Monday, April 30, 2007

Someday I Will Learn...

That it is OK to ask for help.

But, still hard.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Medieval Map of Empires

What I love most about this interactive medieval map of the rise, spread and fall of empires during the period is the fact that the soundtrack is from the movie Conan.

Boy, I Had to Work For That Number

This morning's number: 92

This is supposed to be a *normal* morning number for me. It shouldn't take effort to get there, just routine. Not having a routine is probably what's ruining it for me.

After yesterday's appalling numbers (178 196 152), I broke out my aggressive testing/dosing strategy that I used to curb my numbers after I got back from Spain.

I made sure I had a reasonable number (100) before bed at 10pm, then set my alarm for 2am. Woke up at 2 with a 145, took 2.5 units. Woke up again at 6:30 am for my Lantus shot and tested at 140 (!!?? Yeah, that's how I know my body's just fucking out of wack), took 2.5 more units. And now, finally, at 10:30 am, I'm at 92.

Fucking sugar.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Other Cultures Are Icky

Hannah had a post up a while back discussing Megan Lindholm's short story "Cut," which is about a girl speaking to her grandmother about her decision to be circumcised because, bascially, "all the kids are doing it these days."

This one stirred up a lot of complex feelings for me (I read it when it first came out several years ago and again recently), and today I figured out one of the things it got me thinking about. Female mutilation is a hot button topic. I have a violent aversion to the idea of circumcision; I'm not big on the whole mutilation thing. I like all my parts where they are. I think other boys and girls should keep theirs too.

Now, I know this ain't Somalia (thank God), but things aren't perfect here. We've got some questionable practices, and there's nothing more annoying than somebody yelling at feminists to be grateful because, "You know, in Saudi Arabia, women can't even drive."

There are a couple of things that can happen when you present another culture's "beauty" practices to a Western reader (the big reason given for the continuation of female castration is that any girl who isn't circumcised will never marry any sort of decent, respectable man. Sound familiar at all? How about "If only my breasts were bigger, boys would like me!" No? Moving on, then). Talking about it can raise awareness about the practice and break the silence, which is great, but it can also lead to that whole "holier-than-thou" reader reaction. It can lead to cozy fiction that lets us marvel at the brutal exoticism of of some "backward" country and reinforce our feelings of superiority.

If it's just, "Those crazy Africans are MONSTERS. How could ANYONE mutilate ANYBODY???" and that's the central message of the story, then you end up with some jacked-up piece of uneducated drivel like this whose basic message is ALL MUSLIMS HATE WOMEN. ISN'T IT GREAT WE'RE NOT LIKE THAT????

Instead, you want to do something a little more like what Lindholm does, which is put that practice that we see as "barbaric" into proper context right there alongside equally barbaric practices we ourselves engage in. That's how you use SF to get people to think about current practices, accepted ideas, and challenge them.

It's easy to criticize the Other. It's a hell of a lot harder to turn the mirror back on yourself.

Because then you might end up with something like this.

This May Not Cheer You Up, But it Cheers ME Up, So Really...

Husky puppies! In Alaska!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Cold Equations

Having a rough night tonight, basically because I've got some medical stuff I want to take care of (like the callous on the bottom of my toe that's going to get me my foot chopped off if I don't get it scraped someday this century, and I'm down to my last bottle of Lantus and Novolog, and I need to buy another 2 bottles of testing strips), and weekly groceries to buy, and thinking about money makes me think about my bank account, and when I total it all up, it doesn't work.

I can make it about 3-4 weeks out here. More like 3. That doesn't include buying any backup insulin. What I have is what I've got. The podiatrist will have to go on the credit card. Which I can't afford to pay the minimum payment on next month unless something changes.

This means that I'll need to move out of Dayton right after Wiscon unless I can pick up some work somewhere. As said, I'll spend this weekend and next week looking at food service jobs. I've got to have something soon, because as much as I try to keep upbeat and not talk about bad stuff and impending doom, you know, things aren't exactly rosy on the financial front. Which means stuff like eating and living is in jeopardy.

The last option, which I didn't take before this one cause it really is a last resort, is to move back home. My parents can help with food and meds. I'm screwed as far as credit card payments and student loan payments go, but there are also way more jobs that will pay me far more money in the Portland/Vancouver area than in depressed Dayton. Problem is that means I'll eventually be paying for gas, too, which I can't afford. My parents will have to front that, too, until I can. Then there's insurance to consider, and etc, and you know, my parents aren't exactly rich. They have enough trouble paying their own bills.

So that's the last-ditch option, and just looking at the way the numbers add up, it may in fact be something I have to do very soon. Not exactly looking forward to it, but it beats dying.

Sometimes I try too hard to be stubborn, to try and do stuff on my own, and then I end up in these really desparate situations where I wait until the last minute when I've blown through my other options, and then it's almost too late. I should have jumped at the opportunity to move out a long time ago, but I had other committments. And this is where I've ended up.

Deep breath. It's OK. It's not over yet, and then even when I've blown through this option, I have one final fall back.

Deep breath.

Take a Tylenol PM.

Go to sleep.

Tomorrow will be better.

Did Someone Say Something?

"I'm ashamed to be seen with such a skinny gamer!"

Ah, Wii.

Sugar Sugar

Before bed test revealed!


Blast that damned barista!

According to spreadsheet, I'd correct a 232 with 8 units of insulin, but that's only if I'm going to eat something beforehand, and it's also bedtime, so I subtract 2 units.

But I know that if I take 6 units I'm likely in for a nighttime low, unless my sugar's doing that weird nighttime jump that it did all last week, so I take the 6 anyway.

2 hours later, I'm lying awake in bed. I start to feel lightheaded.

This is the signal to get up and test.


Trudge to the kitchen, measure out 8 ounces of orange juice. About 20 carbs.

Try to get back to bed.

Feel too cold. Put on sweater

Start to shake and sweat.

Take off sweater.

Throw off comforter.

Still hot and shaky.

OK, that didn't do it.

Test again.


Still dropping.

Back to the kitchen for a granola bar (yes, I keep lifesavers and jelly beans by my bed for emergencies, but if I can make it to the kitchen, I prefer the variety). Another 20 carbs.

Back to bed. Sweat some more. Shaking increases, but heartrate levels out.

Get up to write blog post about how much I love low sugar episodes.

Shake some more.

Shaking begins to subside.

Finally feeling a bit sleepy. Must be coming back up, cause lord knows I can't fucking sleep when my sugar goes low (a blessing, really).

So I guess this means I take 4 next time instead of 6.

This is what it is: trial and error, trial and error, until you get something that works well, except when it doesn't.

It's all estimates, never an exact science.

But at least it's not the year 1900.

Bed now.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Thinner Than Thou

In the not-so-distant future, worshipping God not only goes out of vogue, but becomes illegal, and worship of the body takes center stage.

Too fat? Too thin? Too old? Too ugly? If you don't look like Ken or Barbie, it's all right to rejoice, because gyms, spas, lipo and face-lift clinics have become places of worship. You can have a cookie cutter body forever... almost.

But if you don't want to get fixed... then heaven help you.

I've been meaning to read Thinner Than Thou since it first came out a couple of years ago, but that first chapter is a bitch to get through. The prose is set out in blocks, and for snappy teeny-bopper dialogue gosh-bang stuff, it needed Chuck Palahniuk-like breaks. I found the teenage protagonists annoying (as many non-loner/non-geek teenage protagonists tend to be - it's always tough to sympathize with physically perfect people who don't have anything interesting going for them except physical perfection).

It gets better as it goes along, because you get some more interesting characters: an overweight executive who signs up for a "however long it takes" fat-camp run by the Reverend Earl, who's cult of thin dominates the country's economy, and the mother of an anorectic teenager who realizes that she's let her obsession with her looks overtake her concern about her daughter's health, as well as the locked-up, spunky anorexic herself.

There's good worldbuilding in here, and plenty of stabs at our current obsession with the body. There are the infomercial/"religious" programs put on by the Reverend Earl admonishing fat people, telling them they're disgusting, telling them they can achieve "success through sacrifice." Telling them. Telling us.

The world outside is one long superhighway of fast food joints and food advertising but inside, among and between is the cult of thin that's grown up around it. The 24 hour gyms, the face lift clinics, and the seedier sorts of places, the places inbetween. Because porn is about everything forbidden, the fatter you are, the more deviant, the more fetishized. A lot of this book ends up being about food porn, and sadly, along with that we end up with this sort of hyper-satirized stereotype of a fat person, these enormous, insatiable people who are so fat they can't walk, who can't stop eating, or thinking about eating. They just can't help stuffing themselves. I mean, aren't all fat people like that? I don't even bother with utensils!!


Though I realized that a lot of Reed's plot hinged on the whole "unable to be satiated" thing (as this is also part of the Reverend's plan: make it so that people are always hungry, always fat, and yet always yearning to be thin), there's only one anorexic in the book, and she's not shown as wild, ridiculous, and out of control as the fat characters are. In fact, there are no fat main characters in the book (one of the POVs starts out heavy, but goes to a fat camp and slims down by his second chapter). The fat secondary fat characters are all these gross stereotypes, the women who steal food, gorge themselves on Hershey's bars (not occasional binge. Gorge. All. The. Time) and those who become the Reverend's "Queens" - the women he feeds in order to get them fat (the term for this suddenly escapes me) so that he can get off on watching them eat and then revel in their fatness.

The obesity's all about women, about uncontrollable women, uncontrollable desires, and OK, yeah, that's traditional and all, but I get kind of bored seeing the fat female body as a symbol of out-of-control rebellion, even in this book where the rebellion is "good." Not only was fat forbidden, but it was then linked to sexual desire, and then, in every case, linked to the desire for a fat female body. So fat, boundless, overstimulated, insatiable women. Gee, that's a new one.

But that's just on reflection. It doesn't become really crude in its obviousness until the end.

One of our primary characters is an anorectic teenage girl whose parents, horrified that she's too thin and sickly to look the part of the perfect teen, sign her away to a hard-core hospital/spa/nunnery where a bunch of "Dedicated Sisters" preach to her about food and body image and coax her to eat. Her brother and sister and boyfriend go off on a big cross-country roadtrip in order to find her. Her mother leaves their father and goes off on her own to search for her, too. When the "Deds" get a hold of you, they don't tell you where they're taking your daughter.

The book starts to unravel toward the end, as all of the disparate characters come together in an attempt to topple the Reverend. The thing is, this book was a satire from the start. It's supposed to hit close to home and then go over the top, so I shouldn't have been surprised. It reminded me a lot of Egalia's Daughters, in that respect, though this was vastly better written. Both were difficult to take seriously, especially toward the end, even knowing it was *supposed* to be over the top and it wasn't really serious because it was... serious.

Because there's beautiful stuff in here, as when the army of "big" people who don't fit the Reverend's ideal go on the March (and again, when we see the massive "army" they're all "big" people. These mysterious anorexics and others who don't fit the mold [I'd assume being too tall or too short or otherwise "malformed" would count, too, but no, it's really all about those out-of-control fat people] are no where in sight).

And the army declares:

We are tired of it. We are just plain sick and tired of it. Why should we slave and suffer and waste our lives trying to please you? We are done smiling and pretending that we eat like birds just because you say normal people do. We are fed up with dieting and suffering in gyms because you think we should look like you. We are fed up to here with you and your impossible standards. Who put you in charge of standards anything?

All nice rah-rah stuff, but again, here's an army of fat people saying, "we just pretend to eat like birds!" and it clunks into that stereotype of the-out-of-control fat person, the one who must eat piles and piles and piles in order to gain that twenty extra pounds that makes them imperfect, and that's the most annoying stereotype. The difference between a "normal" (ie BMI blah blah whatever) weight and overweight person is about a 100 calories a day.

An extra three tablespoonds of peanut butter does not make somebody a wild, crazy, insatiable pig. The thing is, in the cult of thin, it's not just about people who weigh 800 pounds. There just aren't going to be enough of those people to fuel your dieting industry. It's about the people who are 140 and want to be 120. It's about dying for "perfection."

But anyway.

So after the anthem-march comes the convergence of everybody to bring down the cult of the body, and it's a little silly and over the top, as the anthem is, as the book is, but...

I think there are places where Reed might be writing from her own fat prejudice, and that comes out in some of the language and the big-fat-slob stereotypes (and the fact that NONE of the main viewpoint characters are these uber-monster fat people this society so fears), but well, you know, there was enough in here to get me thinking about the cult of thin, and how far we're willing to take it. It does what a lot of SF and satire like to do, which is take what we've come to see as "normal" out of its everyday context and blow it up, bright and shiny and ridiculous, and slap it over a new background so it shows up in stark relief, and we can look at it in horror and tried to figure out how the hell we could think of any of that behavior as "normal."

Interesting experiment, but not a grand slam.

Bedtime Sugar Check Reveals...

Mmmmmm nothing more annoying than when the barista puts in regular syrup instead of sugarfree, except maybe not realizing that until four hours later.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dear American Idol,

Africa is a continent. Not a country.

That is all.


Like everything I've seen of Tarantino's, Grindhouse is a rollicking good ride, but a disturbing, uncomfortable one that remixes cliches and then one-ups them by taking everything just that much further than anybody else does.

You want blood and gore? Oh, indeed, there will be blood! Buckets! Cheesy dialogue? You bet! Strippers with hearts of gold? Loads! Sharpshooting hero with the Mysterious Past? (I never miss!!!) Of course!

The first feature on offer is "Planet Terror," which runs after a couple of previews for "upcoming attractions," including "Machete," an action movie about a machete-wielding Mexican assassin hired to kill a Senator who's pro-immigration. Yes. It's this sort of movie.

So, Planet Terror is a bloody, slapstick zombie flick complete with Iraqi scientist Naveen Andrews, who I'm sure some people actually do think is Iraqi cause he plays one on tv. But anyway. So Naveen is dealing with some ex US soldiers who were exposed to this zombifying gas. Now the only thing that keeps them from zombifying is small amounts of the gas. But the deal goes bad, there's some castration (you know how it goes), and then the gas gets loose in small town Austin and... Planet Terror ensues!

Anyway, the "plot," such as it is, really isn't all that important.

Iraqis and zombie gas, OK?

In the meantime, Rose McGowan opens the film with a gratuitous go-go dance ("It's go go, not cry-cry." heh heh. Sorry, the dialogue is just great). Rose McGowan is pretty buff. And the dance is pretty gratuitous. Which is the point. Everything in this SF spoof blood bath zombie terror homage flick thing is supposed to be about 800 times crazier than in a "regular" movie.

So maybe that's what made the whole camera-devouring-half-naked-McGowan thing so uncomfortable for me. I really want to love all of of the cliche-fucking stuff, the over the top blood and gore and SF ridiculousness and hyper-masculinity and silly femme fatales and their lesbian lovers, and mostly I do, but...

You know, I was reading one of Patrick's posts where he pointed out to a board commenter that both male and female characters in Jade Empire are dressed in rather revealing clothing, and he argued that if you complain about one character's dress being provocative, you have to admit that the other one's is, too.

Though I don't personally think either character's poses and clothing choices are terribly provocative or objectifying as gaming characters go (they were pretty tame, really), male skin is still treated differently than female skin, usually in the posing. Not only are the guys already being presented as, well, men and so have that whole male priviledge thing going on, coming from a place of relative power over women, socially, but when a guy takes his shirt off and strikes a pose, it's never the pose of someone being looked at but somebody who's looking. Or posing to intimidate, not to sexually excite. Taking off his shirt isn't an invitation to be sexually ravished, it's an invitation to size him up for a fight. If he was posed the way women usually are, it'd look something more like this. But probably more skin. I'm thinking thongs and assless chaps.

So the hyper-cliches in the movie really do a lot to show off the sexism inherenent in the cliche standards themselves. You can let it go in Casino Royale, but during the sex scene where our Hero takes off his shirt, and the camera spends all of its time lovingly licking over McGowan's body, not the Hero's, it's tougher to pretend that it's all just good fun and totally normal. One of the things that happens when you turn up the dial on movie cliches in these sorts of movies is that it forces you to look some of the absurdist sexist crap in a real stark light, too. It doesn't get glossed over as "Well, you know, action movie, whatever."

Anyway, McGowan does in fact lose her leg to zombies at one point. For better or worse, this is the highlight of the show, cause her Boyfriend with the Mysterious Past (TM) retrofits her with a machine gun in place of her leg, and so she gets to weild bloody revenge on the zombie hordes. And though her Boyfriend with the Mysterious Past (TM) may not make it, he does of course, Go On. Cause he Never Misses. The Holy Womb allows him to carry on.

But I really didn't care, cause she had a machine gun for a leg. I'll forgive a lot.

Most people (including me) liked Planet Terror better than the second offering, Death Proof, though this was the one that made the most of the cliche-fucking. Unfortunately, Tarantino takes his own sweet time getting there, and after all the blood and gore and suspense and booty-shaking in the last movie, you're not really sure what to make of this one until, like, the last ten minutes.

This one was a tough one to watch. Kurt Russell stalks a bunch of women who are out having a night on the town. Tarantino spends a lot of time letting you get to know the women, their relationships, careers, gets you to at least sympathize with them if not like them, and talking, talking talking while they're stalked by this guy in a big black car. Rose McGowan shows up again, getting hit on by the stalker and eventually going home with him.

She doesn't make it home, of course. He has a stunt car with a closed-off passenger seat, and straps himself in while allowing her to go unbelted, then kills her with some fancy driving. It's bloody and stupid, especially after you just watched McGowan machine gun a bunch of zombies in Planet Terror with her machine-gun leg and lead a colony of survivors in Mexico. I mean, really.

Said stalker then bashes his car into the car carrying the four women you've spent half an hour getting to know, and they all die a bloody, horrible, dismembered death. There's sex and drugs in there, too, which is another of the reason's he's able to get away with vehicular homicide.

So, movie keeps going, and now he's stalking another group of women. I'm really uncomfortable by this point. I hate stupid bloody needless stalker violence against women. Probably for personal reasons. I mean, getting killed by nerve-gas zombies is one thing, but killed by crazy stalker hits a nerve.

Anyway, so here are four more women you're getting ready to watch die horrible, bloody, needless deaths because they're out having too much fun instead of staying home sucking cock in the kitchen.

But these women are a little different.

This *is* the same guy who wrote Kill Bill. The first one was good, anyway.

One of the women, Kim, is a smart-talking stunt woman who carries a gun. Zoe is another stunt woman with "cat-like" agility who's a gearhead New Zealander. There's an actress cheerleader type tagging along for variety and Rosario Dawson, who is some sort of cameraperson or something.

Anyway, this bunch wants to con a car out of guy and go stunt riding with it cause Zoe's always wanted to stunt ride on this certain kind of car (no, I'm not a gearhead. White thunderbird? Some car. Anyway). So Zoe, Kim, and Rosario Dawson leave the cheerleader behind to entertain the car owner and take the car out, attach their belts to the window frames of the car, and Zoe lies down on her back on the hood, hanging onto the belts on either side, and Kim drives like a bat out of hell down the back roads of Austin with Zoe freeriding on the hood.

Kurt Russell the stalker is in pursuit.

It's got all of the elements for Gory Female Death. Independent-minded women in tight clothes who talk about sex and con a guy out of something - ie act like bad girls - and go out joy riding and having a good time while being stalked by crazy white guy.

In movie cliche terms, They Have It Coming.

I kind of wanted to leave just then, cause if this was all Tarantino had to offer me, I'd call Planet Terror worth my $7 and leave it at that.

But it turns out these women have guts, and when he finally runs them off the road, Kim pulls out her gun and shoots him. He's injured, but manages to drive away.

All the women - still alive, miraculously - hop back into the car and gleefully decide to go after him.

And the hunter becomes the hunted.

It was a fun little reversal, and being a rah-rah women need to be strong and fearless and defend themselves sort of person, I thought it was a cool money-shot there at the end, but I don't think the preceding 80 minutes of the movie were really worth the ten minutes at the end. I was also concerned about that whole potential message of the, "Well, if women fought back they wouldn't be raped/killed so if they are, it's their fault," thing, which does come up in a conversation among the heroines before the stalking. Kim - the gun carrier - insists that it's her right to do her goddamn laundry whenever she feels like it, and she's not going to avoid her building's basement at midnight cause she's scared of getting raped. She'd rather pack a gun.

I'd rather guys just didn't rape and murder people. But you know. You do what you gotta do until we live in a culture where that's not OK. I'll keep lifting my weights and going back to boxing lessons as soon as I'm employed.

To sum up, there was good stuff here that entertained and even got me thinking about how fucking stupid the whole "bad guys rape women!" cliche is, and how tired I am of seeing go-go dancers without machine guns for legs, and stuff like that. I learned that Indians are Hollywood's best stand-in for Iraqis, and I take Rosario Dawson much more seriously when costume designers don't dress her like a fourteen year old.

Also, I still like blood and gore and women beating people up, which is a fine substitute for being bloody and beating people up in real life. It's very cathartic.

Also, if I lose my leg to diabetes when I'm 100, I want a machine gun for a leg.

I'm just sayin'.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Creativity and Education

"If you're afraid to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original."

Math is Hard

One of the toughest things I've been dealing with the last month - aside from (and relating to) negotiating personal relationships - is depression. It's not bad enough that I can't function, but the longer I go without a job, the worse my health gets, the less money I have for stuff like meds and food, the more down on myself I get.

There have been good days. My recent depression is related to stuff in addition to all of that, but no matter the cause, it's something I deal with. Chronic illness, starting three relationships and ending two in a year, losing one of my best friends, getting laid off, dealing with a crazy homelife while coming to terms with the chronic illness stuff (physical and emotional), and a sudden and rapid move to another state without the benefit of moving here with... well, with anything to do but keep going (no job prospects, living on the good graces of friends)... it gets to me.

I remember trying so hard, in the beginning, when I was first diagnosed, to just get up and brush myself off and carry on. But that became impossible as I began to feel terrified and constricted in my personal life and started making all sorts of crazy decisions in order to set back the clock to my pre-illness days. But you can't erase a year's worth of pain that you've put other people through while thinking you were doing the absolutely most rational thing in the whole world. And that all took a toll on me, and on other people in my life.

If somebody cares about me, I haven't exactly been a fun person to be around for the last year, because when I'm in a high stress situation, what I want, more than anything, is to be left alone. Something that I've realized the more I've dealt with the diabetes stuff is just how wacked out I can be when my sugar's off. Overly anxious, sometimes hysterical, so *certain* that my hyper-crazy feelings are totally *right on.* Panicky. Cloudy. I've learned to shut up when I'm feeling this way. It's best just not to talk to me when I feel like crap, because if I start getting all sorts of questions, I'm likely to explode.

Which means, something innocent like, "Are you OK? Are you sure you're OK? Do you still like me? Do you hate me? Are you sure you're OK? Is there something I can do? Why aren't you talking right now? What's wrong with you? Is it me?"

Is likely to get a response like, "NO I'M NOT OK I FUCKING HATE YOU AND I NEVER WANT TO TALK TO YOU AGAIN," and at the time, that feels like a totally valid response.

I've gotten a lot better with just saying, "It's not you. I just don't feel well," or "I just have low sugar, so I'm over anxious," or "I can't talk right now, I have high sugar and I'm fucking pissy," but it's taken me a lot of experience and a lot of effort to get there. One of the great things about living with Ian and Stephanie is that they don't ask a lot of questions, they give me a lot of space, and there isn't somebody hovering over me asking me all the time if I'm all right.

Frankly, if I had to answer that question, half the time no, I wouldn't be all right, and then talking about how not all right I was would make me feel worse, and then I'd get really depressed, and then I'd start resenting whoever it was who was pulling all this bad feeling out of me.

And around and around.

I've been putting on weight again, which, once again, is an issue because I can't afford to buy new clothes, so I'm giving up some things that I've come to use as a crutch - particularly stuff like candied nuts, which aren't great for my sugar anyway. The upping of my food consumption directly cooresponds to my decreasing bank account. The more I spend, the more I want to buy more food, the more I eat, the less money is in my bank account...

So I'm cutting out some of that stuff. I need to wean myself back off that crutch. Including all those morning pancakes. I've had a couple of bad weeks out here, and my initial couple weeks were just getting settled in. Back to weights *every* morning, 6 days a week of cardio instead of just 4, that sort of thing.

You know, it's a funny thing. People are always asking skinny people how they stay skinny. They're not asking heavier people how *they* stay in shape. I don't think anybody looks at me and goes, wow, she's only 200! She could be 270, but she takes care of herself! How *does* she stay at 200 pounds!!???

Cause yeah, you let it go for four weeks, and whoa boy, time to get back on track. It's something you have to be aware of all the time, if you want to have cool biceps. And feel less doughy. And keep your pants on. This is what it's like to have no metabolsm. The diabetes doesn't help. Reasonable eating and exercise just doesn't cut it. It's 6 days a week, and no peanuts. And that's just to keep me in pants.

In the meantime, yeah, my sugar could be better. I keep vaccillating between 16 and 18 u a day of Lantus, my long-lasting insulin. I don't want to go all the way back up to 18 cause back when I was working all day in a high rise and biking to work, I got away with 14 u a day, and that was pretty sexy. Going back up to 18 feels like a defeat.

The solution would be 2 workouts a day. Or, you know, just taking 18 units of Lantus.


Anyway, this post isn't really about anything at all, except to say that boo-hoo, life is hard, and I'm sick of giving myself shots, and I'm going to miss my cinnamon almonds, and I need sexier shoulders, and I have enough money for about 3-4 more weeks of groceries, and some days life really sucks and boo-hoo math is hard.

I'm sure tomorrow will be better. It usually is.

Not Much Worse...

... than wacky sugar numbers and the resulting cognitive fuzz that makes you just not care.

So tired.

Minimum Credit Card Payments for April:


Yup, that's the last time I can pay those without being employed.

If nothing comes up next week, I'll pick up those food service applications. I'm not going to make it, otherwise.

International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day

In honor of the first annual International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day, here's Two Girls. This story's been freely available on and off for years, but never sold.

In addition, of course, there are the stories freely available on the sidebar.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


I turned down the job offer yesterday morning, after speaking with family and friends about it.

As much as I need the money, and the first-day health benefits, well, if I took that job, packed up my shit, and started Monday, I would *really* need the health benefits because I'd break myself down.

It took everything I had left in order to get to Dayton. The time between when I realized things were so bad in Chicago that I had to leave and when I actually left was less than 7 days, and I'd spent the last six or eight months there giving everything I had to repair a broken friendship. I haven't talked here about just how bad things were there.

Out of respect for Jenn, I haven't gone into the details, but it was really, really, really bad. The worst it's ever been in any relationship - friendly or otherwise - that I've ever had. There was duel blame and mutual fault and a lot of shit in there because I was desperately crazy and sick last year for the initial push that got things to that point, but no matter the reason, it was fucking bad.

I wouldn't have come to Dayton unless things were desperate.

And what I need now is to take care of myself and recover. I need to pull my health and my self-esteem back together, and that's not going to happen in Chicago working a high-stress job in a place where I have absolutely no support network.

It was a hard decision, because I'm stubborn and prideful, and I wanted to gun through the move and the job just to "prove" I could do it. Sure, I could do it.

But I've been pushing myself to "just keep going" for a long time now. It hasn't made anything better. It's just prolonged all the badness.

So I'm going to keep trying to get some work here in Dayton. I got a surprise check from my 401(K) payout and just got my last paycheck from my old job, so I can keep going for another 6 weeks or so before I can't pay my bills. Hopefully I'll have some temp stuff by then. If I don't have anything in another couple weeks, I'll give in and work at Starbucks.

There's always food service.

In the meantime, I finished up a draft of the GW synopsis, finished rewriting the first 30 pages (for the fourth time, officially), and am working through the rest of the manuscript. Query letter et al will go out by the end of the month.

Struck Dead By Technology

For various reasons, I'm up late tonight, unable to sleep, and began obsessively clicking on my "stumbleupon" button in the upper right hand corner of my toolbar.

Suddenly, I was brought up short with a pop-up window stating, "Unknown error - database failure."

I continued obsessively clicking on the button, and continued to get the stumbleupon error message.

"Oh my god," I thought, "How will I surf the internet?"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Job Offer

Well, my old boss back in Chicago pulled through and made me a job offer. I asked for 45K and a 5K moving bonus. I received a job offer letter for 43K and a 4K moving bonus and a 30-day "free stay" at the company residential "service center" place.

Medical starts right away. 3 weeks vacation after the first year. They'll be operating near my old office (not in Palatine), and I've got a title, "Leasing Specialist" which I assume I'll be trained on how to do, cause I don't do leasing.

But anyway.

Sounds lovely, doesn't it?

The catch?

The catch is, they want me to start on Monday.

This means putting as much stuff as possible into boxes between now and Sunday, buying an overpriced plane ticket ($700), spending the week "working" back in Chicago, then spending the weekend in Chicago finding a place, then flying back to Dayton the next weekend and paying movers to move my stuff to said place.

And working for my old boss. Who, yes, I do love. But the work is hard, and life-consuming. These guys get eaten up by this industry. And I'd be doing it again.

But it's 43K plus health insurance.

If I had money or a job here, I'd say no.

Going to sit down and talk with Ian and Steph about it tonight and decide what I want to do.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Insulin Calculator

Put this Insulin Calculator (scroll to the bottom) at the top of the list of things I wished I'd been made aware of when I first got diagnosed.

It probably took me about 6 months to figure out the exact same conversation rate (base sugar number, plus amount of carbs you want to eat = take X amount of insulin).

It's a neat little pop-up window calculator, but Jenn rigged a spreadsheet for me that does the same thing. Just wish I would have had this a little sooner...

Collecting the Set

I have an interview with my fourth Dayton temp agency tomorrow.


I'm curious as to how many more there actually are in this city. I suppose I may as well collect the set.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sugar Acrobatics

I've been having some issues with my sugar since I got back from Spain, so I've been running numbers like this

(as a refresher: a normal person has a fasting glucose of about 80. I need to stay under 150. Over 200, you do permanent damage. I record three times a day: before breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I test more than that, but generally, these are the only ones I record):

185 - bad

142 - OK


148 - OK
157 - OK

177 - bad

These aren't horrible numbers, but I've only been able to make them by adjusting my insulin in the middle of the night. When I test at night because I've woken up for some reason - usually because my feet are bothering me (poor circulation caused by high sugar) or I have to pee (also caused by high sugar).

So at night, instead of running around 100 - which is what I test at before bed, my sugar has been climbing by nearly a hundred points at night while I sleep. So I'll test at 185/200/175 around midnight/three am (no, unless I wake up because of some discomfort, I don't generally test in the middle of the night)

Ideally, I'd like to get these sorts of numbers from a few weeks ago, which I was achieving *without* this odd midnight adjustmentof 4-5 units:


144 - OK
157 - OK



153 - OK

Of course, looking at the actual differences between those numbers now, side by side, I realize I'm being kind of anal about the whole thing.

But you know, high numbers in the middle of the night (which I generally don't record, so they don't show up in this comparison) make me feel like shit the next morning.

This particular morning, I blame the two pieces of pizza I had last night, but you know, after covering for said pizza and going to bed 4 hours after eating with a 75 number only to wake up at 3:30 am with a 207 is just *weird.*

Bodies are *weird.*


I've spent the last couple of days devouring Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel. It's been a long time since I devoured a book with this kind of desperate hunger, and I think my compulsion to lock myself in my room in order to finish the book surprised even me.

Hirsi Ali is the Somalian-born former Muslim woman turned atheist, women's activist, and member of Dutch Parliament. She is best known as the woman who wrote Submission, the short film that criticises the Quran's pronouncements about women and the carrying out of those prescriptions toward women in Islam. In answer, there were protests and riots throughout Holland, and director Theo Van Gogh was stabbed shot, stabbed 28 times and had his throat cut in broad daylight in front of 30 witnesses by a Muslim fundamentalist. A death threat to Hirsi Ali was pinned to Van Gogh's chest. She's been living under high security ever since, and currently lives in the US.

I'd first read about Hirsi Ali when I was in South Africa, and I remember feeling uncomfortable about what she was said to believe in an NYT piece about her rise to Parliament. Hirsi Ali - first and foremost an advocate of Muslim women's rights - believes that in order for Muslim women to become truly emancipated, there's going to need to be a revolution within Islam. She calls it an Enlightenment: a concerted study of the Quran not as the Holy Absolute Word of God but as a text written by human beings, and therefore a text open to interpretation. One of the reasons her film was seen as so obscene was because words of such incredible holiness - the words of the Quran - were written on objects of such incredible baseness - women.

What she wants Muslims to do is, roughly, what Christians have had to do in order to reconcile the words and prescriptions of their faith in the Old and New Testament with modern ideas about freedom of expression, women's rights, the rights of children, incest laws, corporal punishment, and etc.

Though "an eye for an eye" is still set down in the Old Testament and having sex with your father and marrying multiple wives and bloody stonings and chopping people were seen as OK in the text, most Christians like the idea of following the far less bloody New Testament teachings of Jesus: the he who casts the first stone school.

When most Christians describe their faith, they call it a faith of peace, of love. Hirsi Ali argues that when Muslims call Islam a religion of peace, they're flat wrong, because according to their faith, the Quran is holy and absolutely right, and if that's true, it advocates the beating of women, flogging in the streets, hands getting chopped off for stealing, and above all - the slaughtering of anyone who doesn't believe as you do. A number of fundamentalist Christians who insist that the Bible is the absolute word of God can get themselves stuck in the same line of reasoning. She insists it's a package deal, and until Muslims deal with this and come out and say, "Well, really, we understand that we're interpreting the book and we're not to take it literally because these were the ideas set down for the bloody, brutal world the prophet lived in a thousand years ago," then they can't pretend it's a religion that preaches peace.

This is, among other things, why Hirsi Ali is such a controversial figure. The liberal hippie in me was appalled at the idea of telling people how they had to observe their religion. Afterall, what about freedom of religion? That, too, is a freedom of Western society just as much - if not more so (certainly historically!)- than the equality of women. On the other hand, watching anyone justify rape, beheading, slaughter, the confinement of women, and etc. to a holy book of any kind pisses me off. Instead of opening your eyes, making observations, and coming to your own conclusions, there are people who want to swallow somebody else's ideas about the way the world should be as set down a thousand or two thousand years before.

One of the fascinating things about reading Hirsi Ali's book is watching her go down the road of working through all of the contradictions of her faith. When she first questioned the teachings of the Quran, she was told to shut up and believe; to be silent, to submit. Submission to one's husband, one's clan, one's God, was what Islam was all about. Once she escaped to the West she began to delve into these contradictions more deeply with the help of access to a broader range of thinkers, of ideas.

As a writer, one of the most moving parts of the book is when she talks about the impact reading books had on her as a teenager and young adult. They gave her windows into other worlds, into other ways of thinking, and they got her to question the way the world was. Until she was exposed to other ideas, the harsh, brutal world in which she lived, where women believed that their endurance of violence, spousal rape, and etc would put them on the path to Heaven, she believed this was simply the way things were. There was nothing else. Being exposed to other worlds, she realized things could be different. Incredibly so.

I was admittedly uncomfortable with Hirsi Ali's complete embrace of the Western world and her turn from Islam to athism, because I worry that her example is going to be "this is how all Muslim women should be!" She does make very clear, however, that she does not want or believe that her path is the right path for anyone; only the right path for her.

For better or worse, as Westerners, we love stories like this: the brutalized woman who is emancipated in a Western country; gosh yay, look how much better we are than other cultures! We get to pat ourselves on the back. But Hirsi Ali talks about many other women from similar circumstances who did not embrace the West so whole heartedly. I do get the impression that she believes it *is* possible to reconcile Islam with Western values of free speech, individual freedom, but it's going to be a long, bloody road, and she doesn't seem terribly optimistic about it.

And, to be honest, yeah, the West is loads better than anywhere else she talked about for somebody like me. I wouldn't trade places; but I do know that much of the violence in the world, particularly in former colonies, is taking place because of the shitty way things were and are being handled by Western countries. That's not to blame the despots any less, but a number of them would have had a lot less hardware if we'd stop giving it to them.

Radical Islam is very much a reaction *against* the West, and it's going to be the moderates, not the radicals, who are going to work on reconciling these ideas, according to Hirsi Ali. There are always going to be radicals - there are radical fundamentalist Christians who blow up abortion clinics, after all. Above all, though, I feel like Hirsi Ali's crusade - if you want to call it that - is to tell the truth as she sees it. She lived in a world where you didn't talk about the way things really were, how you really felt, what you really wanted. You submitted everything to the will of your parents, your clan, your God.

I trolled Google video for some interviews with her, and one of the most striking things about her is that she's actually incredibly soft-spoken. She's this little, fine-boned woman who does not raise her voice or make wild gestures. She takes her time answering questions. She doesn't let anyone rush her.

Above all, this is a powerful book, and an incredible read. How do you go from being the daughter to a Somalian revolutionary who's got three wives scattered across three countries, living in a two-room concrete block and getting beaten by your mother and cicumcised by your grandmother to becoming a member of the Dutch Parliament and living with constant security because so many people want you dead? I think what struck me so much about the story is that it wasn't that it was impossible. It was that it took courage. Huge amounts of courage. And will.

Anyone who stands up for themselves, for their right to tell the truth: it's not as if that's a physically difficult thing. Sometimes it just takes getting on a train. Buying a ticket. That first step. One foot. You just stand up. You refuse to shut up. It *sounds* so easy. And yet the guts it takes to do that - and to keep doing it, even after suffering bodily harm and being threatened with more of it as a result of your actions - that's the most incredible thing.

The New Routine

Called in available to my temp agencies and scheduled another interview for tomorrow at 10am with yet another temp agency. That'll be three agencies I'm registered with.

In the meantime, on my tax forms, I put down that my occupation was "writer."

It felt much better than writing "employed."

Anyway, more GW edits. The book's going out before Wiscon, come hell or high water.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

And So

If I declare myself and business and report my writing income ($4500), then I owe $1221.

If I don't declare myself a busines and report my writing income ($4500), then I owe $421.

This probably wouldn't have happened if I'd kept all of my con reciepts.

EDIT: Final Federal taxes owed: $553

Yeah, right!

I wonder if I have anything left on any of my credit cards?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Tonight's Song, Stuck on Repeat

Nickelback: Rockstar

I'm through with standin' in line
at clubs I'll never get in
It's like the bottom of the ninth
and I'm never gonna win
this life hasn't turned out
quite the way I want it to be
(Tell me what you want)

I want a brand new house
on an episode of Cribs
And a bathroom I can play baseball in
And a king size tub big enough
for ten plus me
--(Yea, So what you need)--

I need a credit card that's got no limit
And a big black jet with a bedroom in it
Gonna join the mile high club
At thirty-seven thousand feet
--(Been there done that)--

I want a new tour bus full of old guitars
My own star on Hollywood Boulevard
Somewhere between Cher and
James Dean is fine for me
(So how you gonna do it?)

I'm gonna trade this life for fortune and fame
I'd even cut my hair and change my name

'Cause we all just wanna be big rockstars and
Live in hilltop houses driving fifteen cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We'll all stay skinny 'cause we just won't eat
we'll hang out in the coolest bars
in the VIP with the movie stars
Every good gold digger's
Gonna wind up there
Every Playboy bunny
With her bleach blonde hair
And well...

Hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar
Hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar

I wanna be great like Elvis without the tassels
Hire eight body guards that love to beat up assholes
Sign a couple autographs
So I can eat my meals for free
--(I'll have the quesadilla, ha-ha,)--

I'm gonna dress my ass
with the latest fashion
Get a front door key to the Playboy mansion

Gonna date a centerfold that loves to
blow my money for me
(So how you gonna do it?)

I'm gonna trade this life
For fortune and fame
I'd even cut my hair
And change my name

'Cause we all just wanna be big rockstars
And live in hilltop houses driving fifteen cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
we'll all stay skinny 'cause we just won't eat
And we'll hang out in the coolest bars
in the VIP with the movie stars
Every good gold digger's
Gonna wind up there
Every Playboy bunny
With her bleach blonde hair
And we'll hide out in the private rooms
With the latest dictionary of
today's who's who
They'll get you anything
with that evil smile
Everybody's got a
drug dealer on speed dial, well
Hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar

I'm gonna sing those songs
That offend the censors
Gonna pop my pills
from a Pez dispenser
Get washed-up singers writing all my songs
Lip --sync-- 'em every night so I don't get 'em wrong

Well we all just wanna be big rockstars
And live in Hilltop houses driving fifteen cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We'll all stay skinny 'cause we just won't eat
And we'll hang out in the coolest bars
in the VIP with the movie stars
Every good gold digger's
Gonna wind up there
Every Playboy bunny
With her bleach blond hair
And we'll hide out in the private rooms
With the latest dictionary of
today's who's who
They'll get you anything
with that evil smile
Everybody's got a
drug dealer on speed dial, well

Hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar
Hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar

What Keeps Me Up At Night

"God’s War is a 97,000 word fantasy novel of faith, blood, betrayal and submission played out in the contaminated deserts of Nasheen, a matriarchal state engaged in a centuries-old holy war with polygamous Chenja."

Hm, no, that's not right.

I typed: Polygamous.

No, that means multiple partners of either sex. What's more than one wife?

Poly something. Poly... poly... poly...

::looks it up in actual paper dictionary next to desk:::

Yes, see, that's multiple spouses, not multiple wives.

And... Polyandry. That's more than one husband.


OK, can't get distracted.

::looks through poly- words:::

Aha. Here it is.

OK, polygyny.


That's more than one husband. Yes, says so right here. OK, so that would be:


:::types::: P-O-L-Y-G-Y-N-O-U-S




Word doesn't recognize this word.

Is this the right word?

Spell it again.

:::types::: P-O-L-Y-G-Y-N-O-U-S

Yes, it says so right here.

Why does Word recognize POLYGAMOUS but not POLYGYNOUS?

Is my dictionary on crack? (possible)

Is Word broken? (probable)

This is the exciting writing life we all dream of.

Mmmmm Query Letters

The only thing I hate drafting more than query letters are synopses.

That's going to be next.

And I just printed out GW AGAIN so I can go through ANOTHER round of line edits.

I hacked and combined several chapters during the last pass, and I need to make sure those run smoothly. I've also got pages and pages of detail notes that I'd like to go back and put into the narrative. They look like minor things: details about school, religion, the literal world building of Nyx's planet from a rock into something more or less habitable, but they're the sorts of details that make a so-so novel a memorable one.

Gee, it's like writing is actual work or something.

I hate that.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Good German

I picked up a copy of The Good German at Heathrow, mainly because it has this winning first line: "The war had made him famous."

This is a beautifully written thriller set in Berlin just after the German surrender during WWII. The novel revolves around the murder of a nobody American soldier (in the Russian-occupied part of the city) after the "peace," and one American journalist's interest in getting the story. The reason our journalist hero has come back to Berlin, however, is to find his married lover, whom he left behind during the war.

The two stories end up connecting, of course, as they would in any good thriller, and the strength of the setting here really sold this one for me.

Even better than that, it's beautifully plotted.

One of the big things I've been working on - and reading for - is plot. It's another reason I was blazing through Stephen King novels last year. Watching somebody place their pieces and then neatly set them off like a line of dominoes is an exercise I find terribly satsifying, probably becuase it's something I find incredibly difficult to do in my own writing.

Character, setting, sure, lovely, but plot? Knowing where I'm headed before I get there? I still write plot the way I live my life: messy and disjointed and whatever feels right at the time.

I think both my life and my writing may perhaps do a bit better with some structure.

Then again, most real lives aren't so neatly plotted, and you don't get a six-page Sherlock Holmes description of events and motives at the end. How comforting fiction can be, with all those loose ends tied up so neatly...

All fiction is comfort fiction.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Why Positive Feedback Matters

In general, I'm a fan of brutal critiques. I don't need anybody pussy-footing around my ego. If I've written a shit story, I need to know it was a shit story.

The reverse of that, however, is that if I've written a good story, I need to know it was a good story.

This may come as a surprise. Afterall, if you write a brilliant story, you just know it, right? You realize your utter genius and thrust it into the mail and make tons of money and win shiny awards and sell the movie rights, right?

No, not really.

I rarely know if what I'm writing is any good. I secretly hope it is. But I rarely, if ever, know.

Sure, there have been some short stories I liked just as they were. I didn't ask for feedback because I knew I could sell them as-is. And I've sold stories I got feedback on of the "you'll never sell this as-is sort." I've also not sold stories that me and my critiquers thought were great.

That's how it goes.

But when I'm working on projects that take years, that I look at all the time, I have to have outside feedback. I need to have a handful of very different voices telling me how what I'm doing is coming across, because if I'm ridiculous, I need to know I'm ridiculous. If I'm spending years on something totally useless, I'd like somebody to tell me. I may end up disagreeing with them, but at least I'm prepared for that kind of feedback from the Big Bad World.

I like harsh, constructive, detailed critiques for the initial revision phase when I'm fixing everything that's wrong, but once I've gotten 6 or 8 or 12 months into revisions, revisions that sometimes take years, some of the best feedback to have around is the glowing shit. The "this was brilliant!" shit.

For me, this was an email I got from my buddy Julian who read the first draft of GW. He absolutely loved book, and gushed about it, and every time I felt horrible and defeated tonight, I thought about that email, and I pushed through it. Because, believe me, sitting here in Dayton, OH at midnight working on this last round of line edits, it's pretty much all I had. I've wanted to throw in the towel with this book at least half a dozen times tonight (not to mention how many times the last couple of months, particularly after some other critiques).

I keep thinking: "This book is shit! It's the worst! It's going to be horribly embarrassing! What if it IS published, and then people I know READ it, and they say, THIS IS THE WORST SHIT IN THE WORLD! And suddenly they avoid me at social functions and I have no friends and people are very polite in public but talking about my shitty book in private and OH DEAR GOD I'M GOING TO WRITE ANOTHER BOOK AND IT'S GOING TO SIT IN ANOTHER FUCKING DRAWER OH GAWD THAT'S EVEN WORSE."

These are the things that pass through my mind at midnight in Dayton, OH.

The rest of the time, I secretly believe I'm brilliant.

But man, you know, for those Long Dark Teatimes of the Soul, like tonight, line edit pass number three on a book I technically finished in September and wanted to start marketing in February, first-draft-praise-letters are fucking priceless.

I have finished my stack of line edits. I'm going to bed, rereading the whole fucking thing tomorrow, and starting work on my synopsis and query letters.


And Then There Were Some

Some stuff you don't often hear about being done by women.

Women Gladiators:



Journal of Combative Sport

Women Bullfighters:

La Diosa Rubia

A Few Fighters

Marie Barcelo


Today was the first time since I moved that I managed to finish the entirety of my morning weights routine. Depression, laziness, and an inadequate room set-up for working out were keeping me from bothering to do it properly. Some of it is also that I don't have a fixed time for getting up in the morning, which is a problem. I'm usually up by 9:30 am, but I'd like to be up at something more reasonable like 7 or 7:30.

A lot of the trick to being unemployed and living off the good graces of others is not to let yourself wallow - you'll end up regretting all that time you wasted once you've got a job again, so I've been making an effort to work out some kind of lay-off routine or schedule.

I've been making an effort to get in some cardio everyday, but I realized yesterday that instead of bike riding or working out on the elliptical, I was starting to get used to the idea of taking long walks instead. Sure, that's better than nothing, but it's not going to get me looking buff again. I've been feeling rather doughy. There's a boxing gym here in Dayton, but that's going to involve me having money, which will involve me being employed. So.

I have a lot of things that need to get done right now, but this week, the focus is getting GW line edits done and getting it in the mail by the end of the month. Seriously. I was supposed to have this out in February, and having a bunch of unfinished projects lying around is driving me crazy.

The good part about living in Dayton is that, you know, I haven't had to move back in with my parents yet. But I stress the "yet." The problem with Dayton is that there aren't a lot of jobs here, and you're lucky to get offered something for more than $8 an hour. As somebody who was used to making nearly $19 full time and $15 an hour as a temp, there's been some sticker shock when interviewing with temp agencies.

I can also get away with not having a car in Dayton. If I moved back home, we're talking insurance, car payment, and worst of all - gas. I can make it in Dayton on $950 a month. I'd need a lot more to make it in BG.

Right now, the plan is to stay here until I can get back on my feet, financially, or until I can get a good job offer elsewhere and afford to move out. As it is, I pretty much blew through the last of everything I had in getting here, and I have a long way to go to build things up again.

I'm nearly but not quite fucked.

And I stress the "not quite" part.

In the meantime, I'm spending my days drinking pots of coffee and getting on with Ian and Stephanie's dog. Ian's a materials scientist PhD student, so he's usually out of the house by noon at the latest, and Stephanie works as a medical receptionist, so she's out of here at godawful early hours, and I've got most of the day to myself. Most of which I spend reading and doing line edits and scraping paint off doors, as Ian and Steph have been renovating the house, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment to help out with the more mundane tasks involved in that.

As far as self-esteem goes, yeah, that's been a really fucking tough one. It's been difficult to build that back up, not to wallow in a lot of self-hatred. When you're used to being strong and capable and figuring things out and you suddenly fail, utterly, again, yeah, boy, that's pretty fucking hard. It's the way life is, sure, "Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight," but that doesn't make the falling down or getting up part much easier.

Some of the miserable self-esteem stuff comes from how bad things were back in Chicago. Removing myself from that situation has helped with some of that, but you know, selling a book or having a job or succeeding at something sure as hell would help, too. Being able to afford my meds would help.

You know, every little thing helps.

But I did do some traveling last week, and that was divine. It's nice to just get away from bullshit for awhile and get to a place where you feel hopeful about the future instead of terrified. OK, there's some terror, too, but mostly, hope, and there's nothing like navigating a foreign country to get some of your self esteem back. Just because you fail at things doesn't mean you can't do anything. It just means you failed. And you have to keep trying.

It's like writing a lot of bad books. Doesn't mean they'll all be bad. Just means these ones are bad. It doesn't mean you give up. It means you learn from the last one so you can make the next one even better.

Which also sounds a lot easier than it actually is....

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Today's Song, Stuck on Repeat

... while I finish the third round of GW line edits. Line edits are the worst part of the whole process for me. The big revision stuff, that's fun. The actual writing, the revising while writing, the outlining, etc. Fine, fine.

The line edits? The round after round of line edits?

Pure torture.

A Perfect Circle - The Noose

So glad to see you well
Overcome and completely silent now
With heaven's help
You cast your demons out
And not to pull your halo down
Around your neck and tug you off your cloud
But I'm more than just a little curious
How you're planning to go about
Making your amends to the dead
To the dead

Recall the deeds as if
They're all someone else's
Atrocious stories
Now you stand reborn before us all
So glad to see you well

And not to pull your halo down
Around your neck and tug you to the ground
But I'm more than just a little curious
How you're planning to go about
Making your amends to the dead
To the dead

With your halo slipping down
Your halo slipping
Your halo slipping down
Your halo slipping down

Your halo slipping down
I'm more than just a little curious
How you're planning to go about
Making your amends [repeated]

Your halo slipping down
Your halo slipping down to choke you now

Monday, April 09, 2007

News & Reviews

I moved in with my buddies Ian & Stephanie a few weeks ago, after they graciously offered to put me up rent-free until I can get my staggering credit card debt and jobless (ie temp work only, no perm position) situation all sorted out. Much of my silence has been because of moving logistics, sorting out personal relationships, and interviewing with local temp agencies, and putting back together some sort of writing schedule for the year, since the one I had is pretty much screwed.

And believe me, you wouldn't have wanted to read anything I've had to say the last few weeks, cause most of it has been boo-hoo poor me stuff. Nobody's perfect.

In the meantime, I've done some traveling, read some books, and seen some movies. And been drinking a lot of coffee.

No joke, I've been having a tough time with this transition. There are few things that make you feel more like a loser than having to move in with friends/parents because of a job layoff, sudden chronic illness (and resulting costs), and exploding personal situation, but you know, shit happens, and I've been working really hard at being OK with that whole "shit happens" thing. I mean, I didn't exactly plan on getting a chronic illness and losing my job and etc. I keep thinking I could have handled it all better, but regardless, this is how it's been handled, so I need to stop and breathe for a second and plan and pick myself up again. I'm just lucky that I've got people around who'll help me out and support me while I do that.

I mean, isn't every writer supposed to live in a friends' basement at some point? It'll sound great during the NYT interview. I'm telling you.

In any case:

I read A Long Way Gone, Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah, after seeing it several times at Starbucks, at the local bookshop, and hearing about Beah's interview on The Daily Show.

This one starts out really strong - Beah was forced into "service" as a child soldier for the government forces in Sierra Leone in the late 90s. He gives a brutal, detailed account of how he lost his family literally overnight, was captured by soldiers and forced to commit atrocities. I've read a lot of books about conflict in Africa, mainly southern Africa, but Sierra Leone was a new one for me, and Beah gave me a really clear, vivid understanding of the surreal chaos of a violent revolution and how they impact the people who live there how one day the war is something far off, something you hear about, something that will never really affect you, and the next day your entire world is torn apart. You can read all sorts of books by foreign journalists - or even local ones - and dispassionate histories, but this one came from somebody who lived there, lived through it, and hearing his voice was.... powerful. Powerful not just because he was there, but because we hear these voices so rarely. Instead, we hear about conflict 2nd and 3rd hand, from foreigners, journalists, which is certainly better than nothing, but it pales in comparison to these missing voices.

There are some great things he does here - he shows you the good with the bad. There are horrific things done here, things he does and things done to him and those around him, but there are pauses in the narrative for the good things, the human things, the small acts of kindness, the dancing, the game-playing, the snide joking among friends, and long passages that show his love of the physical landscape of the country. Yes, people do terrible things, but they are just people, like everyone else. It's one of those things that everyone says when they hear about people committing atrocities - hacking people up, the mass slaughter of millions - how could they do it? How is that possible? And in Beah's book, you see exactly how that becomes possible. You see the steps along the way, the increasing chaos, the breakdown of the communities, and you can put yourself there and say, "Would I really have reacted so differently?"

No, probably not.

The book drags a little in the middle and then wraps up really quickly with Beah's rehabilitation, some time living with his uncle and becoming a spokesperson for children at a UN conference, and then his rapid flight across the border when Sierra Leone's capital is finally overrun. We don't actually get the nitty-gritty of how he managed to get to America after crossing the border, only that one of the friends he met and kept in touch with after the UN conference in New York agreed to give him a home if he could make it across the border. Because of this, the book seems to end abruptly, and there's nothing tying it together. It simply... is.

Not long after reading this one, I watched Blood Diamond, and I recommend reading Beah's story and then watching this movie if you're at all interested in the complexities of war and revolution in Sierra Leone or even Africa in general, as the politics and players are similiar in many other countries. Blood Diamond gives you an idea of the big players in these conflicts - the international corporations, the revolutionaries, the aid workers, the mercenaries/smugglers, the civilians, pretty much everybody gets a nod here. The cast was talented enough to sort of wash over the idea that they were all sort of stand-ins for their respective groups (black local, white American journalist, white African smuggler), but they all bordered on cliche at one time or another.

Still, it was a powerful film, and after reading Beah's books, the sections about the boy soldiers rang utterly and terribly true, and it made me sit up and pay attention. The people who put this one together did a lot of work. It's good.

Some other movies:

I also finally saw the latest Bond movie, Casino Royale. I put off watching this one because, yeah, I wasn't so sure I'd like the new Bond Guy.

I was wrong.

They brought Bond back from cheese and made him cool again, and that was a neat trick. Brosnan wasn't bad, but the scripts and direction he were given were turning the Bond movies into a parody of Bond movies ("I thought Christmas only comes *once* a year" Oh lord). The women are bad and die, of course, because this is a Bond movie (but then, pretty much everyone who isn't Bond is bad and dies), but you don't watch a Bond movie expecting to get a lot of conversations between women. I do like what they're doing with M; keeping Dench as M was a great decision. She's just excellent. There was some danger of her appearing motherly toward Bond, which they could have done, but because it's Dench, I think they've managed to avoid that route. She also doesn't dress like a nun (or dress like she's pretending to be 14), which you don't see much with older women actresses, and that was cool. She has some good sparring matches with Bond, and you get enough icy coolness from her that you do wonder just what she'd do if Bond ever did piss her off enough to off him.

Somehow, this movie even made having an asthmatic, one-eyed, scarred villain something other than Bond-movie-cliche laughable.

To round out my movie watching, I also watched The Holiday, mainly because it had Jude Law and Kate Winslet. This was one of those movies that could have been really great, but as it was, just sort of... well, was. Jude Law ended up playing the best character, suprisingly, but Kate and Cameron hammed it up too much to be really sympathetic, and instead, came across as a couple of silly girls. I wasn't really rooting for either of them to have boyfriends. I wanted them to sort their lives out themselves first. I wanted them to grow up.

Kate was doing this miserable Bridget Jones routine (that can be a fun character, but I didn't believe her gumption in the end because I never saw it the whole way through, whereas when Renee Zellweger played it, I believed Bridget's transformation; I felt like Bridget did a little growing up), and Cameron was just doing LA-parody, which wasn't so much her fault - a lot of that was definately a directorial choice.

And you know, there's nothing more miserable than writers writing about writers or movie people making movies about movie people. It's a real turnoff.

A lot of what didn't work for me was also the fact that none of the pairings in the movie had actual chemistry. Cameron and Jude Law have tons of sex, and though I believed the chemistry on his end (I believed it was *acted* but I believed in the acting), she wasn't really clicking much with him, and Kate and Jack Black were just... weirdly paired. It's like you get two people together who were supposed to play the "best friend" role in other movies and then put them together as a leading copule and they still play "best friend" with each other. Which, yes, I realize was what they were going for, but generally, when two people who've played best friend to others get together and you know, get hot on each other, they do actually get hot around each other and have hot, wild sex. Insead, these two get two kisses, and they're not hot kisses at ALL. I didn't believe their connection in the least.

Jude and Kate, as brother and sister, had way more chemistry than any other pairing in the movie.

I also watched parts of Night at the Museum, but Jumanji was better, even if this movie did have Owen Wilson in it.