Tag Archive | personal

You can have my Andre Nortons when you pry them from my cold dead fingers, & other lessons of moving

Boxes, boxes everywhere!

I haven’t had much time for blogging (or writing, or editing) while we’ve been moving. And a huge part of the packing has involved books. We own (literally) thousands of books. Entire walls of some rooms in our place are lined with bookcases. There were mulitple bookcases in the bedroom and the hallway. Many shelves in each bookcase were double-packed: there was a second entire row of books behind the row of books you could see from the front. We had installed extra shelves in sever of the books so that now vertical space above rows of paperback books would be wasted. And then, of course, because we’re both that kind of reader, there were big piles of book-to-be-read beside the bed on each side–one for me, one for my husband.

Before we knew where we were moving to, we decided to use this opportunity to cull some of the collection. This would have been an absolute necessity if we were moving to a smaller place, but we also knew it was a good idea. There are always books that you realize you’re never going to read again, for instance, that have stayed on the shelf for years through inertia.

I had done most of the book packing until recently. Deciding which books to definitely keep, and setting others aside from my hubby to review. If he didn’t want to keep it, either, then we had to decide whether the book would go the the charity we’ve been shipping many to (Books Through Bars), or elsewhere. The first several shelves I did were a bit difficult, as I had hem and haw over half the books before deciding. But after a while (and having carried enough boxes of books to start appreciate just how much heavy toting was going to be involved in keeping all those books) I got faster at making the decision.

I didn’t quite realize I had done this until last weekend. My husband had recovered enough from the surgery that he was able to stand for longer periods, so he was going through bookcases in one room while I was working in another. And he keep interrupting me to show me a few books that he was dithering over.

I realized that he was earlier in the process than I was, but also that he was thinking of it differently. It was like he thought we had to reach a consensus on books as we went along. So I explained how I’d gotten to the point where I look at the book, and if I feel an immediate, “Yes, we’re keeping this!” I put it in the box. If not, I put it in the pile for my husband. And that’s it. I wasn’t holding up packing he current box in front of me until we’d made a decision. My idea was, as long as one of us wanted to keep it, that was good enough. I didn’t need to agree with every book he wanted to keep, nor did he have to agree with mine. “You can tell me I have to come look at the pile when you’re done.”

I did confess a couple of my other rules, though. One of which inspired the title of this post: “Even if I don’t remember the book, if Andre Norton wrote it, we’re keeping it.” She’s just one of those authors whose books really moved me when I was young, and every time I’ve gone back and re-read one, I’ve loved it all over again. There are other authors in that category, but only a few.

I have to admit if you had asked me during my teens or twenties who my favorite author was (and I did get asked), Norton wasn’t who I mentioned. It was only later, one of the times I had to move in my 30s (actually, I think it was when I and my ex- were dividing property, and the books got contentious), that I realized that I had a much stronger emotional reaction to the idea of not keeping a Norton than I did to pretty much any other author.

Of course, not all of the culling in the move involves books. Nor is it always emotional. The other night when I got home from work my husband said he had four boxes he’d pulled down from a shelf in he back closet that I needed to look at. They were full of papers. Most of the papers were hardcopies of material that had been published in the ‘zine I edited for over 20 years. The material has all been published and is available for purchase in multiple places. And a lot of these papers were copies marked up by editors. No reason to have held on to them this long, truth be told. One box had a bunch of things I worked on back in my teens and twenties. I pulled exactly three things out, and then carried the four boxes outside and put all the rest of the contents in the big recycle bin.

The next night while I was going through some other shelves in a closet, I pulled out two plastic file boxes. Now, I thought that those two boxes contained a bunch of records and legal papers. Tax records from years ago, for instance, and copies of my court documents related to my name change. Neither box contained anything like that. They were instead filled with hard copy markups of more edits and revisions source material for the shared universe of the ‘zine I used to edit. All stuff that had either already been entered into computer files and then published, or otherwise hadn’t been needed for years. But there they had sat for all that time, taking up space. So I made yet another trip out to the recycle bins!

There was a point when my husband was laughing about finding some notes from Dungeons & Dragons campaigns he was in or ran before he moved out to the west coast (so back in the 80s). So a bit later when I came across a pocket-sized ring-binder I had forgotten existed and said, “Hey! I have you beat!” He interrupted and said, “Oh, I have several little ones like that.” So I had to explain it wasn’t the notebook, but the contents. I showed him the first page (which was barely readable because of how the pencil marks had faded): “My first D&D character that survived more than a couple of games. Created in 1977, before Advanced Dungeons & Dragons even existed.”

I know it’s ageist, but sometimes the fact that I’m ten years older than him does figure into things. I was a teenager when the original D&D came out, and still a teenager when AD&D was released and took over gaming. While he was still in grade school.

And no, I didn’t keep the notebook. It’s gone!

Now, if only I could get rid of the steel filing cabinets we no longer need so easily…

They’re just things, that’s what we keep saying…

Picture of my tacky christmas ferris wheel decoration

Silly, tacky, with tinny music — and I Ioved it!

Humans form attachments to other people, to animals, to possessions, to places, et cetera. This tendency to become fond of things has been shown in various contexts to actually have survival value. But we don’t just form these attachments for practical reasons. Emotions are, by definition, not rational. And we can have conflicting feelings about things. Take, for instance, my tacky Christmas ferris wheel. It was a gift from my friend, Kats, who shares my fondness for certain types of kitsch. Her wife, like my husband, does not share this particular interest, and they both do a lot of eye-rolling at our taste in decorations.

The plastic ferris wheel is battery powered, and it had two modes: it could light up and the wheel would turn slowly. The ferris cars rock on the wheel, and the wheel has always been a little bit jerky in its motion, so the little plastic snowmen and penguins and beers and reindeer seemed to be waving cheerfully as the wheel turn. In the other mode you got the lights, the rotating wheel, and you got tinny versions of Christmas carols. It was like a dream come true for me, and my husband’s worst Christmas nightmare all in one!

I’ve had it for years. Every Christmas season since Kats gave it to me, I’ve unpacked it along with the ornaments we’re using that year, put batteries in it, turned it on to listen to the music at least once through its medley, then put it somewhere in the living room where I could see it. I would turn the ferris wheel on silent mode a few more times (since the music really annoys my husband). And I would turn the music on at least one more time before taking the batteries out and packing it away with the other ornaments.

Over the years there have been a few glitches. Pieces have broken off and had to be glued back on. One bit of fence broke off several times and eventually I had to admit that it was more glue than plastic and it couldn’t really be put back together. (Side note: in a testament to how awesome my husband is, he did spend some time trying to scan the broken bits to see if he could 3D print me a replacement.) One time a few years ago when I turned it on the ferris wheel wouldn’t turn. My husband fiddled with it and got it working again, but it was always with a more jerky motion than before. The motor was always loud enough to hear from across the room even when the music was playing. And over time the motor sound has gotten louder.

Then this last Christmas, when I put batteries in and turned it on, the lights came on, the motor made its usual sound, the wheel turned jerkily… and the music started to play, then glitched, then played a bit more, then glitched, and started to sound a bit off key. I thought maybe the batteries I put in were nearly dead, so I swtiched them out. Nope. The sound chip was definitely dying.

I set the ferris wheel up, because it’s still cheerful looking, and put off the decision of whether to keep or dispose of it until the end of the Christmas season.

Then we got the first official notification from the new owners of our building that they weren’t going to be raising anyone’s rent, no, they were going to evict all of us. They were applying for permits to do a major renovation to the building, and needed everyone out. They have a guesstimate it would be May or so when they would need everyone to go (once they got the permit process going, we got more official communication and a somewhat more certain timeline). That’s why, when I put the Christmas decorations away this last year, I pulled out all of the containers of decorations (we have way more than we can use in a given year), and went through them selecting stuff to get rid of. I reduced our collection by a bit (though we still have way too much). The ferris wheel, clearly, needed to go.

Except I wasn’t ready to let it go, just yet.

So, I didn’t pack it away nor throw it out. I moved it to the bookcase over by my favorite chair. It’s not Christmas time, but I don’t care. The ferris wheel gets to stay until we leave, I decided. Then it will be retired for good.

We have professional movers scheduled to come deal with the heavy furniture and whatever else we haven’t moved ourselves in about 10 days. So the ferris wheel’s end is looming. It’s just a thing. And as I recall, Kats said she bought it at a second hand place, so I’ve definitely gotten her money’s worth out of it. And my poor, long-suffering husband has already told me he’s going to buy me a new tacky Christmas thing to replace it this next year. So I shouldn’t feel too sad about it going. I am a little amused at myself to realize that some of my anger at the new owners (evicting everyone regardless is the least annoying thing they’ve done; there will be catty snarky blog posts about it eventually, but not now) has become focused on a few weird possessions.

The truth is that I probably would have gotten rid the the ferris wheel once the chip died even if we weren’t trying to reduce our hoard before me move. But I find myself blaming its demise on the new owners of the building. And maybe it’s a good thing to have something concrete to focus the annoyance on, you know? The ferris wheel, the tacky hanging lamp (I’ll talk about that after the move for… reasons), the rose trellises, and so forth are better ways to expend that kind of negative energy than some of the alternatives.

Right?

Da, DA, da-da-da-DAAAA-da, da-da-da-DAAAA-da, dut-dut-da-daaaaaa! I love sf/f soundtracks

These fabulous two-disc sets have been in my collection for some time. I only yesterday realized I'd never imported them to my iTunes library!

These fabulous two-disc sets have been in my collection for some time. I only yesterday realized I’d never imported them to my iTunes library!

I saw the original Star Wars on opening night. I’ve written a few times before of being a 16-year-old geeky/nerd and my slightly older geek/nerd friends who always heard about every obscure genre movie before anyone else did who drove me down to a big theatre in a suburb of Portland, Oregon to see this thing… and it was awesome. The very next day we gathered up a bunch of our nerdy friends and made another trip to go see it. I immediately became one of the world’s biggest Star Wars fans. That summer, the soundtrack came out of vinyl, so I had to buy the album. The show was such an incredible surprise blockbuster, that someone made a disco single versions of the theme that became a number one hit. A bunch of my nerdy friends spent the summer touring with the evangelical teen choir of which I was technically a member (but was not deemed worthy to go—the ins and outs of that and how it was influenced by people’s suspicions I was queer is worthy of some separate posts, but not today). And I had a very hard time getting a couple of them to listen to the album when they got back, because they’d all heard the awful disco song on the radio.

But once I got them to listen, they all loved it, too.

I played that album a lot. But vinyl records lose fidelity over time because each time you play them the physical needle that has to run through the groove to vibrate because of the shape of the groove and translate those microvibrations into sound also wears the groove smooth, slowing destroying the sound. I played it enough that, a few years later when the second movie came out and I bought the soundtrack album for it, I could hear the difference in some of the repeated themes, and bought myself a fresh copy of the first album, played it once to make a cassette tape, and put it away. I also made a tape of the Empire Strikes Back soundtrack and stopped listening to the vinyl album. I listened to both cassettes often enough that eventually I had to get the albums out again to make fresh tapes.

And yes, eventually I ended up with a vinyl version of the soundtrack for Return of the Jedi. For many years after that, I would only occasionally play the vinyl albums, relying instead on the homemade cassette copies when I wanted to listen to them. I did this with a number of sci fi movie and TV series soundtracks through the 80s and early 90s: buy the vinyl album listen at least once while I made a cassette copy, then put the album carefully away and listened to the cassette as often as I liked. And I really enjoyed listening to the music for movies and other shows that I loved.

And then along came compact discs. I started buying new music on disc, and as I could afford it, if I found CD versions of favorite old albums, I would buy them. At some point in this period of time, I found a disc that was titled, “The Star Wars Trilogy” as recorded by the Utah Symphony Orchestra (the originals had all been done by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John Williams) for a very reasonable price, and I bought it.

In 1997, 20 years after the original release of the first movie, a set of three 2-disc Special Edition sets of the soundtracks for all three of the original Star Wars movies were released, so I finally picked up the full soundtracks on CD. These sets had considerably more music than had been included in the old vinyl albums. They had also been remastered. Each of the discs was printed with holographic images of the Death Star and other ships from the universe. Each set came with a mini hardbound book with notes about the music. They were cool. I listened to them fairly frequently for a few years.

When I first acquired what they called at the time a Personal Digital Assistant (a Handspring Visor, to be specific), it came with a disc of software to help synchronize your calendar and contacts with your Windows computer. When I upgraded a couple years later, the new disc of software included a copy of Apple’s new music manager, iTunes (the Windows version), which you could use to put music on your PDA. At the time I often listened to music while working on computer by pulling discs out of a small shelf unit I kept in the computer room and stuck in a boombox we kept in there. The little shelf held only a subset of my library, as the rest of our discs were in a much bigger shelf unit in the living room next to the main stereo. So I grabbed some of the discs from the small shelf, stuck them in the CD drive on my Windows tower, and let them get imported into iTunes. That was the original core of my current iTunes library, from which I created my first playlists—imaginatively named “Writing,” “Writing Faust,” “Writing II,” “Layout An Issue,” and “Writing III.” And several tracks from the aforementioned knock-off Star Wars Trilogy disc were included, because that was the only Star Wars music disc I kept in the computer room at the time.

Many years later, I usually listen to music from my iPhone. I had thought that I had imported all of my music from disc into the iTunes library years ago, and most of the time I buy music as downloads, now. I have new playlists which include the Star Wars theme or the Imperial March. So I thought it was all good. I hadn’t gone out of my way to listen to the entire soundtracks of the original movies in years. I have continued to buy new soundtracks for movies I love. I tend to listen to them for a while, and then pick some favorite tracks that go into playlists.

Because of some articles I was reading about the upcoming films in the Star Wars franchise, I decided that I should re-listen to the original soundtrack, and was quite chagrined to discover that, even though I thought my entire iTunes library was currently synched to my phone, all that I had was the knock-off album. (And the wholly downloaded soundtracks from The Force Awakens and Rogue One.) I was even more chagrined when I got home and couldn’t find the original albums in my iTunes library on either computer.

So I went to the big shelf of CDs in the living room (which my husband was actually in the middle of packing), and snagged the three two-disc Star Wars soundtrack sets and carried them up to my older Mac Pro tower (because it still has an optical disc drive). I now finally have the albums on my iPhone. Sometime after we finish the move, I’ve going to have to go through playlists to replace the versions from the knock-off album with the authentic score. Because, that’s what I should be using!

Also, clearly, after we’re all unpacked at the new place, I need to go through the rest of the discs and see what other music which I thought was in my library is still sitting trapped in a physical disc which never gets used any more so I can import them to the computers. I mean, our stereo doesn’t even have a disc player!

Personal update: We’re moving to Shoreline

The Junk Lady from Labyrinth. © 1986 Henson Associates, Inc.

The Junk Lady from Labyrinth–which is sometimes how I think other people perceive me and all my collections. © 1986 Henson Associates, Inc.

I’ve mentioned a few times about our building being sold and our need to move. We had some timing complication because of my husband’s surgery and the medical issue necessitating the surgery, plus the way the housing market has gone insane in Seattle. We were being charged far, far, far under market for a number of years without realizing it. And while we’ve looked at a lot of places, there were issues. Most of them being that the place was too small for us and our stuff. And if the place wasn’t too small it was so far out there that the commute made it as economically unfeasible as staying in our old neighborhood.

We found a place last weekend which was big enough, in our price range, and not too far away. It’s in an older building and the neighborhood isn’t as nice as our current one (not that’s it’s horrible, it’s just more suburban mall/strip mall and less home town enclave hiding in a city). We applied, they asked us to come back and put down a deposit, because of the mulitiple applications they’d taken, we were the ones the manager wanted, but he needed to wait for the background checks to complete and the owner to give an okee-dokee. So we’ve been kind of in suspense all week. Yesterday, we signed the lease and got keys. I guess this is happening!

I slapped some stars on this google maps screen shot image to show approximately where I've lived in the nearly 32 years in Seattle. Click to embiggen

I slapped some stars on this google maps screen shot image to show approximately where I’ve lived in the nearly 32 years in Seattle. Click to embiggen

I’ll be posting more about the new place, I’m sure. I need to go load some things in the car and get moving, so I’ll keep this brief, at least for me. One of the things that I’m finding myself oddly disturbed about this move is that the new place is not within the boundaries of the City of Seattle. I moved to Seattle 31 and a half years ago to attend university. The first couple of years I lived in dorm rooms at Seattle Pacific on the north side of Queen Anne (which is both a named hill in the city and the name of the neighborhood encompassing it). That put me just two city blocks away from the Ship Canal, which separates the north and south geographic clumps of the city. The next couple of places I lived were duplexes near the same university. Then I moved all the way to the south side of the same hill to sublet a condo near the Opera House. Then Ray and I lived in a small studio in Fremont, exactly one block north of the aforementioned Ship Canal. We moved to a barely larger one-bedroom apartment in the very same building for a few years, before finally moving to the four-plex in Ballard—a whopping 8 blocks north of the Ship Canal.

Not only have I been living only in Seattle the last 31+ years, but you can see on the map I slapped-together from a Google maps screen shot and some extra stars, it’s all been in a fairly small part of the city. I’m really familiar with all the stores and restaurants and so forth in this vicinity. I’ve mentioned several times how nice it is that be only two-four city blocks away from two different supermarkets, one of with (Ballard Market Town & Country) I’ve been shopping at for at least 30 years.

The blue star is approximately the location of our new place.

The blue star is approximately the location of our new place.

Now people familiar with the area might point out the the City of Shoreline is barely out of Seattle. The two smoosh up against each other. Most of the border runs along major thoroughfares, so one side of a street is Seattle, the other side Shoreline. And it’s true, Shoreline is practically next door. But we’re barely in Shoreline. We’re all the way at the far side of it, just five blocks from the border to the next neighboring city, Edmonds. Which coincidentally means were five blocks from the border between King County and Snohomish County.

I’m deeply steeped in Seattle politics and was really looking forward to the next round of city council and mayor elections this coming fall. Except by then, while I will still be working in Seattle, I’ll no longer be able to vote there. I have to get used to a whole new set of election tropes! At least I’m still voting for King County Executive and a councilmember (though I’ve been in District 4 forever, and now we’ll be in District 1).

Anyway, I’ve spent longer on this than I meant. I have loading to do!

Confessions of a guy who likes the rain

Cat with coffee mug

I’ll be fine if you just give me my coffee… and my snacks… and my allergy meds… and… and… and…

So one of my co-workers had been working for the same employer in an office on the east coast, and decided to move to Seattle and work in our group. She’s been here since mid-summer, and it’s been quite an experience trying to explain Seattle weather to her. Yesterday she was asking why summer hasn’t already started, because a daytime high of 48ºF with lots of drizzling and some rain with sun breaks in April seems absurd to her. I hadn’t realized that each of the times she had come out to work in our office for several days over the last few years had always been in August. I tried to explain how our summer doesn’t really start until about July 12, and so forth, which seemed to astound her. I think maybe she thinks we’re all pulling her leg or something. I mentioned that I like the rain, and really don’t like our typical August weather at all.

My walk home later that day was fun and weird. It was raining, but the sun was also out, so I had to put on my sunglasses. When I got to the corner, where our office building was no longer acting as a wind break, I found out it was really windy. At the next corner I swear a whirlwind touched down on me and threatened to sweep me away. The rain got much more intense as I walked the third block… and then it turned to sleet. I had sleet for about three blocks, with the wind buffeting me from many directions. The wind is particularly weird now because of my new hat, which has a much broader brim than my old broad-brimmed hat. So the amount of lift it was putting on my head was disturbing.

And I should mention that even when the rain and sleet were coming down hardest, the sun was still shining right in my eyes, since it was close to the horizon and there were blue skies visible there.

The sleet let up to just a light drizzle by the time I was at about the 11th block of my walk, and the wind shifted to a fairly steady breeze coming straight out of the north—right in my face.

The rest of the walk home (about 4 miles total) was breezy with occasional drizzles. The sun was just dipping below the horizon (but the sky was still lit nicely) when I got to the house.

The new hat, by the way, didn’t let any water reach my head. Some of my previous hats would have been soaked and my head would have at least been damp by then.

Seattle weather is like that a lot—by which I mean, weird mixes of things that change quickly throughout the day or that just change from one neighborhood to the next. One of the consequences of this is that I own several different coats and jackets. This was another part of the co-worker’s disbelief: she’s used to owning one heavy coat for winter, and a light jacket for the fall. She was freaked out at how many different types of raincoat she tried (and returned) before she found one she liked last fall. And now neither of her three coats work, because it will be too cold for the light coat or rain coat when she leaves the house in the morning, but too warm for the heavy coat when she goes out for lunch in the middle of the day. I and several co-workers said (almost simultaneously) “That’s why everyone in Seattle wears layers.”

I have several coats. My heavy winter coat, which is leather and has a hood and that I waterproof regularly (and also has a removable extra liner) gets me through several months from the late fall through winter. I start wearing it without the liner mid-fall, add the liner about a month later, then take out the liner around the end of January. Then I have a medium jacket, which is puffy and insulated and looks like it might be for colder weather than the coat, but because it only covers my torso is inadequate for winter. Well, not totally. It gets worn on weekends a lot during the winter when I’m only out of the house to go shopping or visit friends and mostly driving rather than walking and busing. The jacket works for part of fall and a bit of spring. Then I have a lighter jacket that still has some insulation. It tends to take over around April and is the jacket I wear until about June. And then there is a light windbreaker style jacket with a hood that gets carried around in my backpack starting in late May or June and usually through September because you often need a jacket for part of the day during those months.

When we were out looking at apartments (again) on Saturday, I wore the medium coat, and regretted it because it was too heavy for how warm it was. So I switched to the lighter coat Sunday, when I ran out to buy a money order because the property manager of the apartment we put in an application for called and asked us to bring the deposit the next day. Finding a place to sell me a money order using a debit card on a Sunday was more of an adventure than I expected, in part because of that switch in coats. When I switched, I wasn’t diligent about moving things from the medium jacket to the light one, so my emergency granola bar I always carry in case I have a glycemic crash wasn’t in my pocket. Because I’m on timed-released or long acting insulin, I have to have small snacks of meals every couple of hours, or my blood sugar drops too low and I have a glycemic crash.

For me, glycemic crashes mean my mood gets weird, I usually get a headache, and my brain just doesn’t work right. The problem is that the low blood sugar headache feels just like a hay fever headache, so if I don’t realize it’s been longer since my last snack or meal then I think, or notice that my fingers are trembling if I hold my hand up, I don’t realize what’s going on.

I won’t go into all the details of finding out I couldn’t get a money order from debit at the first place I went, or the rude customer in line in front of me, and so on. But what should have been a clue was that once I had the money order in hand, there at a counter at the second place, with my wallet in my other hand, I had this thought that I shouldn’t put the money order in the wallet because I might lose it if I didn’t keep my eye on it. So I walked out to the car clutching the money order very tightly in my hand, and only when I was inside the car and needed both hands to operate the vehicle, did I decide I should put the money order in a pocket or something. All of the pockets seemed like a bad idea, and I finally remembered I could put it in the wallet. Which I did.

When I’d left the house, Michael had asked me to pick up a very specific brand of juice. Instead of stopping at the grocery store on my way back with the money order, I drove right past it and was just pulling up in front of the house when I remembered the juice. So I went back to the store, parked in the garage under the store, grabbed a shopping bag from the bag of the car, and ran upstairs. It was while I was having trouble finding the juice that I finally realize that I was in the middle of a glycemic crash, so once I found the juice, I grabbed a cold bottle of thai iced coffee, which would give me both caffeine and some much needed carbs, and headed to the front of the store.

All of the registers were open except the express line, and they all had really long lines. So I ran down to the self serve checkout. I’d scanned my items and was feeling around in my pockets for my wallet. Which wasn’t there. I had to cancel my transaction, which meant the clerk monitoring the whole section had to scan her card in and authorize the cancelation. I told her that I seemed to have left my wallet in the car. She said, “It happens to everyone. You want me to keep these up here for you?” I thanked her and ran down to the car.

And I couldn’t find the wallet.

The wallet with all my usual wallet things plus, today, a very large money order. I was trying not to panic. I pulled out my phone to fire up the Tile app and ping my wallet, hoping that it had just fallen on the floor of the car and rolled under a seat or something. I hadn’t quite gotten the app up when, because I was leaning into the car slightly differently, I saw where the wallet had bounced when, apparently, I had tossed it at the passenger seat after putting the money order in it. I hadn’t slipped it back into my pocket because by that point I had strapped myself in (don’t ask me why after pulling the wallet from my pocket while sitting in the car but before I put it back I had decided to put my seat belt on, making the pocket inaccessible; my brain wasn’t working right, see above). I grabbed the wallet, ran back upstairs and only when I got to the clerk did I realize I’d left my shopping bag behind.

I paid for my purchases and was on my way out when I saw another clerk who had helped me earlier and I had seen dealing with an unreasonable customer, and I stopped to thank her for her help before and hoped she was having a better day.

Back at the car I drank down the coffee drink so I would start to get my blood sugar back where it ought to be. I strapped in, turned on the car, checked all my mirrors, looked over both shoulder, and put the car into gear. I heard an immediate crash and the car jolted funny. I stomp on the brake, put the car back in park, and looked around. There was no other vehicle. No sign of anything that I had hit or had hit me. I turned off the car, suddenly remembering that I had seen someone walking by as I was starting the vehicle, and had a complete panic that I had actually hit a person who was currently trapped under the car.

So I jumped out and ran around the car.

Nothing.

I took a deep breath and squatted down to get a better view under the car. I slowly circled the car again, looking under at several locations. Nothing and no one was under the car, thanks goodness. I circled again looking for scratches or dents on the fenders and such. Still nothing.

I took another deep breath and held up my hands. My fingers were still trembling, but not as badly, so my blood sugar was coming back up. I climbed into the car. I opened up my Breathe app on my Apple Watch and went through a cycle with it. Half of the reason was to just not move for a minute and let my blood sugar keep improving. I started the car, foot firmly on the brake. I looked carefully around. And then I hurt the crash again. I turned up the volume on the stereo. We keep an old iPod (really old) in the car plugged into the car stereo set to random play. It is loaded with a bunch of my music and a bunch of Michael’s music. There’s a particular They Might Be Giant’s track that has a lot of these dramatic orchestral blasts that sound a lot like a crash.

I remembered that sometimes, if I take the Subaru out of Park and let my foot slip from the brake before it gets all the way to reverse, that the transmission does this little thing that makes the car wiggle just a bit, once. I had apparently managed to set off the wiggle at exactly the same moment that one of the musical crashes happened, when the stereo was turned down so that I could hear only some of the music, and not realize what was happening. So I hadn’t run over anyone or hit something.

I drove home. I told my hubby of my misadventures while he had juice and I ate a yogurt. When gathered things up, I swapped laundry loads, I tested my blood sugar and made certain I had a granola bar in the jacket pocket.

And then we headed out to pay our deposit and get on with the day.

I didn’t make as many runs to Value Village as I would like, but otherwise, the rest of Sunday was great.

Not fooling around with my goals this year!

“Keep Calm and Achieve Your Goals”

When I set my goals for this year, I pledged to do monthly updates. Mostly because I’ve done a better job achieving those goals during the years that I did the updates. So, how did I do in March?

My specific tasks for March were:

  • At this point it’s time to just pack everything, so pack! We’ve been packing. There are boxes stacked everywhere.
  • Get the new living situation sorted. We’ve contacted a number of property managers, but haven’t gotten a place nailed down.
  • Make reasonable progress on writing/editing knowing that the above is going to eat up most of our available time.I got a small amount done, but not much.
  • Disconnect from the internet at least one night each week. I managed to do this every week!
  • Write at least two blog posts about things I like. I gave myself a lower number for this month because I figured with the packing and trying to find a new place I wouldn’t have as much time to write or blog. I still managed to beat this number by writing four posts about things I like!

My overall goals for the year, where I’m trying to follow the idea of replacing bad habits with better ones:

Don’t get mad, get busy. My tasks are: write about about things I love; listen to music and audiobooks more and podcasts less; spend at least half of my lunch break writing; set specific monthly writing/editing goals in each check-in; write at least one blog post a month about organizations we can donate to that are fighting the good fight.

I did fairly well on this one.

Reduce, pack, and prioritize. We now officially know that we have to find a new place to live this year. We have lots of stuff to go through and decide what to discard and what to pack.

Packing, hauling, getting rid of stuff continued apace. My hubby found a great charity to ship a lot of our books to. That helps me feel better about getting rid of them.

Take care of us. My initial tasks are related to some specific medical things that aren’t urgent, but need to be dealt with. I am going to remain vague on the details of this one.

My husband had his surgery and I tried to play nurse. He’s recovering, and it’s a great relief to get this taken care of before the move!

Submit and publish. Initial task was to organize how I’m going to find calls for submission and set reasonable targets for the novel revision/finalization.

I worked on three submissions. Got one done. I’m frankly amazed at the amount of progress I did make this time given everything else.


Finally, my specific tasks for March are:

  • Pack and move!
  • Pack and move.
  • Squeeze some writing time in somehow.
  • Remember to have fun at NorWesCon (whether we attend the whole weekend or not).
  • Write at least two blog posts about things I like.

Sleep disturbances

Kitten in a blanket.

I just want to stay under the covers.

There are some medications I’ve been put on at one time or another which list “sleep disturbances” as a possible side effect. That’s an interesting phrase, isn’t it? It conjures up images ranging from insomnia—staring at the clock in the wee hours of the morning wondering desperately if you will ever sleep—to slightly less insidious things—such as a kitten crawling into your bed in the middle of the night and waking you up briefly. Of course, anyone who has owned cats will tell you that having a cat decide that they are more important than sleep can be a nightmarish ordeal that is in many ways worse than mere insomnia.

The first time I was put on a medication which listed this side effect was for an extremely bed sinus-throat-and-ear infection I got some years ago. In addition to a standard antibiotic, my doctor described a steroidal nasal spray. He mentioned casually that sometimes patients have trouble sleeping when they first start taking this. The pharmacist who talked to me when I picked it up said that people often have sleep disturbances. The only person who actually warned me on what to expect was on online friend, who said, “Oh, no! Whenever I was put on that stuff, I had horrible vivid extremely disturbing dreams!”

I didn’t have nightmares that first night. What I had was first an extremely vivid dream in which I was trying to put up new shelves in the apartment I lived in at the time, while my late husband, Ray, was working on a quilt. And it was vitally important that we get these tasks done before someone arrived, and things just kept going wrong. I woke up with my heart pounding and feeling extremely angry at a screwdriver that kept transforming into the wrong kind of tool. It took me several minutes to untangle my thoughts and realize that I had been dreaming. It wasn’t real. It was irritating, but not scary.

And that was what they meant by sleep disturbances. Not an occasional temporary interruption of a good night’s rest, but a string of bizarre and emotionally overwrought dreams that propelled you out of bed confused and temporarily convinced that you had entered the twilight zone. In other words, something much more like being pestered by several deranged pets all night long.

The next time that a different medication with the same side effect was prescribed, my regular pharmacist asked if I had been on this particular thing before and if I knew what the label meant when it said “sleep disturbances.” With a slight sense of dread, I described the nights of weird dreams. “Yep!” she said, with a bit more cheerfulness than it deserved. “That’s usually what happens. Not scary dreams, just weird ones that leave you feeling strange and keep waking you up. Not much you can do, though they’re usually worst the first couple of nights.”

I realize that side effects can vary from person to person. And I also know that people don’t always describe the effects they feel the same way. But still, sleep disturbances didn’t really prepare me for what happened. On the other hand, my regular pharmacist was correct. Each time I’ve been on one of these meds, the bizarre dreams were worst for the first couple of days, and then became a bit more normal for the rest of the time I’m on the medication. Not complete going away, mind you, just less awful.

The same warning pamphlets usually also mention mood changes, or irritability, or lack of interest in sex as possible side effects. All of which, by my experience, are euphemisms for “Your emotions are doing to be wildly unpredictable for days!” A friend who has depression was once put on the same prescription strength nasal spray that my doctor has been fond of giving me for sinus infections lately (different than the first one I mentioned in this post), but no one warned him about possible mood-altering side effects. Or, I should say, whatever warning his doctor or pharmacist gave, did not communicate to him the possibility that his depression would be amplified to previously unplumbed depths. Fortunately, it occurred to him after several days of feeling much worse than usual to ask around. As he said afterward, it would have been nice if the warning had been clearer. Because it’s a lot easier to deal with extra depression (or other effects) if you know it’s coming.

Sometimes the sleep disturbances are just weird dreams. Unfortunately I’m a sleep walker and talker. So sometimes I have woke up in a violent rage about something, talking very loudly and angrily about someone. Usually just identified by pronoun. This wakes up my poor husband. I mention the pronoun thing because, usually the dreams that drive me to angrily leap out of bed don’t stick with me. What I mean is, by the time I’m awake enough to realize it’s a dream and answer Michael’s questions about what’s wrong, I can’t remember the details.

I’m writing about this now because currently I have a sinus infection (along with a chest cold and a nasty cough). I’m on antibiotics for the sinus infection, and since there’s a lot of mucous in my lungs, I’m also using an inhaler a couple times a day, and some prescription cough syrup (which I’m only using at bed time). The inhaler and the cough syrup both cause sleep disturbances. And I’ve had some weird dreams. I can’t decide whether the most annoying one so far was the one where my husband and I were trying to do something but our luggage kept vanishing and reappearing, or the one where it started out with us helping his father (who I am very fond of) do something, but then it morphed into helping my father (who I was not fond of at all while he was alive).

I just hope the cough gets better soon, so I can stop using the cough syrup and the inhaler. I’d rather just be dealing with the antibiotic for the rest of the week, you know?

She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness — more of why I love sf/f

Anthony Head, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Brandon Nicholas, Allison Hannagan and James Marsters from a BtVS publicity shot.

Anthony Head, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Brandon Nicholas, Allison Hannagan and James Marsters from a BtVS publicity shot.

I am one of the biggest, craziest Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans you will ever meet. But I wasn’t always one. I saw the original movie when it came out, and thought it was very funny. There were some things I didn’t like about it, but it was a good laugh and a fun inversion of the typical teen horror film. Then a few years later I heard they were making a television series out of it, and I was certain it would be very bad. My late husband, Ray, watched it from the beginning when it started airing as a midseason replacement in March of 1997 and told me it was awesome. At the time, it aired on a night when I frequently had board meetings or committee meetings for the chorus, so I wasn’t home while he was watching it.

He managed to get me to watch an episode or two with him that summer, because he had a lot of the season on video tape. I don’t remember hating it, but it also didn’t really grab me. Season two started that fall. I remember one particular evening when I got home for chorus rehearsal that Ray was telling me about the show and how much he was looking forward to next week’s episode, because there had been a cliffhanger.

Two nights later, Ray had a seizure and went into a coma. Then he died, and I fell apart.

Some time after he died, I was alone in the house doing something, and I heard a noise from another room. I went to see what was going on, and one of the VCRs was rewinding furiously, then popped its tape out. In 1997 DVRs didn’t exist. We owned three video cassette recorders, though, and Ray had a complicated schedule of pre-programmed recordings, and a pile of labeled tapes. He would swap out tapes at different times in the week, so that the different machines would record the next episode of whichever series was kept on that tape.

And I hadn’t been keeping up.

This was maybe two weeks after Ray had died. I was still deep in the shell-shocked stage of grieving. So the idea that I hadn’t kept Ray’s rotation going seized me as a terrible thing. I was letting him down! I had let the wrong shows get recorded on the wrong tapes! Who knows what else I had messed up? Never mind that Ray was beyond caring about these things. I wasn’t rational. When someone you love dies, even the most stoic and logical person has some moments of irrationality over take them.

So I tried to sort out what was going on with the tapes. And that’s how I ended up watching all of the season two episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, along with about half of the season one episodes out of order (because his labelling system wasn’t always discernible to anyone but him) in a very short time.

There’s a lot of things that happened to me in those first few months after Ray died that I don’t remember clearly. But one of the few crystal clear moments was one point when I was staring at the TV and I said aloud, “Dang it, Ray! You were right. This show is incredible!”

I was addicted.

Don’t get me wrong, the show has problems. I can rant for hours and hours about how monumentally awful were most of the decisions the writers made in season six, for instance. And the many ways that season seven doubled down on some of the failure. Even before the universally despised season six, there was the incredible frustration of how the first half of season four showed such brilliance and promise of taking things to a new level, then collapsed into a world of disappointment and lost opportunity. And oy! Trying to make sense of both the explicit and implicit contradictions about the nature of magic, demons, the biology of vampires…!

Dru and Spike!

Dru and Spike!

But there were so many things the show got right. One of the things they got most right is casting James Marsters and Juliet Landau as Spike and Drusilla, the Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen of the undead set (and if you don’t know who they are, your life is sadly lacking in Sex Pistols, is all I’m saying). There was a point, after I had acquired the complete DVD set of season two of the series, where literally at least once a week I re-watched the episode that introduced Spike and Dru, “School Hard.” They were evil and cold and vicious and Dru is crazier than a coked out mutt in a hubcap factory. But they were also madly deeply in love. Spike rather proudly proclaimed himself love’s bitch in a later season, “at least I’m man enough to admit it!”

What made the show work was the relationships between the characters. Joss Whedon and his crew created a world in which a small, pretty girl regularly kicked the butts of evil creatures. A world where the real problems that teens try to deal with often made the monsters seem trivial by comparison. Some of the creatures of darkness were metaphors for the problems humans face coming of age, yep. And sometimes the parallel between the mundane story lines and the supernatural ones were a little on the nose.

But then there were the moments of brilliance, such as when everything had been taken from her: her first love turned evil, her best friend lying dying in a hospital, she’s been kicked out of her home, everything she cared about either broken, dying, or lost; the villain has fought her back into a corner and is berating her about all she has lost and all who have abandoned her. “What have you got?” he asks with a sneer, as he thrusts what we think is a killing blow with an enchanted sword. She catches the blade between her hands, looks him in the eye with the most amazing fuck-you glare of determination and says, “I’ve got me.” Then proceeds to kick his butt and save the world.

Those sorts of moments, where a simple refusal to give up in the face of impossible odds, and the many times that various characters in the story sacrificed for their loved ones and found a way out of a hopeless situation—they were what made the ups and downs of the show worth it. And I want to be clear: one of the things they did right more than once was not that the characters found that one last glimmer of hope in the midst of despair and defeat; rather, the characters made their own hope. Yes, Buffy was about empowerment. Buffy was about the damsel being able to rescue herself. Buffy was about turning notions of victims and saviors on their heads. Buffy was about seeing that the questions of good vs evil aren’t always black and white; that part of being a hero (and a big part of growing up) is about learning to make your way through all those shades of grey without losing yourself.

But mostly, Buffy was about love, chosen families, and not giving up.

Goal-darn age…

Keep Calm & Achieve Your Goals.

Keep Calm & Achieve Your Goals.

When I set my goals for this year, I pledged to do monthly updates, since the years I’ve done that has resulted in better results than years I haven’t. So, how did I do in February?

My specific tasks for February were:

  • Get through the rest of the bookcases in the computer room. We made progress on the computer room, the bedroom, and the kitchen. We haven’t been sticking to a get-this-whole-bit-finished then move on schedule.
  • Figure out Writers’ Night schedule for at least the following couple of months. Done! Sorted through July.
  • Write at least four blog posts about things I like. I wrote six or seven such posts, depending on how you count.
  • Expand the list of places to find calls for submissions and write one new story. Not done.
  • Finish the current stage of the copy edit pass. Maybe half done.
  • Disconnect from the internet at least one night a week so I can concentrate on writing and editing. I hit the goal, in that every week there was at least one night when I didn’t pay attention to what was going on on the net. A couple of times I was feeling so tired and run down that I came home, ate dinner, and just crashed. So while I achieved the disconnect goal, I didn’t get the writing and editing half of it done each time.

My overall goals for the year, where I’m trying to follow the idea of replacing bad habits with better ones:

Don’t get mad, get busy. My tasks are: write about about things I love; listen to music and audiobooks more and podcasts less; spend at least half of my lunch break writing; set specific monthly writing/editing goals in each check-in; write at least one blog post a month about organizations we can donate to that are fighting the good fight.

Again, I did pretty well on this, with some weirdness because of work and illness eating away at our energy and time.

Reduce, pack, and prioritize. We now officially know that we have to find a new place to live this year. We have lots of stuff to go through and decide what to discard and what to pack.

Making more progress. I didn’t haul as much away the last weekend of the month as the previous three, though.

Take care of us. My initial tasks are related to some specific medical things that aren’t urgent, but need to be dealt with. I am going to remain vague on the details of this one.

We both saw various medical professionals this month as hoped. My hubby’s tests came out good and he has the big procedure scheduled for next month.

Submit and publish. Initial task was to organize how I’m going to find calls for submission and set reasonable targets for the novel revision/finalization.

This was the goal that suffered most from the time squeeze. Not much progress on it at all.


Finally, my specific tasks for March are:

  • At this point it’s time to just pack everything, so pack!
  • Get the new living situation sorted.
  • Make reasonable progress on writing/editing knowing that the above is going to eat up most of our available time.
  • Disconnect from the internet at least one night each week.
  • Write at least two blog posts about things I like.

Weekend Update 2/25/2017: We have to have standards! (aka, Martinis for Science!)

This week’s Friday round up of links was one of my biggest collections, with over 100 linked stories, and I didn’t see much in the news yesterday that struck me with that sense of “Dang! I wish I’d known that to include in this week’s list,” nor many that made me go “Oh! We have to follow up on that!” Part of the reason is that I seem to be coming down with something and had barely enough energy to get through my work day yesterday, let alone spend any break time reading news. I crashed right after logging out at work, then got up and started dinner and so on.

But I noticed that once again a couple of links that I had bookmarked to include in yesterday’s list were missed, and one of them absolutely must be shared!

ANSI STANDARD K100.1-1974: SAFETY CODE AND REQUIREMENTS FOR DRY MARTINIS. The American National Standards Institute is (to quote Wikipedia): “a private non-profit organization that oversees the development of voluntary consensus standards for products, services, processes, systems, and personnel in the United States. The organization also coordinates U.S. standards with international standards so that American products can be used worldwide.” ANSI was originally founded nearly 100 years ago when five societies of engineers and three government agencies founded the American Engineering Standards Committee. The organization went through a few name changes over the years before settling on the current name in 1969. ANSI doesn’t impose standards upon industries and so forth, but provides an accreditation of the processes that industry groups, committees, and so forth use to adopt standards. It then publishes the standards once adopted by the group.

Anyway, the amusing document I have linked is a real ANSI standard, originally published through the ANSI process in 1966, and last updated in 1974. When you read it, you can tell it was meant as a joke, but we all know how engineers and scientists can take a joke too far. I don’t know which part made me laugh hardest—probably the table entitled “Maximum Permissible Olive Displacement.” I’m very happy to note that the official ANSI standard for martini forbids vodka from the drink. They won me over right there!

The martini I made according to the ANSI standard.

The martini I made according to the ANSI standard.

For purely scientific reasons earlier this week I made a martini according to the specifications and thoroughly test it. It was delicious. The standard calls for a 16-to-1 ratio of gin to dry vermouth (variants as high as 20-to-1 are also permissible), and only one olive, the size of which depends upon the size of the serving glass and is listed in the table that made me laugh. I used my favorite gin, Bombay Sapphire.

When I usually make my own martinis at home, the ratio I use is 7-to-1 or 8-to-1. And I really love olives, so I usually put about three olives on a single toothpick to go with the drink. So this was definitely different than my usual. Very good, and I will probably start making them at a higher than 8-to-1 ratio more often in the future. It’s a little difficult to hit that ratio the way I usually make martinis, because normally I make them in a smaller coup-style cocktail glass (of which I own an antique set). The coup glass holds about a 3oz or 3½oz drink, so I would need to measure ⅛ of an ounce of vermouth to 2oz of gin (plus room for the olive); while all of my measuring devices only go down to a ¼ of an ounce. I can eyeball an eighth of an ounce, but it isn’t ideal.

For my experiment I used my more modern martini glass which can hold about a 5oz or 5½oz drink, so it was ¼oz vermouth to 4oz gin, plus the olive.

The second martini was a my usual proportions and with three olives.

The second martini was a my usual proportions and with three olives.

As I was getting to the end of the drink, I figured for science sake I needed to compare it to another version. Either my usual 8-to-1 ratio with three olives, or my favorite martini, which is to make puppy eyes at my hubby (who used to be a bartender) to make me one. His method it so put ¼oz of vermouth in the shaker with ice, swish it around, then pour the vermouth down the sink, and then pour gin over the ice (which has trace amounts of vermouth) clinging to it, shake it, and pour it into a glass. I have tried to make them exactly as he shows me, and they just taste like plain gin when I do it. When Michael does it, some how, it still has the magical hint of vermouth. Anyway, I asked my husband, and he said he was willing to make me one, but since most of the time I made my own, the most responsible scientific comparison would be to compare it to my usual recipe. So that’s what I did.

I liked it as well. I can’t really say that one was significantly better than the other, though I did like the higher ratio of gin, my main critique of the ANSI standard martini was that with only one olive there was an even tinier trace of olive brine in the mix, and I missed it. I have to confess, here, that often I like what is called a Dirty Martini, where you add between ½ to an ounce of olive brine to the recipe. A lot of martini people don’t like dirty martinis (my good friend, Jared, refers to dirty martinis as “vile” in a rather emphatic tone of voice; but then, he insists that lemon peel is the superior garnish for a gin martini, so what does he know?).

Anyway, clearly more experimentation is needed. I’ll probably be trying the higher ratios of gin with my usual number of olives. And, of course, I need to try a dirty variant. In the interest of science, I will probably even try the ANSI ratios with a lemon peel garnish. It’s all for science, right?

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