elbow and told him to take care of Julian. Then I sat there thinking about having to go to the emergency room and what they would do there. I pulled on my wrist with my other hand and slowly unbent my arm and my elbow popped back into place.

It would seem I was paying attention back in the ER, in spite of the pain and the Demoral.

Some people who lived nearby brought me ice (I didn't even get their names or address, so a thank you here may have to suffice). Fred rode my bike home, with Julian, and came back with the car to get me and his bicycle. Passersby ignored me sitting on the bench in front of the not yet open library. I felt like Supermom. This injury protected my child from getting hurt, and, not having time to waste, I healed myself.

I know it isn't as simple as I am pretending it is, I know I will have to see a doctor and my arm will probably be immobilized in order to allow my stretched ligaments to heal and this lack of movement will negatively impact my daily life, I know that the ibuprofen I took when I got home (in addition to the glass of Obsession, not to mention the post-injury endorphins) is probably doing a lot to hold back the pain. Tomorrow will be a hard day. But tonight, I'm sewing a big red S on my pyjamas.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Fairy Doors

I will admit that I am conflicted. I love the idea of Fairy Doors, so much so that within moments of learning of their existence I began to plan finding them in every home and business to which I have access and even a few to which I don't. But then, I worry about the ramifications of discovering conduits between the realms. I have read too many scary stories which suggest that such things are not to be trifled with. And I am not talking about spongy whipped cream gelatin layers here or sweet spritely creatures who mean us no harm merely because they are so very small. Who knows where these doors may lead? The tiny can be mighty and, at the very least, one may end up trading heads with a donkey for an evening or two.

Still it is really quite wonderful and I find myself wanting to travel to Ann Arbor to see these for myself.

Thank You Jonathan b. Wright for discovering them and Yarn Harlot for spreading the word.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Over Twelve Symphonies?

That's a lot of symphonies!

Overheard from the next room. Fred and Julian were saying good night to the buildings, but somehow, the conversation went off on an inexplicable tangent.

Contest

I was talking to Joel today and, somehow, we got on the topic of strange things people have told us.

I mentioned a woman I went to college with who claimed she was allergic to the hair on her head, and said that if I were in such a situation, I would shave my head, yet she did not. She also was not allergic to her eyelashes, which makes me suspect her allergic-ness to her hair (maybe it was something in her hair?)

Joel then told me a story about a girl he went to grade school with who claimed to be allergic to water. She would cough and say something like "Oh, I am allergic to the water droplets in the air. I need to get a drink." Apparently, drinking water is hypo-allergenic, it's only the water which comes in contact with skin and mucus membranes which causes problems. (Someone should really mention this to Gregory Maguire).

I responded with a story about a girl with whom I attended fourth grade. She claimed that because she had some English blood in her (through her father, her mother was 100% Italian American) she occasionally would slip into an English accent against her will and there was nothing she could do about it. Before even comparing her to Madonna, keep in mind that Madonna actually lives in Britain and, perhaps, we can forgive her for starting to sound like the people with whom she surrounds herself (in much the same way that Nicole Kidman's accent has become much more Americanized over the years). My friend, on the other hand, had never left America and the only exposure she had to an English accent was Princess Diana's interviews. It was terribly disturbing to me when she would slip into an accent because she insisted it was something beyond her control and refused to admit she was pretending. I wasn't that many years removed from dressing up and pretending to be people I was not, so it really freaked me out to have someone do it in real life and for it not to be a game. In retrospect, it is clear to me that she had a lot of problems. (As a side note: She was actually the very first of "unsuitable" people I befriended i.e. people who I became friends with who my mother really did not like and made her dislike known to me and while that annoyed me when I was younger, in retrospect I can see that my mother was right about these people as they were overwhelmingly damaged and toxic.) We didn't stay friends long as we were in different classes the following year and then different schools after that. I only saw her once or twice after that (another toxic friend would always mention running into her and proceed to tell me how incredibly gorgeous she turned out to be. Definitely the sort of thing my chubby, awkward, and strange looking adolescent self needed to hear) and I thought she was completely out of my life, but then, we worked together for a few months at Starbucks twelve years ago (yes, she was messed up and while not unattractive, she was one of those girls who peaked at 13 as far as beauty goes). I did not bring up the accent thing as she either wouldn't remember it and would have denied it if she did. I am pretty sure I'll never run into her again, except I sometimes think I see her at the gym, but I can't be sure it is her, so I never say anything.

Q: Hey, doesn't the title of this post say contest? Why are you blathering on about some mean girl from your past?

Point taken. All this talk about crazy talk and people gave me an idea.

Tell me the ridiculous and weird things people in the past have told you about themselves. I am not talking about the improbable, but true things (like, say, being able to clover your tongue or put your leg behind your neck). I want to hear the things which seemed completely impossible to you when you heard it, but which you couldn't refute. Things which the person in question could not prove, but which you could not disprove. Things which sometimes makes you wish for a time machine so you could go back to lend your grown up knowledge, logic and debating skills to the situation so that the lie could be shaken out of the storyteller's tree.

Q: Who does the judging?

Well, I will pick the story which makes me laugh or cry hardest, or which I find charming, or which I feel is so fabulous I have to steal it for a fictional story of my own (don't worry, I will probably just use your story as a jumping off point and I will give you as much or as little credit as you desire).

Q: What does the winner get?

Good question. I haven't decided yet. Maybe the winner will get a book, maybe the winner will get some yarn, maybe the winner will get a black dress. Maybe there will be more than one winner.

Get your stories to me by August 31, 2006 either by including them in the comments section or emailing me.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

You Won't See Hugh Jackman In That Rock No Matter How Long You Stare At It

A new U.S. study that found three of four women would prefer a new plasma TV to a diamond necklace.

What the study goes on to say is that women chose the tv over a diamond solitaire necklace. Not a terribly sexy choice. I will bet you those numbers may be different if the necklace choice were different. How many women would pass this up?


From a purely economic standpoint, it makes more sense to go for the diamonds. Forget about the tv set, a necklace like that is comparable to real estate (which, as those close to me will tell you, is the gift I really want). Of course, if Fred decides he wants to buy me this necklace for Christmas, I won't argue with him, though I'd be perfectly happy if I received boots and shoes because one can never own too many shoes. (Yes, I am totally hinting at what I want for Christmas, even though we don't usually buy each other gifts at the holidays. But I really love those boots and those shoes. Please feel free to back me up in the comments section as Fred doesn't believe me when I explain to him that just because two pairs of shoes happen to be black and have heels they are not remotely similar. But I digress.)

Of course, with the temperatures reaching triple digits and the humidity levels causing my glasses to fog up, a tv set is a welcome companion these days.

What I am watching:

The Daily Show/The Colbert Report--of course I am. Who isn't watching it? The question is: will Joe Lieberman appear on Stephen's show before Tuesday?

The Closer
--If you have basic cable, watch this show. The acting is amazing and the writing intelligent. It is one of the few shows I have encountered where I find that I need to pay attention so I don't miss anything. I really wish more tv shows would follow its lead instead of underestimating the intelligence of its audience and/or relying on camera tricks, lighting effects, and musical montages to fill in the space between the commercials.

Life on Mars--This is a new show on BBC America. No one can do time travel like the Brits. It is interesting to realize how much we take for granted nowadays (from DNA evidence top police officers carrying guns--though I realize our American cops have been packing heat since, well, if you hear the NRA tell it, the Cenozoic Era.)

Monk--It's been on for ages and Tony Shalhoub has won awards and it is easy to assume that it is all hype. It isn't. Who knew that a guy who could be so sexy in Big Night could be so twitchy and neurotic? Of course, I find myself cringing at the obsessive compulsive behavior a lot, probably because it hits a little too close too home. The show that is on afterwards, Psyche, is pretty good too.

Project Runway
--The first season of Project Runway, I found myself disagreeing with the judges a lot (usually on the pieces they hated. A lot of the time, I would find myself thinking "that wasn't so bad" and wondering why some people got passes). Last season, I noticed myself agreeing with the judges more (although I thought the way they rejected Santino's collection because it was "too safe" showed they used different criteria for different designers). This season, I have agreed with them 100% on which pieces are the best and the worst. What is going on? It's like I have Stockholm Syndrome and Michael Kors and Nina Garcia are my captors.

It's a shame I can't knit these days because I am spending a lot of time on the couch.

Still, as good as the above shows are, they aren't on often enough. Apparently, VH1, Style, and, of course, E! feel that we the public want to see E!'s 101 Celebrity's With The Most Influential Publicists in heavy rotation while the rest of the networks are busy presenting increasingly humiliating reality shows. Add in the progressively disturbing news reports and suddenly that plasma screen tv doesn't look anywhere near as appealing as jewelry, does it? And, let's face it, plasma screen tvs just keep getting cheaper, whereas real estate, well, the market may be flat, but houses are not cheap.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I Am Humbled

One of the difficulties of being a grown up, especially a stay at home grown up, is the lack of validation one receives on a day to day basis. I spend my days at the beck and call of a three foot tall tyrant (a cute and sweet and all around benevolent tyrant, but a tyrant nonetheless). Yes, his hugs are often enough to keep me going and I know I am doing a very important job in raising him, but sometimes I want to believe I am having more of an impact on the world around me.

I have wanted to be an actress since I was five years old, from the very first moment I figured out what acting was and that there were people who did it as a profession. As a teenager, I had dreams of receiving an academy award and being considered the next Meryl Streep. My film and stage performances were going to change the world. You know, pretty standard acting dreams. When I was 24, I downgraded and modified those dreams to "appearing on the Goodman and Steppenwolf stages before I turn 30". It didn't happen. What did happen is that I wrote a couple of plays and ended up choreographing, writing, directing, and performing SUBMISSION with Jenny and realizing that no mere performance of someone else's work inspired the level of pride and accomplishment that my own work did. Then, I directed. The play was well-reviewed (Mary Shen Barnidge mentioned me as a significant director in her year end round up) and relatively well attended, but I still look back on the experience with regret and pain, I still see it as a failure on my part. After that, my participation in theatre has been limited. I still have theatrical dreams, but only when I sleep at night. I may go to the occasional audition, but I think of myself as a writer.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself talking to someone from my parents' neighborhood, someone who watched me grow up. She is also a writer and I was encouraging her to start blogging. She asked me why I blogged and I explained that I needed a public outlet for my writing and, at least until I actually get my act together and finish a large scale piece, self-publication on the internet seems like the best forum for my work (having abandoned the open mike poetry readings over a decade ago). She asked who read my blog and I told her that a few of my friends, from both my real and cyber lives, visit and give feedback. I also told her about webrings. When I gave her my URL she looked at it and said "how is anyone supposed to find this?" I had no answer. In truth, I was already starting to feel a bit sick at that point; I have a limited capacity for self-promotion, doubt eventually bubbles back to the surface and I start to question what the hell I am doing encouraging people to read my work. I went home that night and felt a bit of regret at having so cavalierly trumpeted my own horn and questioning whether anyone actually reads my work. I mean, there are people who know and love me who won't read my stuff even after I beg them for feedback (it goes without saying they aren't reading this...you know who you are) so why would strangers on the internet be interested in what I have to say?

I used to complain about acting requiring a public and one of writing's great appeals, for me, is that I can do it without other people, without a space, without a budget (hey, cut that out, even the really bad theatre out there has some budget). I can write in a vacuum, but I do crave an audience and it is nice to hear that people are affected by what I write. Often the fear of exposure and ridicule keeps me from showing people my work so it is nice to receive praise every now and then. Because, like it or not, I still have dreams of stardom and I still want to change the world with my art.

Which is my roundabout way of saying thank you to Black Belt Mama for bestowing upon me a Perfect Post Award for July 2006 and for your incredibly kind words. It is nice to know my writing is making an impression. It is nice to know like minded people are out there and that we are finding one another. It is nice to know I am, in my own small way, changing the world.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Thousands of Words

There is a picture towards the end of the book The Rainbow Goblins where the goblins are drowning in the colors of the rainbow, colors which the flowers have sucked up and then released in their plot to save the rainbow from the evil goblins.

This is how my brain feels right now, awash in ideas which I can't formulate into sentences and which only serve to frustrate me. Like the goblins, I am strung up in knots of my own making and find myself choking on thoughts I had hoped to consume, unable to float on their surface. Unlike the goblins, I am able to take refuge in images.


In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I post the only photo I have of Julian breastfeeding. We took this photo in our bathroom, I had gotten out of the shower and Julian decided that bare breasts=nursing and latched on before I even knew what he was doing. I told Fred to take a picture. To be fair, he may have unlatched and shifted a bit while the photo was being taken (although, he has been known to nurse in bizarre positions, my own physical comfort and abilities be damned!)

As this is not the first time I am posting this photo on this blog, I am also including a recent picture of Julian which my uncle took during his visit last week.

Yes, his diet has expanded quite a bit beyond the breastmilk and avocado he was eating last summer.

I also include a photo of my post-pregnancy belly (July 2005) because I feel like doing a wee bit of bragging (notice I am not posting photos of my thighs or bum, either the pre or post-pregnancy vintages.)