Tag Archive | personal

Confessions of a rainbow wearing queer geek in quarantine

Queer Geek

Yep, that’s me!

If this has been a normal year, for this weekend my husband and I would have checked into the hotel where the Locus Awards Weekend is happening on Friday. We would attend the reading and evening events there, then the panels on Saturday morning and the book signing, then the awards banquet…. When on Sunday morning we wouldcheck out, confirm with the hotel we can leave the car in the parking garage until 4pm, and walk two blocks to watch part of the Seattle Pride Parade, then walk a couple more blocks to see the Pride Festival, buy t-shirts or other things that catch our eye, before heading 8 miles north to our home.

Last year the festival put all the booths that were gaming stores, comics shops, and two publishers that specialize in queer comics and such inside one of the air conditioned buildings. It was almost as if there were a mini queer sci fi convention going on within the Pride festival!

When I was much younger, 4pm wouldn’t have been late enough to have free parking on Pride Day, but my knees aren’t what the used to be. Plus, I’ve always had problems when being out in the sun too long, so the 4pm deadline has been fine the last few years.

The in-person version of Locus Awards Weekend, as well as the majority of Pride events everywhere, being canceled due to the pandemic, that didn’t happen this year. I did sign up for the virtual Locus Weekend this time. There were more readings, but they were streamed recordings, so there wasn’t any audience reaction, which I found I missed a lot more than I thought. The panels were as fun as ever, even it was a little weird not to hear and feel the crowd of other fans around you during the con. On the other hand, because the panels were live streamed on Zoom, we did have a text chat to do some interacting with other audience members.

If we wanted to participate in the traditional Donut Salon, we had to provide our own donuts. And there wasn’t a banquet for the awards, obviously. Connie Willis, the MC, was wonderful, as always. There weren’t any acceptance speeches (which would have been very difficult to arrange virtually, I understand). I thought all of the winners were good choices, though in every category there were a bunch of other entries which I would have been just as pleased had they won instead. To see the winners: 2020 Locus Awards Winners.

I was particularly pleased that “This is How You Lose a Time War” won Best Novella, because at this point it is also at number one on my Hugo ballot in that category. I was also extremely happy that Nisi Shawl’s anthology, Different Suns: won Best Anthology.

I’m not the most extroverted person in the world, but I did miss chatting with people that I regularly see at this event, an seeing faces both familiar and new.

One of the things I love about the Locus Awards is that they have several different Novel categories. So three of the books that are on the short list for Best Novel Hugo walked away with Locus Awards this weekend.

Virtual Con was fun. It was certainly better than moping at home sad that I had missed it. And there are some things that we better, IMHO, with the virtual venue:

  • I didn’t have to contend with not always being able to get a seat close enough nor on the side of my fully functional ear in order to hear as well as clearly see faces and facial expressions of the panelists or readers
  • I sincerely doubt that Karen Lord has ever unsheathed that fancy sword in the middle of a panel before
  • CLOSED CAPTIONING – now, I’m pretty sure it was on-the-fly AI closed captioning, so much less accurate that others, but still, YES PLEASE
  • I enjoyed the adorable two-year-old twins and the puppy that all escaped Djèlí Clark’s spouse and briefly joined us in one of the panels
  • You can join the text chat without feeling like you’re disturbing others listening to the panels.
  • No con crud (which is the whole reason we’re virtual now, but y’know, even when there isn’t a deadly pandemic, con crud is no fun!)
  • People who can’t travel to the con (whether because they can’t afford it, or health issues, or other issues) can participate in the events.

There are also disadvantages, of course:

  • Spontaneous hall/bar/room party conversations don’t work in the virtual tools that facilitate the panels and readings and such
  • No dealer’s den (which at Locus Weekend is ALL BOOKS, NOTHING BUT BOOKS, the biggest vendor is University Book Store bringing books by authors nominated for the awards [not just the books/collections nominated—also other stuff they have in stock by said authors]), and while I don’t always buy stuff at the den, it’s fun to browse.
  • While we’re on the subject of books: normally there are piles and piles of books on every table at the banquet and the organizers urge you to take these free books home. I missed coming home with a huge pile of books.
  • You don’t get that amplification of enthusiasm/joy/amusement that happens when other people in the audience laugh, or applaud, or otherwise signal they also agreeing with/laughing at/et cetera something a panelist or audience member said

It was a decent substitute for the in-person event. And I hope that now that we’re doing this for some conventions (WorldCon is going to be all virtual this year, as well), I hope that conventions find ways to make more content available to stream like this for at least supporting members going forward.

An alternate outfit. Though given my sun burn issues, if I had worn a cap like this without the rainbow parasol I would have really regretted it!

The rest of the weekend I spent sampling various streamed Pride events, or watching some queer movies that have been in my to-watch list on various streaming platforms for a while. I also took some time to take some selfies (and play some more with the tripod and related things which I have acquired with the eventual intention to make some more videos to post) so I could have a suitable new rainbow picture to put on yesterday’s post.

I missed the in-person aspects of the convention. And I missed not seeing the fabulousness of the Pride Parade, and hanging out at the festival.

But it’s better than getting sick!

It’s Pride Day, 2020 — Happy Pride!

Love is love!

Love is love!

This has been a weird week (heck, it’s been a surreal year!). But today is Pride Day. A day when ordinarily I and my husband would be walking from the hotel where we had been attending Locus Awards Weekend the previous two days, and we’d watch the Pride Parade, then walk to the Pride Festival. But this year everything (including sci fi conventions) has moved on line, so that we can avoid gathering in large groups and causing more spikes of the pandemic.

But it is still Pride Day, even if we’re all social distancing and meeting virtually. It’s a day to commemorate the time that a bunch of queers got fed up with police brutality and decided to fight back.

Two signs being held up in a crowd, each depicts Marsha P. Johnson, sports the Trans Pride Flag colors, and the phrase: “There would be no pride without black trans lives!”

There would be no pride without black trans lives!

It was the night that Marsha P. Johnson hurled a shot glass at a cop when they began their usual routine of lining up everyone in the gay bar, then singling out all the trans and gender-non-conforming people to arrest. Marsha wasn’t the only trans person of color to fight back that night, and she wasn’t the only one to keep fighting for queer rights, helping to found several of the organizations who took the fight to both the streets and the halls of government. When you hoist that rainbow flag, remember to thank those trans women of color who started it all.

Pride Day Links:

Corporations disappointed they won’t be able to commodify queer culture this year .

Every year Joe Jervis at Joe.My.God.com reposted the complete text of the very condescending story that the New York Daily News ran shortly after the original Stonewall uprising. I think it’s good to remember how people saw (and many still do) our community and concerns: LGBTQ History: “The Foot Wore A Spiked Heel”.

Gill Foundation Pledges $250K To Protect Stonewall Inn.

LGBTQ people have been marching every June for 50 years.

Marsha P Johnson’s home town petitions to erect statue of her to replace Christopher Columbus.

Happy Pride Month!

President Barack Obama Celebrates LGBTQ+ Equality (Clip) | Logo TV:

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Black Trans Lives Matter | Full Frontal on TBS:

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The Kinsey Sicks: The Sound of Sirens (Simon & Garfunkel Parody):

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Show Me Your Pride – By Miss Coco Peru – OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO:

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This Is Me | Boston Gay Men’s Chorus:

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If I had gone marching, this would have probably been my ensemble. Happy Pride!

Still a joyful, radical fairy—and still proud of all my fellow survivors

“STONEWALL MEANS REVOLTING QUEENS…AND DON’T YOU FORGET IT,” Gay & Lesbian Pride Parade, Boston, Massachusetts, June 1984. Photo c/o Men of All Colors Together collection, via @northeastern.

Revolt!

I had several ideas for today’s post, but the craziness of fitting a week’s worth of work into four days so I could take Friday off got in the way.

So I decided maybe I should just repost this, originally posted on 21 June, 2018.

Pride means love and survival—confessions of a joyful fairy

“Queer as hell and felling swell”

(click to embiggen)

I’ve been to a lot of Pride parades and festivals since attending my first in 1990. One year I participated in the San Francisco Pride Parade one weekend, flew back home to Seattle where I marched in our parade the following week, and then in August I found myself in Vancouver, British Columbia where I hadn’t realized it was going to be their Pride Parade. San Francisco’s was like so gigantically larger and brasher than any other I had ever seen, while Vancouver’s was small but very enthusiastic.

“Pride equals power”The reason for the parade, ultimately, is to declare our existence–our survival in a society that is less than welcoming. We’re here. We’re your daughters, your neighbors, your sons, your co-workers, your friends, your siblings, or your parents. We’re not mysterious creatures lurking in seedy clubs–we’re the guy sitting across from you on the bus reading a book, or the two gals sitting in that next pew at church, or the pair of guys in the grocery store discussing how many hot dogs to buy for the cookout, or the grey-haired guy trying to read a label on a bottle of cold tablets in the pharmacy, or that kid on the skateboard going past your bus stop, or that guy sipping a coffee at Starbucks, or that gal a couple table over at the same coffee shop laughing at something on her computer.

We’re real, we’re everywhere, and we have hopes and dreams and worries just like you. We’re not asking for special rights, we’re asking for the same rights you take for granted. We’re asking to live our lives as openly as you live yours.

I enjoy watching the parade to acknowledge that survival. I cheer while watching the parade to express my admiration, support, and love for all of these survivors.

I cheer for people who are being brave and marching in their first parade; we see you and welcome you to the tribe.

I cheer and applaud so that those whose families rejected them and told them never to come back will know they have another family, and we’re clapping for them right now.

I cheer so that group of teen-agers (half of them straight and there to support their bi, gay, lesbian, and trans friends) will get the recognition they deserve.

“Why do some people feel more comfortable seeing two men holding hands than holding guns?”I cheer so the couple in their matching sequined costumes will know someone appreciates the work they spent (perhaps being up all night gluing those sequins on).

I cheer the older couples walking together holding hands; we see your love and we celebrate how long you and your love had endured.

I cheer the younger couples walking hand in hand; I wish I had felt free to do that at their age, but I hope they have a bright future.

(click to embiggen)

I applaud and cheer so that the trans* gals and trans* men know they are seen for who they are and we think they’re beautiful, wonderful, and I am proud to call them brothers and sisters.

I cry when I see those who are carrying a photo or wearing the name of a deceased loved one; we see your loved one and share your grief.

I cheer for PFLAG so that straight parents who have spent countless hours explaining to friends and relatives that their queer kids have nothing to be ashamed of, and yes they are very happy, and no those things you’ve heard or read about their health and lifespan are all myths will know their efforts are appreciated by the whole community.

I clap and cheer and laugh and cry as the parade goes on and on showing how big and wonderful and diverse and amazing our community is.

(click to embiggen)

The very first Liberation Day Parade in New York City, was a protest march on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (the first Pride was a riot). People were afraid of what would happen at the first march. Only a couple dozen people showed up at the starting point, with their protest signs. But they marched. And all along the announced route of the march, the sidewalks were lined with people. Street queens, and trans people, and gay men and lesbians and queers of many other stripes.

(click to embiggen)

And then completely unplanned thing happened. As the small group of marchers went by, queer people and supporters started stepping off the curb and joining. By the time the marchers reached the Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park, the crowd numbered in the thousands.

It has been a tradition of Pride Parades ever since, that spectators step off the curb and join the march.

So when I march, there comes a point where I do that. I have cheered and applauded and made sure that others were seen. I have witnessed their love and courage and unique style. Until it is my turn to join the march. To be visible. To declare by my presence in that throng that I am queer. I’m here. And I will never go back into the closet.
Me with my rainbow parasol

The Missing History of Decoration Day

Memorial day is not about the living

Today isn’t the day to say ‘Thank you for your service.’

Once again it’s Memorial Day, and once again I find myself having conflicting feelings. There is, of course, the part of me that gets irritated at how so many people treat every even slightly patriot holiday as another occurrence of Veteran’s Day. And that’s wrong for many reasons. If nothing else, if someone is a military veteran or still serving, this day can be extremely emotional day, because they may be thinking about people they knew who didn’t make it back

If you aren’t sure what to say today, NPR has some suggestions: Don’t Say ‘Thank You For Your Service’ This Monday.

The other set of feelings I get revolve around the revisionist history everyone publishes about the history of Memorial Day. Memorial Day didn’t become an official holiday until the passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968. You’ll find scores of articles and web pages telling how the Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day (true), which was first celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery in 1868 (false). Decoration Day was celebrated in several parts of the country, mostly in the South, long before the Civil War.

Leading up to Decoration Day, volunteers from the community would cut the grass in the cemetery and pull up weeds and generally do maintenance. In modern times, city and county governments take care of cemeteries that are not maintained by a company or a religious organization, so we don’t think about things like the grass and weeds around grave. Then come Sunday was the day to bring flowers to put on the graves, have family reunions, and celebrate the lives of all of our deceased family members. My Grandmother observed that version faithfully her whole life. ‘Decoration Day’: The South Honors Its Dead.

“…on that day, everybody who’s connected to each other and to the people underground convene and have in effect a religious service in the cemetery.”
—Alan Jabbour, the author of the book Decoration Day in the Mountains

As I said, Grandma celebrated the old version her whole life, and she was literally in the process of placing a silk flower arrangement on the grave of Great-aunt Maude (and pulling up some crab grass that was obscuring the marker) when she died. So you may understand while I have strong feelings about the missing history of Decoration Day.

Anyway, for Grandma (originally posted on Memorial Day 2014):

Memorial, part 2

copyright 2014 Gene Breshears

Flowers for Grandma’s grave.

Grandma always called it by the older name, Decoration Day. As I’ve written before, the original holiday was celebrated in many states as a day to gather at the grave sites of your parents, grandparents, et cetera, to honor the memory of their lives. It was often a time of picnics and family reunions. At least as much a celebration of their lives as a time of mourning. The connection to military deaths didn’t happen until 1868, and particularly in the south, was often seen as a pro-Union, pro-war, anti-southern celebration.

I didn’t understand most of those nuances when I was a kid. The modern version of the holiday, celebrated on the last Monday in May, didn’t even exist until I was a fifth-grader, when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act went into effect.

Grandma observed it faithfully. Every year, as May rolled around, she would begin calling distant relatives and old family friends. Grandma knew where just about every person descended from her own grandparents was buried, and she made certain that someone who lived nearby was putting flowers on the graves of those relatives by Memorial Day. She took care of all the family members buried within a couple hours drive of her home in southwest Washington.

She was putting flowers on the grave of my Great-aunt Maud (Grandma’s sister-in-law) on the Friday before Memorial Day, 2007 when she died. My step-grandfather said he was getting in position to take a picture of her beside the grave and the flowers (there are hundreds and hundreds of photos of Grandma beside graves with flowers on them in her photo albums) when she suddenly looked up, said, “I don’t feel good!” and pitched over.

One weekend she had blown out the candles on the cake celebrating her 84th birthday. The following Friday, while putting flowers on Great-aunt Maud’s grave, she died. And one week after that a bunch of us were standing at her graveside. It was just down to a few family members, and we were at that stage where you’re commenting on how pretty the flowers that so-and-so that no one had heard from in years were, when someone asked, “Isn’t grandpa’s grave nearby?”

Grandpa had died 23 years earlier, and was buried in one of a pair of plots he and Grandma had bought many years before. And after Grandma re-married, she and our step-grandfather had bought two more plots close by.

Anyway, as soon as someone asked that, my step-grandfather’s eyes bugged out, he went white as a sheet, and said, “Oh, no!” He was obviously very distressed as he hurried toward his car. Several of us followed, worried that he was having some sort of medical issue.

Nope. He and Grandma had been driving to various cemeteries all week long before her death, putting silk-bouquets that Grandma had made on each relative’s grave. Aunt Maud’s was meant to be the next-to-the-last stop on their journey. Grandpa’s silk flower bouquet was still in the trunk of the car. My step-grandfather was beside himself. He’d cried so much that week, you wouldn’t have thought he could cry any more, but there he was, apologizing to Grandma’s spirit for forgetting about the last batch of flowers, and not finishing her chore—for not getting flowers on Grandpa George’s grave by Memorial Day.

The next year, several of us had the realization that without Grandma around, none of us knew who to call to get flowers put on Great-grandma and Great-grandpa’s graves back in Colorado. None of us were sure in which Missouri town Great-great-aunt Pearl was buried, let alone who Grandma called every year to arrange for the flowers. Just as we weren’t certain whether Great-great-aunt Lou was buried in Kansas or was it Missouri? And so on, and so on. One of my cousins had to track down the incident report filed by the paramedics who responded to our step-grandfather’s 9-1-1 call just to find out which cemetery Great-aunt Maud was in.

copyright 2014 Gene Breshears

Flowers from us, Mom, and my Aunt Silly on Grandpa’s grave.

Mom and her sister have been putting flowers on Grandma’s and Grandpa’s graves since. Our step-grandfather passed away three years after Grandma, and he was buried beside her.

Some years before her death, Grandma had transferred the ownership of the plot next to Grandpa to Mom. So Mom’s going to be buried beside her dad. Mom mentions it whenever we visit the graves, and I don’t know if she realizes how much it chokes me up to think about it.

We had put the flowers in place. We had both taken pictures. Mom always worries that she won’t remember where Grandpa’s grave is (it’s seared in my head: two rows down from Grandma, four stones to the south). Michael helped Mom take a wide shot picture that has both Grandma’s and Grandpa’s spots in it.

I thought we were going to get away with both of us only getting a little teary-eyeed a few times, but as we were getting back into the car, Mom started crying. Which meant that I lost it.

Grandma’s been gone for more than 10 years, now. But every time we drive down to visit Mom, there is a moment on the drive when my mind is wandering, and I’ll wonder what Grandma will be doing when we get there. And then I remember I won’t be seeing her. It took me about a dozen years to stop having those lapses about Grandpa. I suspect it will be longer for Grandma. After all, she’s the one who taught me the importance of Those Who Matter


Flowers from Mom and I on Grandpa's grave this year.

Flowers from Mom and I on Grandpa’s grave this year.

And if you are one of those people offended if I don’t mention people who served our country in the armed forces on this day, please note that we also put flowers on my Grandpa’s grave. Grandpa served in WWII in Italy. He didn’t drive a tank, he drove the vehicle that towed tanks that couldn’t be repaired in the field, and one of the two medals he was awarded in the war was for doing a repair of a tank while under fire. After the war, he came back to the U.S., met Grandma (who was at that point working as a nurse and trying to support her two daughters), and eventually married Grandma and adopted my mom and my aunt. Many years later, he was the person who taught me how to rebuild a carburetor (among other things). He was a hero many times over. And this post is also dedicated to his memory.

Why I hate hay fever reason #6529 (plus reason 3786 & 3113 & 2488 & 2149 & 1364, and don’t forget #47)

icanhascheeseburger.come

Except I’m too grumpy to remember to say please.

I was going to have a new entry in my why I love sf/f series today, but I needed to have time and energy to finish it Wednesday night, and that didn’t happen. I felt rotten all day Wednesday. I don’t want to get into all the symptoms, but not all of them are the sorts most people would associate with hay fever, and while some of them might happen if one has contracted the novel coronavirus…. and many weren’t. I didn’t have what any medical person (except my GP of more than 2 decades) would consider a fever—normally my body temperature ranges from 94-point-something to about 97-point-something if I’m not sick. My temperature very rarely goes above 98 unless I’m sick.

So for the last few days I had some weird symptoms, and yesterday they intensified and my temperature kept running above 98. And, as I said, I just felt bad overall. Very early after waking up I got some very stressful (and irritating) news at work, and the work day just kept getting more and more stressful. Wednesday is what I usually call my meeting hell day, anyway, with three half-hour meetings and two one-hour meetings every Wednesday (frequently running over), plus another one hour meeting on alternate Wednesday. Yesterday had the biweekly meeting plus an urgent extra meeting. And it was a day I was supposed to release a documentation set. Which means I’m trying to keep working during every meeting.

All of which contributed to the stress. And since the stress started so early in the day, there was no way to know how much of my feeling rotten was because of yet another day of moderate-high pollen count kicking my allergies up, how much because I had caught some kind of bug, and how much was because of the stress.

I got through the day. I hit my deadline. Some compromises were agreed to for some of the infuriating issues. And I was exhausted and still feeling rotten. I had planned to attend the Virtual Silent Reading Party again. What I actually did, after the takeout my husband picked up for us for dinner, was log into the party, then curl up with pillows and a blanket where I could hear the piano music…. and slept for a bit over four hours.

When I woke up, my temperature was back down to 97.3. I didn’t feel good, but I felt a whole lot less awful. I was awake for a while and tried to finish the blog post, but I just couldn’t string words together. This morning when I woke up, many of the symptoms had subsided. My temperature was 96.1. I felt much, much better.

The pollen count today is much lower today than yesterday.

The game that I usually wind up playing for the ten-ish months out of most years that pollen, spore, and/or mold counts are high enough to trigger my hay fever is “Cold or Allergies?” The first few days of even a severe cold are impossible to distinguish from a bad hay fever day. Because on a bad hay fever day I won’t just have sinus congestion and itchy eyes. I can have a cough. I can have gastrointestinal symptoms.

This year the game is “Cold, COVID, or Allergies?” And it’s just about every single day since early February. And it’s exhausting.

I still don’t know what was going on yesterday. Did I catch a bug when I went out to pick up a prescription a few days before? A minor virus that only took my body a couple of days to defeat? Was that plus the hay fever and the stress the whole explanation? Did I catch something worse than a minor virus, one that made me feel sick for a few days and now the symptoms are subsiding not because I’ve completely over come it. So am I contagious with whatever it is?

I don’t know. Fortunately since I’m already working from home, washing my hands a bazillion times a day, wearing a mask whenever I go out, and so forth, I’m not likely to infect anyone if I do have something, whatever it is…

Knock wood.

Confessions of the child of rednecks, or, not all kids had access to the same resources

This first dictionary I ever owned…

I want to talk about a personal sore point. Many times over the years I have made disparaging remarks about things other people did not know which I thought were common knowledge. I realize that I really shouldn’t. Especially because I get my own dander up when people are dismissive of any comments I have made about certain deficiencies in my own education which I am well aware of. One specific phenomenon is that there are words that I encountered in various books I read as a child, but it was many years later before I ever heard another human speak them outloud. I had been able to infer the meaning of the word from the context in which it was used. In my head I pronounced it based on what I thought the spelling implied. But sometimes I was wrong about that.

On more than one occasion when I have explained that (and trust me, I feel super embarrassed when I realize I have reverted to the incorrect pronunciation), someone has pointed out that the pronunciation is available in dictionaries. And that just makes me feel even more embarrassed but also more than a bit angry.

I am obsessed with dictionaries. I own more than five bookshelves of various dictionaries, for instance, and a rather large number of unabridged dictionaries. But here’s the thing: that’s me, as an adult pushing sixty who has had the luck to work in the tech industry for decades and make a decent living. I have access to dictionaries now, yes, but I didn’t always. And I am not, by any means, the only kid for which this is true.

I’ve mentioned before that my father worked in the petroleum industry, one consequence of which is that I attending ten different elementary schools in four different states. My dad’s specific job title throughout my elementary years was “roughneck.” The pay wasn’t great. It was a heavy labor job with no union benefits.

In second grade we moved from a town in central Colorado that had a really well-funded public school system to a town in southwest Nebraska which had a less advanced school system. The first day I got to go to the school library I saw that they had a large unabridged dictionary on a pedestal that was too tall for me to reach it. When I tried to get to it, the librarian stopped me and explained that only kids fourth grade and up were allowed to use that dictionary, because it was printed on very delicate paper that us clumsy second-graders would surely tear if we tried to use it.

I was so incensed that I wasn’t allowed to use the dictionary in the library, that I complained about it for many days after to anyone who would listen. My Sunday School teacher was so moved by my righteous outrage that she found the dictionary pictured up above. When she brought it to me, the spine was gone, but all the pages were there. She told me that this way I would have my own dictionary.

Mom helped me patch the broken spine with masking tape. The dictionary was not as thorough as the unabridged dictionary at the library. There are just a lot fewer words in that dictionary than the other. Also, most words had one simple definition, which means that for some words a lot of the less common meanings of words just weren’t included. Don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic to have a dictionary of my own. Unfortunately, many of the times I needed to consult it (when I found a word in something I was reading where I couldn’t deduce the meaning from context) the word I was curious about wasn’t in the book.

Mom bought this dictionary at a used bookstore.

A bit over a year (and three towns) later, Mom decided to get her GED. I’ve mentioned before that my parents were only 16 years old when they married. Mom dropped out of school after her junior year, because she was pregnant by then. Anyway, for the GED classes she was taking she needed a dictionary, and she decided that she should have one of her own, rather than swiping her son’s, so she bought that dictionary. For the next many years there were two dictionaries in the house. The one Mom bought wasn’t much better than the one I owned. But sometimes when a word wasn’t in one, it was in the other, so that was an improvement.

I didn’t get access to an unabridged dictionary until the second half of fourth grade. But even then, it was only when I could go to school library. The town we lived in for the next couple of years did not have a public library. So the school library was the only option.

And I know that there are many, many kids who had less access to those sorts of educational resources than I had. And on some level it doesn’t matter that many of us got better access when we are older, some things we learn as kids will occasionally surface when we get older.

So, sometimes our childhood deficiencies continue to bite us in the butt for decades later.

Back to the two dictionaries pictured above. Many years after getting that first dictionary, I carefully removed the horribly deteriorated masking tape and constructed a new spine with acid-free book tape. That’s my handwriting on the spine. Specifically, that is me trying my best to write legibly. Infer from that what you will about how sloppy my penmanship is.

Many, many years later, Mom mentioned that the dictionary she’d bought herself was the only one she owned, so for her next birthday I bought her a much more comprehensive Merriam-Webster dictionary. Some time after that, when we were visiting for a holiday or something, Mom brought out the old dictionary and said she never used it anymore because the newer one was much nicer. She was thinking of getting rid of the old one, but before she did, she wanted to offer it to me. Of course I took it.

I sometimes wonder just how much that incident in second grade when a librarian told me I wasn’t allowed to touch the unabridged dictionary has contributed to my obsession with dictionaries.

Who knows?

Talking to myself – it’s how some of us think, okay?

“If you see me talking to myself, do not disturb. I'm having a staff meeting.”

(Click to embiggen)

I don’t know how young I was, precisely, when my parents decided to talk to me about my imaginary friend. It was sometime before I started kindergarten, but I don’t know how long. I also don’t know if either of them thought I was already too old for that sort of thing, because the conversation very quickly went south, as I explained, quite emphatically, that I didn’t have an imaginary friend. I was talking, I said, to the voices in my head.

That was not a phrase my dad was at ALL happy to hear come out of his son’s mouth.

What I understood, even then, was that the voices were different parts of me. I was processing things by having a discussion with myself. I knew that the voices weren’t really voices. I knew that the voices were just different ways of looking at the situation I was thinking about or considering. I didn’t think that I was getting messages from god or something. I knew that all I was doing was thinking.

But I didn’t quite have the conceptual framework to explain that. So what my dad perceived was that I was confessing to suffering from severe delusions or some other mental illness… and you may recall from some earlier blog posts about my evil grandmother, Dad was raised by a woman who believed two contradictory myths about mental illness: 1) that it isn’t a real illness, and 2) mental illness was a form of immorality that was evidence of bad blood in a family. And my evil grandmother had opposed my parents’ relationship (and tried to engineer a divorce after they married many times), because she believed my mom’s family was nothing but bad blood (with the odd exception of one maternal great-grandmother that I have never quite unpacked).

In short, Dad went ballistic. I was never, under any circumstances, to tell another person about these voices! And if he caught me talking to myself in circumstances where anyone outside the immediate family heard, I would be punished. And yes, than means that several times over my elementary school career, I got a beating because a teacher mentioned at parent-teacher conference or report guard about me talking to myself at school or on the playground.

It wasn’t something I was doing on purpose. Being inside my head is like sitting in a crowded conference room. There are constant conversations going on inside there about everything from what I am seeing or listening to at the time, any number of work and personal projects, anything I have read recently, and so on.

No amount of shaming and beating would stop my brain from working that way.

I did become increasingly careful about trying to keep the conversations inside my head. To this day, under many circumstances, if someone overhears me talking to myself, I feel extremely embarrassed.

But inside my head, the committee just keeps going on.

And the voices have their own personalities, usually represented by taking on the voice of various actors/characters from various movies/TV shows/et cetera. Some have changed. For most of my childhood and well into my twenties, the practical and sensible voice sounded like Walter Cronkite. Somewhere around season three or four of Star Trek: the Next Generation that voice morphed into Patrick Stewart’s voice.

The most dramatic change was the voice that thinks most of the socially inappropriate and sexual innuendo-laden thoughts. From puberty until one particular fateful night in my late teens, the voice always sounding like comedic actor, Paul Lynde. Then, when two older friends took me to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time, suddenly that voice became Tim Curry as Dr Frank N Furter and it has never changed.

I started writing at a fairly early age, too (5 year old me tried to write a collection of stories based on my stuffed animals, entitled “Uncle Bunnys” {note misspelling} which thankfully is lost to the mists of time). And as I began creating my own stories, various characters I created became new voices in my head. And some of them love commenting on my real life, so I don’t just hear them when I’m thinking about stories or trying to write them.

They also, I should note, love to comment on the actions of fictional characters in any movie, show, or story that I take in.

The worst is when I am working on one of my one stories, and then a character of my own that doesn’t even exist in that world feels the need to chime in and tell the character I’m writing at the moment that they are doing it wrong. Whatever it is.

For many years I have had to warn new co-workers that when I’m deep in a problem, I mutter to myself a lot. And if the computer or software I’m working with (or something I’m reading) vexes me, my muttering swears like a sailor. One coworker I shared a cube wall with for a few years laughed when I warned him, “Join the club!” And yes, after that we got in the habit of commenting on each other’s muttered swearing when we heard it.

Some years ago when I was explaining this, someone asked how it was possible to think if there are voices always going on. I tried re-explaining that the voices were me thinking, but they didn’t quite get it. So I wound up asking a question that I’m sure he thought was me being flippant: “How on earth to you manage it without any voices?”

More seriously, I think the part I was failing to convey is that when I get in a groove on a task, most of the voices go quiet. I’ve made a decision and now I’m executing it.

I also realized that this might be why I’ve have always done a better job at writing or drawing or painting if I’m listening to music. It’s like any of the excess processing power my brain might otherwise use to second guess what I’m doing has been taken up with processing the song I’m listening to.

But that’s just a guess. In the end, it’s all just me.

And seriously, I have a hard time understanding sometimes how anyone whose brains don’t work this way manage to figure anything out.

Confessions of an urban transplant—or, conflicts in perceptual frameworks

“Don't know if I should laugh or facepalm”

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Earlier in the week I answered a question which had been posed elseweb in a post entitled, “Why do American right-wingers hate trains?.” That post had started life as a long answer that I almost sent as a comment on another person’s blog. The portion of the original comment which I turned into that 1000+ word post was much longer. Which is why I realized it really belonged on my blog. Among the things I cut out were a couple of anecdotes that illustrated some of my points. I’m not sure how informative these may be, but I think this one might be worth a few chuckles.

A few years ago I was riding the bus home from work and my cell phone rang. I looked at the screen and saw that it was a call from a relative I don’t hear from often. I declined the call, because I always feel self-conscious having a personal conversation in a place like the bus where total strangers can overhear (whether they want to or not). And often the bus environment is just loud enough that I can’t understand everything the other person is saying and they keep asking me to repeat myself because the background noise plus my aforementioned self-consciousness means they can’t hear me.

Once I was home, I called them back, leading with an explanation that I was sorry I hadn’t answered, but was afraid the bus was too noisy to have a conversation. The relative reacted with shock.

“Why are you riding the bus? What happened to your car? Were you in an accident? Is everyone all right?”

I explained that I have always used a combination of bus and walking to get to work.

“But why? You have a car!”

So I explained my reasons which are: 1) Not driving myself to the office every day means less wear-and-tear on the car; 2) Dealing with traffic can be stressful, and particularly after a stressful day at work it’s nice to let the bus driver deal with the traffic; 3) it is a whole lot cheaper to take the bus than to pay for downtown parking.

“Why can’t you just park your car at work?”

Then I had to explain that I could park my car in the garage under the office building if I wanted… but it isn’t cheap.

“Why are you working for someone who charges you to park at work?”

I proceeded to explain that, for one, my employer doesn’t own the building—they only rent a few floors of it. Two, if I do choose to park there monthly, my employer pays a portion of the cost, but not the whole thing, and the remainder is still quite a bit more than a bus pass. Three, there is no free parking in the downtown portions of most cities, because real estate is too valuable to have parking lot-sized portions of it not being used to generate income. Therefore, no matter who I worked for in Seattle, I’d be paying for parking.

“How expensive is it to park there?”

I told her how much (at that time) my portion of the cost would be each month to park in the building where I worked.

She whistled loudly. “That’s more than my mortgage payment! And that’s just to park your car for a month? How can that be?”

I wasn’t sure how she would react if I told her that the cost to park the car in that downtown garage for a month was less than one-tenth of the rent I was paying at that time for a two-bedroom apartment in another neighborhood. So this was when I said, “Things are more expensive in the city. But we shouldn’t be talking about my commute. You called me for a reason. What’s up?”

This is hardly the first time I have had a variant of that exact conversation with a relative or former classmate or old friend who still lives in one of the small towns or suburbs where various parts of my childhood occurred.

On a couple of occasions the conversation has included a long digression about how awful it must be to ride the bus, since the bus must be full of drug addicts and homeless people and the mentally ill and so on. When I say pleasant experiences on the bus far outweigh unpleasant ones they clearly have difficulty believing me.

And with some of the relatives/former classmates/old friends, if I explained how many unpleasant bus experiences (particularly in the first decade or so I was taking the bus) were because some not-homeless, not-mentally-ill, not-drugged-out guy suddenly suspected I was a faggot and deciding he needs to tell me how much he loathes my kind… well, that would have kicked off an entirely different kind of bewildered and awkward conversation.

The questions about buses and parking are relatively benign examples of a phenomenon that Foz Meadows very succinctly called an onion argument:

“When it comes to debating strangers with radically different perspectives, you sometimes encounter what I refer to as Onion Arguments: seemingly simple questions that can’t possibly be answered to either your satisfaction or your interlocutor’s because their ignorance of concepts vital to whatever you might say is so lacking, so fundamentally incorrect, that there’s no way to answer the first point without first explaining eight other things in detail.”

They illustrate a bigger problem. The frames of reference between rightwing folks and others is so disjoint that it’s really no surprise that we seem to be constantly talking past each other.

What to pick?

I had a different post that I thought I’d scheduled for today, but I saw that it was still in draft status and decided to reschedule for Monday because of another weird dream.

This is the second Sunday morning in a row where I have dreamed of the same friend who died two years ago. I figured it is worth sharing because I suspect other people’s subconsciouses are not that unlike mine.

Dream began with I and most of the friends I world normally expect to see at NorWesCon next weekend walking somewhere together. I think at first we were going to a grocery store, but then the trip morphed into a rendezvous with the friend who died for lunch.

We met her and wound up in a very long line to get to the order window of this odd little building that had big chalkboards outside with the menu on it. Being a dream, I couldn’t really read the menu. My other friends were all talking excitedly about the thing they were going to order, but I couldn’t quite understand what food each of them were talking about. And because the menu was unintelligible, I couldn’t figure out even what kind of food the place was offering.

So I asked her what she recommends.

“I can’t tell you what to pick.”

I repeated that I was asking for a recommendation.

“You have to pick what’s right for you.”

“But I can’t read the menu!”

“Life doesn’t come with a menu.”

And that’s when my alarm clock went out.

A little brain dead

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I started a blog post for today, but I’ve already clocked 53 hours this week, and couldn’t quite get things to gel in the idea I had. So I’m postponing it.

The company I work for counts as an essential business (I’ll just say that I’m in the telecommunications industry and one of the things we do is make sure that when you call 9-1-1 or whatever your country uses for summoning emergency services, we make sure your call gets to the correct emergency services center, and they know your current location. The fun part is I get to read scientific papers about satellite constellations for work sometimes.) so we’re still working and having to deliver products on time. And my department had two big product releases this week. But everyone is stressed and stretched thin even without the pandemic.

And I find it more than a little irritating that even with my changes in news viewing habits, I’m still seeing way more homophobic sh*t cross my timeline.

So this Friday Five is going to be… interesting…

I haven’t gotten much writing done since the beginning of Camp NaNoWriMo, but I have high hopes.

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