Recently I had a weird series of dreams. My husband leaves for work about two hours before I need to get up to get ready for my job. So most weekday mornings I wake up at least partially while he’s getting ready. So I may mumble something to him and roll back over in bed, then wake up a couple of times again before my alarm goes off, each time squinting at the clock and being relieved that I have time to get a little more sleep in. This was one of those mornings. Right after Michael left, I fell back to sleep and seemed to immediately begin dreaming that our friend, Keith, was trying to help me reach an important destination and was driving me in a car belonging to another friend, Mark. We kept getting interrupted by weird things, like a golden box full of Magic: The Gathering Cards being left on the side of the road, or a couple of people who desperately needed directions somewhere, and I was getting increasingly worried we weren’t going to make it to whatever we were trying to get to.
Then someone outside was revving their car motor, and I woke up enough to squint at the clock, note that I had only been asleep, at most, 25 minutes, and fell back again. And I began dreaming not about the weird road trip, but instead about trying to finish laundry. Except the laundry room was inexplicably located inside a hollow tree in a park that was perhaps across the street from my home. It was a little unclear. I kept running back home to work on errands, then back to the park to move the laundry from one machine to another. And there was this guy who kept stopping me in the park to ask questions. I kept thinking he was trying to steal my wallet, and then being relieved that I still had it each time I got away from him.
Something woke me up again, I peered at the clock to see that I still have nearly an hour to go before the alarm went off, and rolled back over to start dreaming about helping a bunch of people I didn’t know restore a six-color web press because we needed to get news out to the world because there had been some horrible disaster, the city was half destroyed, and so forth. I had been drafted to help because I had some familiarity with the process. Some moments the group I was working with included soldiers or government agents of some sort, and other moments we were all just ordinary civilians.
Then I heard another noise outside, pried my eyes open, and saw that my alarm clock was going to go off in less than twenty minutes. And I needed to go to the bathroom, but even though I only had a few minutes left before the alarm went off, I laid back down afterward and closed my eyes. And seemed to immediately dream that I was awakened by a noise outside and I looked to see what time it was and the clock clearly said it was 6:20pm, and I had somehow slept through the entire day or possibly several days and I need to get up right now and start getting ready…
…and I did leap out of bed, because I was convinced I was very late for work, and I grabbed my watch off the charger, strapped it on my wrist, was trying to get my thoughts together… and the watch on my wrist started vibrating because it was exactly 7:30 in the morning and time to wake up. And I stood there, after tapping the snooze button, for a good 40 seconds trying to figure out what was dream and what was reality, because I swear that the watch was flashing in weird colors both a time and a date later in the week just milliseconds before it started vibrating on my wrist, and I was standing there wearing the watch and its face was just changing to 7:31, so the jumping up and grabbing the watch had been real while also being part of the dream.
And while my watch has a lot of customizable faces, none of them look anything like the flashing “OMG, you’re late!” watch face which I could still close my mind and see in memory as if I had just been looking at it.
I don’t understand my brain. I mean, sometimes I am able to tell that a particular dream is just anxiety manifesting because of things going on in real life. And occasionally I recognize individual elements in a dream as probably being inspired by this specific thing that happened to us recently. But mostly they are just weird mishmashes of things that make no sense outside of a dream. So sometimes I think it is a pretty amazing that we manage to communicate and have conversations and such where we seem to understand each other.
Even more amazing that we can read some fiction that someone else has written and get caught up with it to the point that we imagine the events of the story, become invested deeply enough to care about what happens to the imaginary people, and even get into long arguments with other people about whether these imaginary people in an imaginary setting having imaginary adventures were portrayed realistically. Like the time back in high school where one friend angrily asserted, “Come on! A real dragon would never behave that way!” and another starting laughing so hard, he fell off his chair.
In conclusion: brains are weird. Not just mine.
Sometimes I try to rationalize this by pointing out the my husband has more computers than I do… and more iPads, and… and… but that’s really deflecting.
Now one thing that I will say in my defense is that many of these things were not paid for at full retail. Most of the iPods, for instance, were picked up used, some of them with more than one previous owner before I got them. And, as I explained in Confessions of a penny pinching packrat, my childhood and early adulthood spent living (barely) paycheck to paycheck taught me to hang on to things. When I buy a new appliance or gadget or whatever the old one is seldom disposed of. Instead it is held onto as a backup in case the new thing breaks. Often older computers and such are passed on to friends and family who need them, and when that isn’t the case, I can frequently find away to sell them or trade them in to get a discount on something else we need.
But, I also love tools that work well, and I especially love tools that work well for particular tasks. The headphones I use for commuting, for instance, need to meet several requirements: they need to be wireless and feel comfortable and not awkward when worn with various hats and scarves and such that I need in various types of weather. They also need to be able to hold up to rain. Because of some issues with my inner ears, they can’t be in-ear. The models that meet those requirements don’t usually have fantastic sound fidelity. But I don’t necessarily want that, because I don’t want headphones to block out traffic noise, and so forth, because since I take a bus, a part of my commute involves walking on sidewalks along busy city streets. So I need to be able to hear what’s going on around me.
That means that the commute headphones aren’t ideal for other listening situations. So I have a pair of wired noise-cancelling headphones that live in my desk drawer at my office, so on those days that I need to block out conversations going on in the cubes and halls around me, I can. And also, if I’m going to listen to music while working, I’d like the quality of the sound to be a bit better than what I’m willing to settle for during my bus ride and walking, right?
Then I have a nice pair of wireless headphones to use at home for listening to music or podcasts while I’m writing or editing. And again, I prefer them to have better music quality than the commute headphones. Unfortunately, it is often the case the wireless headphone with great sound, have inferior microphones. So if I’m trying to have conversations or gaming sessions with friends online, I need a headset that has good sound and a good microphone, which winds up being a wired headset.
And then… well… so the nice bluetooth and wired headsets I mentioned in the above paragraph basically live with my laptop. So there is another set of headphones, wired, that some years ago used to be the primary for listening to music on the laptop, that have been handed-down to the desktop Mac Pro, so that when I use that machine, I can listen to my music without disturbing my husband on the other side of the computer room. And there is a pair of really nice wired noise-cancelling headphones that permanently live in the On The Go computer bag, so that when we’re at cons or whatever, I’ll have a good set on those occasions I need them…
…and then there is a small stash of some older ones that still work well enough in a pinch, and usually one or two pairs of still in box backups for the commute headphones, because when they die, they tend to completely die, and I need a backup right away, right?
It’s a little harder to explain how the primary laptop, iPad, desktop, and Windows-based laptop all fit some of my use cases but aren’t the best tool for some of my other tasks. I mean, I have the Windows laptop because occasionally I need to process a file in software that is only available on Windows. And some of my old backups were done on Windows, since I used that operating system for many years. My new laptop is, in theory, pretty water resistant, but I’m still a bit reluctant to take it outside when rain is likely. And now that we have such a nice veranda, I spend a little bit of pretty much every day out there either writing, reading, or chatting with friends. So the iPad is a better tool for that location, since it is much much much more water resistant than the laptop, right?
I also, whenever possible, I spend my lunch break at the office writing or editing my own fiction, and that happens on the iPad. Which is much tinier and easier to transport along with my lunch and stuff than the laptop.
This is a long way of saying: what works for me, works for me, but may not meet the your needs. Likewise, what works for you may not meet my specific needs at all. And it’s okay if some of us spend more of our time and resources on different things than other people.
You do you. I’ll do me. Okay?
There were many reasons why I didn’t behave like a “normal” boy. And usually when I have written about this topic before I have focused on how as a queer kid I was gender non-conforming. But that wasn’t the only problem. There are queer kids who did a better job than I ever did of blending in. And there are lots of not-queer kids who were bullied for being different in other ways. I had other strikes against me.
One of my relatives, for instance, described me as “a lost adult trapped in a child’s body” when referring to my childhood. One reason several people perceived me in that way as a child is because my intelligence was several standard deviations above average. That had two very distinct effects on my behavior. One was that I often understood and knew things people didn’t expect a child to know, but the other was that there were very few of the kids my age that I got along with, so I kept forming close relationships with adults. And that increased the gap between myself and most of the kids my age.
Now, the word “normal” derives from the Latin normalis, which means made according to a right-angle or square. But ask most people what normal means and you’ll probably get something close to what Oxford calls sense 3: “Constituting or conforming to a type or standard; regular, usual, typical; ordinary, conventional. Also, physically or mentally sound, healthy.” Interestingly, that usage of the word in English only came about in the early 1800s. When in first came into the language, in the late 1400s, it referred exclusively to a regular verb. Then in the mid 1600s its meaning expanded to refer “Right-angled, standing at right angles; perpendicular.” Which is how it entered the lexicography of mathematics.
I was interested in science for as long as I can remember. We can blame my mom the science fiction fan for that. When I was a baby, she literally read aloud whichever Robert Heinlein or Ray Bradbury or similar book she had checked out from the library. And mathematics is something I fell in love with early in school. We moved around a lot because of my dad’s job in the petroleum industry, but as luck would have it, the school district where I attended first grade and a portion of second was one that won awards for excellence year after year. They gave me a great start.
For instance, the explanation my second grade teacher in Fort Collins had given me of the Distributive Property, was how I got labeled a freak on the first day (three schools later) that I attended school in Cheyenne Wells. It was late spring in Third Grade when we moved to Cheyenne Wells, and they were just getting to things like the Distributive Property of Multiplication. The teacher tried to explain it to class, but her explanation wasn’t very good. And during the period when we were supposed to be going through a worksheet and helping each other with the problems, the teacher overheard me explaining the the kid next to me how it works, so she brought me to the front of the room and made me explain it to the whole class. And then they all knew I was a Math Freak, a Brain, and the Teachers new Pet.
It wasn’t just the first school, of course, it was also the fact that I loved to read so much, that whenever I was given a new set of books at school, I would read them all the way to the end on my own as soon as I could. And half the time that I spent in the library I was tracking down non-fiction books about topics that came up in the science fiction, mystery, and adventure books that I loved. And most of the time throughout grade school and middle school, I would rather sit in a corner and read than run around the playground or do other things the rest of the kids were doing any time we were turned loose.
That always failed to endear me to the other kids.
Despite the fact that at heart I was an introvert, I also loved explaining things to people. Which often came across as me being a show off or know it all.
As an adult, I work in a technology field writing and designing documentation and help systems explaining how systems work. So all of those characteristics eventually became useful, eventually.
But there was no amount of counseling from that therapist—or mentoring from my middle school wrestling coach (and pre-algebra teacher!), or the other attempts by specific teachers who tried to take me under their wing to steer me through the shoals of bullying—that would make a smart, queer, introverted, book- and science-loving, know-it-all pass for normal in a typical primary or secondary school.
Which isn’t a slam on the other kids, but rather the way we herd children together by age and leave them to their own devices to work out social dynamics. The theory is that we learn to get along with diverse people that way, but the system creates an artificial social environment that encourages some of our worst behaviors.
I survived. I not only came out of the system free of bitterness and resentment, I often find myself in the position of defending public schools from the distorted statistics some people wave around trying to prove other options are better (spoiler alert: the statistics are on traditional public school’s favor). And when it comes to bullying, private schools and charter schools don’t handle those situations one iota better. In fact, for marginalized kids, they are much, much worse, statistically.
But I digress.
Learning to get along is a worthwhile goal. Conformity and trying to pretend you’re something you’re not, are toxic and destructive. I wish we were better at teaching the former, rather than enforcing the latter.
Anyway, I love the rain. I love autumn. I love the trees changing color. I really like being able to go out on the veranda.
I haven’t posted a goal update since the first of August, for a couple of reasons. One, I was still reassessing some of the goals, as the move was such a big disruption. Another reason was related to the move, and I’ve felt both frustrated and embarrassed about it. Several things went missing during the move.
Some of the missing things were trivial: a silly hat that often call my writing hat, a couple of books purchased just before we started the move, and a set of old stories and art discovered during the packing that I thought would make a fun submission to one of the APAzines I participate in. But other things weren’t: the galley proof of my novel with all my copy editor’s comments, a notebook with all of my notes for one of the roleplaying games I run, another notebook with notes of the other roleplaying game I run, a pile of editing comments on new scenes I had written for the novel in galley proof, and the file with my notes on places to submit short stories.
While we were still unpacking boxes, we just assumed they were in a box we hadn’t gotten to. The fact that I thought I had put most of those things in the same box and one of the boxes I marked as needing to be unpacked early made me a little extra crazy, because we had opened all the boxes with that sort of marking. After we got the last box unpacked, both my husband and I searched through closets and so forth, but no luck.
Then last weekend, literally a few minutes before midnight on my birthday, I pulled a plastic file box off a shelf to file a new insurance policy (that had been sitting on the coffee table since I opened the mail a week or so before). And when I opened this plastic box which I thought was full of legal documents and such, I found all the missing things: my silly fez, the edits, the gaming notebooks, the old art and stories, the books, the other files… it was all there. All the legal documents that I thought were in the plastic box were in a banker’s box on the next shelf over.
The embarrassing part is that during all of my searching for the missing things, I kept not opening the plastic file box because I was sure it was full of legal documents. And the fact that when I looked in the banker’s box and saw that it was full of file folders full of various documents never made me twig to the possibility that there weren’t legal documents in the plastic box is where the embarrassment comes in.
Anyway, ince two of my big goals for the year required me finding a couple of those missing things, it was hampering my progress. Now that the missing things have been found, I’ve been busy all week working on edits. There’s a lot still to go, but I’m in a much better position, now.
I’m still reassessing the goals, particularly as I work on a new, um, project that I hope will help me finish more of the writing related tasks faster. But I’m not ready to talk about that other than to a few others just yet.
So, I am still working on my goals for the year. I’ve mentioned before how much I love autumn. I’ve also mentioned that autumn often feels more like a new year to me than New Year’s Day. So maybe it’s a good thing I’m still reassessing. New season means new beginnings.
This isn’t going to be my typical Saturday post where I talk about news stories that either I missed for this week’s round up of links or new developments. I’ve already made a couple of pretty personal posts this week, between my birthday and remembering my late husband on his birthday just a few days later.
And tomorrow would be my dad’s birthday, if he were still alive. Which doesn’t make me sad, by the way. It fills me with a bit of dread, because I suspect there will be communications from some of my relatives that I’d rather not get. I can’t use the phrase that one friend made me practice saying right after Dad died so that I wouldn’t make people who were just offering condolences but didn’t know our history wouldn’t feel bad: “We weren’t close. We’d hardly talked in forty years.” Depending on which family member is reaching out, that comment is likely to get an angry, “Well, whose fault is that?”And I’m dreading it because I got such comments (and confrontations) on Father’s Day and on his previous birthday. Maybe I need to memorize this Stefan Molyneux quote and say that back to any of them who trot out the admonishments that it isn’t healthy for me not to grieve or not to forgive or whatever. The former is the mostly darkly funny, because I did grieve the total lack of a loving, functional father decades before my actual dysfunctional dad died. I took myself to therapy because I realized that many of his abusive behaviors and attitudes were manifesting in my own relationships. I didn’t want to turn into him, so I got therapy and dealt with it, and yes, part of my healing process was letting myself grieve for the relationship that could have been. To grieve for kind of childhood I didn’t have.
I know most of them are doing it because they worry about me. unfortunately, some are doing it because they need validation for their own feelings, or validation of the rationalizations that let them look the other way while those of us living with him were subjected to the abuse. Anyway, being angry at them doesn’t solve anything. I will probably do what I did with most of the messages that came on Father’s Day: ignore them.
But, completely unrelated: I was pointed to some cartoons by an artist I had not previously been aware of, and while checking out his web site, I found this interesting thing he created last March: My Mother Was Murdered When I Was a Baby. I Just Found a Photo of Her Funeral for Sale Online. It reminded me that there are many other ways that one’s childhood can be dysfunctional. But also, it reminded me of a bit of advice I received from one of my lesbian aunties (not an actual aunt) back around the same time I was seeing the therapist. My childhood was bad, yes, but I survived it. Not everyone who suffers domestic violence does. So, while I’m grieving what I didn’t have, I should remember to be thankful that I lived to make a better adulthood for myself.
Please note that I said this stereotype is only somewhat less toxic than many others about queer men.
So a few years ago when I mentioned in blog post that it was my birthday and my age (it was 53 or 54, but I don’t feel like going on an obsessive search to try to find the specific post), some random person I didn’t know commented about how broken-hearted I must be, since everyone knows that fags are all obsessed with being young. I typed a reply to the effect that no, I actually considered myself quite lucky. But then I decided that rather than argue with a troll the better thing to do was to simple delete the troll’s comment and move on.
But I keep running into people making this specific observation, or variants of it. A gay activist who is a frequent guest on news programs passes the age of 50 and all the anti-gay hatemongers start referring to him as an “aging activist.” This is pretty rich coming from a completely white-haired anti-gay pastor who is pushing 70, let me tell you. If a 50-year-old is “aging,” what do we call a 68-year-old, hmmmmm?
So, I’m still a couple years from 60, yet, and I know that I frequently make references to my age, mostly because 1) I am older than the average people active on the internet, 2) I’m older than the average age of people active in the various fandoms I participate in, and 3) I frequently find myself being a little boggled at people who otherwise seem really well informed being completely unaware of (or deeply misinformed about) fairly major things that happened in the world when I was, say, in my 20s.
I was still very closeted in my early 20s when the AIDS crisis began. This mysterious illness was striking gay men down, and not only did the White House Press Secretary laugh and make a fag joke when a reporter asked about the first Center for Disease Control alert about the illness, but all of the rest of the reporters in the room joined in on the laughter. One night at a church service I was sitting with my head bowed when a pastor went on a long digression in his prayer thanking god for sending the scourge of AIDS to punish the wickedness of gay people and wipe them from the face of the Earth. 10 years later, as an out gay man, I found myself going to memorial services of men sometimes younger than I. One particularly bad winter, 16 different people we knew died in a single three-month period. It really did seem that every gay person was doomed. And it didn’t seem to matter that we all now knew to practice safe sex—because condoms can break, and so on.
As much of an optimist as I’ve always been, in the face of all the overwhelming chilling life experience, I seriously doubted that I would live to see my 50s.
So, I am not in the slightest bit sad or embarrassed to have reached the “ripe” age of 57. I’m not sad that my beard is mostly white, because I’ve earned every one of these grey hairs! I’m not ecstatic that some of the medical issues I’ve always had are getting worse as I get older. I’m not joyful when I read about the death of someone (famous or not) that I’ve known and admired for years. I know that that is going to happen more often, that’s just the natural consequence of the passing of time.
Getting older has its drawbacks, yes. But the alternative is worse, right? So I say, “Bring it on!”
Among my role models growing up was a very cantankerous paternal great-grandmother (who taught me how to listen in on the neighbors’ on the party line phone, among other fun things) and an even more ornery maternal great-grandfather (whose jobs when he was younger had included driving souped up cars, including sometimes outrunning the police, to deliver illegal alcohol during Prohibition). Both of them said and did things around us kids back then that embarrassed their own children (my grandparents and great-aunts and great-uncles), and I fully intend, if I’m lucky enough to live as long as them, to similarly embarrass some of my younger relatives and acquaintances.
On ocassions such as birthdays, one is often asked to share some words of wisdom. I’m going to give you two pieces of advice, one from each of the aforementioned great-grandparents:
“Life is too short to carry grudges or worry about what other people think of you.”
“Never let the revenuers piss on your parade.”
There are a few things to note about this particular transition of the seasons at least where I live. First, we officially can enter summer 2017 into the weather record books for a couple of different things. It was officially the driest summer (going by solar summer: June 21-Sept 21). Seattle summers are usually relatively dry, particularly compared to our Novembers, but this year was exceptional. Only 0.52″ of rain total, and it is worth noting that 0.50″ of that rain came in the last six days! Which certainly contributed to many days that the city was blanketed in smoke from various wild fires in British Columbia, Eastern Washington, and Central Oregon.
Summer 2017 also tied for the hottest summer ever recorded (1967). Though it is worth noting that 2014 and 2013 are tied at second hottest only one-tenth of a degree cooler (and 2015 was two-tenths of a degree cooler, so we definitely have a trend going).
But that nightmare is over, at least until next year. The jet stream has shifted. We got light rain last weekend, the daytime highs have been in the high 50s to mid 60s all week. We may break 70 again late in the week, but that’s a considerable improvement over the temps just two weeks ago.
So, autumn is here! Time to start thinking about Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations. Time to break out the pumpkin spice (I actually started experimenting with pumpkin spick cocktail recipes the day we got the first rain last week).
Welcome to fall!
Content Warning: the following essay (which will also touch on dangerous misperceptions and myths about sexual orientation) includes some specifics about physical abuse of children and worse. Only click when you’re ready … Read More…
Software programs don’t usually work that way, but the non-rational part of my brain doesn’t quite get that. So seeing a review of a word processor that extolls features that appeal to me has the same effect on that impulsive part of the brain that makes me pick up a new pencil or pen or pocket notepad when it catches my eye in the store.
Many apps offer free trial versions, so it is literally a matter of just clicking or tapping a few times on my phone or laptop, and the next thing you know there’s a new word processor installed on my iPhone or iPad or Macbook Pro. And I will play with it for a bit, maybe find some things I like about it. If it works well and is cheap, well, I might buy it. If the free version has no time limit, I may just leave the free version on indefinitely.
All of that sounds mostly harmless, and it usually is. But… Read More…