Friday, December 30, 2011

It's the holidays, and I'm feeling just a little cranky, or, are the holidays over yet?

Apparently, someone in the neighborhood thinks tonight is New Year's Eve, judging by the noise they were just making outside. They got the timing just about right; it's 11:58 p.m. local time as I write this, but they're off by a day.

Although, actually, I'd be just as happy if this was New Year's Eve. I'm ready for a new year to start. Of course, because New Year's Day is on a Sunday this year, they're dragging the whole thing out an extra day. Personally, I think it is lame to have the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl Game on Monday when the first is on Sunday, but then I guess I don't get a vote.

You may have gotten the impression, from the preceding two paragraphs, that I'm feeling a little cranky around the whole New Year's thing. That impression would be correct. Some of the crankiness has to do with just wanting 2011 to be over with, but most of it has to do with the fact that I hate the week between Christmas Day and New Year's Day with a a passion the temperature of molten rock.

I might have written about this issue here before, but just in case I haven't, the short version is this: The week between Christmas and the end of the year always seems like a week of wasted days, with one holiday just over and the other one hovering just over the horizon, waiting to happen. Also, to be completely frank, it's just an arbitrary date. A good excuse to have a party, some would say. Me? Not so much. We need a good party in, say, August, where there are no holidays. It's warmer then. A much better time for a party, in my opinion.

Let me be clear. I know the reasons why we in the Western World celebrate New Year's when we do. I know no one is going to change the date we celebrate the New Year. Except when in falls on a Sunday, and then only by one day. But two holidays seven days apart is just too much for me. It's bad enough that Halloween and Thanksgiving fall roughly a month apart, with Christmas following about a month after Thanksgiving.

On the other hand, if Samoa could jump the International Date Line, as it did this year, and lose December 30 altogether, and if my cousin's family could celebrate her birthday, which falls on Christmas Day, on the Fourth of July instead, couldn't we just move New Year's Day a little farther away from Christmas? Please?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

One of "those" days...

I think I'm working on a head cold. Yippee!

On the positive side, I'm on furlough from work this week and next, so I don't have to try to work through the lack of ambition that always comes along with any cold I get. It's really difficult to generate any enthusiasm for writing about the crappy economy (or even a good economy) when I don't even feel much like dragging my happy butt out of bed in the morning, but I don't get sick days from work. So, even though my bank account isn't happy about two unpaid weeks off work, if I'm going to get sick, this is probably the optimum time to do it.

Also, I don't have any real plans for the holidays, aside from watching the Doctor Who Christmas special on Christmas night and then having some kind of a DVD-watching marathon over New Year's Eve/New Year's Day - maybe Doctor Who, maybe not - so, getting a cold now isn't really going to interfere with anything social that I really wanted to do over the holidays.

But then there's the negative side of the equation.

I'm working on a couple of writing projects - one the completion of the first draft of my novel that I started last month for NaNoWriMo and the other a short guide for beginning anthropology students (or maybe three short guides, one for cultural anthropology, one for physical anthropology, and one for archaeology) that I aim to e-publish. I had planned to get a lot of work done on these while I'm off work. I'm having fun working on them. But, even if it's something I'm really having fun doing, it's not nearly as much fun in the middle of sneezing fits, headaches, and achy ears from my backed-up sinuses. Oops! Maybe should have put in a TMI warning there. Sorry.

The point is, I'm not getting nearly as much done so far as I'd hoped. Maybe it's just because my brain has decided that furlough from work = no work at all. A significant part of me would be perfectly happy to sit down in front of the television and watch movies all day. In fact, I was getting a good start on that while I ate lunch, watching Marley and Me while I ate the leftovers from last night's mac'n'cheese dinner. But I couldn't even enjoy that because I knew I was wasting time that I could be writing on a day that I didn't have to write anything for work. So, I came in and turned on the computer (again, for the third time today), determined to get something productive done.

I don't know if I can rationalize writing this post as "something productive" or not. Probably not. So, I'm going to post this and try to get some work done.

Monday, December 19, 2011

It was 39 years ago today...

December 19 - On this day in 1972 the last Apollo mission to the Moon ended as the Apollo 17 command module and its three astronauts splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.

This makes me kind of sad. There were just six successful flights in the Apollo that resulted in landings on the Moon. Only 12 human beings, thus far, have walked on another world, and none have done that in 39 years.

Apollo 17 wasn't the last flight in the program, of course. In July 1975, an Apollo module rendezvoused with a Soviet Soyuz craft in orbit around the Earth. And of course, there were many flights in the US Space Shuttle program and construction of the International Space Station, which is so far still staffed despite the recent end of the shuttle program.

There is talk about going to Mars in twenty years or so - the target date seems to shift depending on the day and on who is talking. But there is also a faction of the scientific community that believes we should only explore space remotely, sending out probes but no people.

My feeling is that we need to send people out into space. Sure, it's dangerous. The two space shuttles that were lost along with their crews showed that. Sure, it's expensive. But I believe it is also essential. We are a species that needs to have somewhere to explore. We have been doing that for as long as we have existed, and we miss something important if we don't have somewhere new to go, something new to see and, perhaps most important, something new to learn.

There is also, in this time of economic chaos, the reality that a vibrant space program creates jobs. Not all of those jobs are for engineers and technicians. There are also jobs for secretaries and constructions workers and food service workers, just to name a few of the job categories that would get a boost from a ramped-up space program.

There is a whole universe of stuff out there to learn, and we will miss a lot of it if we tie ourselves to the Earth, which is what we are doing by not going any farther than orbiting our own planet. That's like only stepping out onto the front porch, like never even going all the way out to the sidewalk..

Friday, November 25, 2011

I'm a NaNo winner...

Yeah. That's me. I won NaNoWriMo. Several days early.

I have to admit that I'm quite proud of myself. When I started out the month, I wasn't sure that I could do this, that I could stick with it, and that I could find enough words to reach the NaNo goal.

But I did do it. I validated my entry today, at an official 53,681 words, although the word count tool I've been using claims that I've written 53,722 words in the month. I'm not going to quibble; everyone knows that every word count tool counts a little differently.

So, I'm taking a little time to bask in the glow of reaching my goal, the NaNo goal. It feels good.

But, really, the NaNo win is just an interim goal. The draft isn't finished yet. I think it might be about half finished. So, maybe a month's more work? A month and a half, since it's the holiday season and I don't know that I'll be able to write very single day. And then there will be a second draft, and probably a third. Maybe even a fourth, if that's what it takes to get this novel in shape.

I don't have any illusions. A lot of what I've written this month will change. There are time-line problems. Dialogue will have to be re-written and cut, and perhaps added to in some cases. Events will likely not remain in the order I've written them in the first draft.

None of this is a problem. This is how a novel gets written. There might be that rare writer who can produce a publishable novel. I'm clearly not one of them, and I have my doubts about anyone who would claim to be able to do that.

So, I'll continue to update the process here from time to time. Because I still need to be accountable for getting the work done. And who knows, maybe as I get this thing in shape, I might even post a preview now and then.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nearly-the-end-of-the-week NaNo update...

So, yeah. It's been a few days since I updated here on how my NaNo is going.

Well, I've been writing every day, although word counts have not been as high every day as they have been being. Still, I've managed to write more than 1,000 words every day. Since I'm ahead of the curve as far as where I need to be to finish my 50,000 words by the end of the month, that's okay.

So, the daily word-counts:

Day 13: 2,428 words
Day 14: 2,089 words
Day 15: 1,963 words
Day 16: 2,053 words
Day 17: 1,320 words

I think yesterday (Day 17) was my lowest daily word count since the beginning of NaNo. It was a weird day, and a busy day, and I didn't write until evening. Still, it was a productive day, because while I was writing, I realized what needs to take place as far as a big reveal, and that it is nearly time for that to happen. This means that the work is on track and is generating the "and then..." that is necessary to keep the story moving. And, I hope, the reader turning the pages when this thing is finished.

As of the end of Day 17, my total word count stands at 36,640, which means that there are 13,360 word to go to win NaNo. More or less; different word count apps give different results. I'll have to see where I stand on the 25th, when NaNo's official word counter is supposed to go live. At any rate, I expect that I will be over the 50,000 minimum by the end of the month, god willing and the creek don't rise.

That doesn't mean, by the way, that I expect to be finished with this first draft by the end of the month. Most novels are more than 50,000 words long, and this novel will be no exception. When you think about it, 50,000 words really isn't a lot. Not if you expect to tell a story with any sort of complexity to it, anyway. But the end of NaNo won't mean the end of the project.

This is the novel that I intend to finish, after starting a few over the years. With any luck, it won't be the only one I complete. That's one of the interesting things about this experience. Even though I've been focusing on this project this month, I keep getting all these other ideas of things, both fiction and non-fiction, that I want to write.

NaNoWriMo, it turns out, is valuable in a lot of ways.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

NaNo update, through Day Twelve

NOTE: Because I'm an idiot sometimes, I posted this to my other blog instead of posting it here. So, technically, this is a repost. Full disclosure, and all that.
Since I'm procrastinating on starting the day's NaNo writing, I thought maybe this would be a good time to post an update on my progress since my last report, on Day Eight.

Day Nine saw me write 2,705 words, bringing my total word count to 20,597 words, but I took Day Ten off and recorded no word count. I felt kind of bad taking the day off, but I had an opportunity to spend a good part of the day at the library at Fresno State to do some research for a non-fiction project I'm working on (not much this month, but it's a long-term project, so the time off isn't a big handicap. I found some material that will be very valuable to the project, so I'm glad I went ahead and took the day to do that.

It was difficult getting back in the saddle, so to speak, on Day Eleven, but I managed to write 2,167 words, to bring my total to 22,764 words. I wasn't especially pleased with what I wrote on Day Eleven, but I was pleased that I wrote, and that the story moved forward just a bit, even if there will be major revisions in the next draft. That's a given, so not a problem at all. As one of my Facebook friends said about giving hints ("Spoilers, sweetie!) about what you write in a first draft, everything will change anyway, so it doesn't really matter.

Yesterday, Day Twelve, I wrote 4,023 words, by far my biggest one-day output, and my total now stands at 26,787 words. That means I'm halfway to the NaNoWriMo goal. It's a good feeling, especially considering that it isn't quite halfway through the month. I can see now that my first draft won't be finished by the end of the competition, but that doesn't really matter. The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month, not finish the draft in the month. So, since I wrapped up writing for the day late yesterday afternoon, I've been basking in the glow of being Halfway Done.

But, now it's time to cut out the back-slapping and get back to work. I'm not going to try to equal yesterday's output. I'll be happy if I can do what seems to be my usual output of around 2,000 words today. Heck, I'll be happy if I make the daily average of 1,666 words that it takes to win NaNo if one writes every single day.

One thing I do think is interesting is that I'm seeing, as I write, exactly where some of the changes will have to be made in the next draft. I'm starting to adjust my work as i write, so that the new work will be more in line with what I want the next draft to look like, especially in terms of the story's timeline. But I'm being very good, so far, and not trying to go back and fix things I've already written now. They'll still be there when I finish this draft and go back to do revisions. It's enough, right now, that I know the direction I want to go with the story and can see what I'll need to do in the next draft to point the beginning of the story more squarely in that direction. And, that I can see more clearly every day exactly what I'm going to need to do as this draft goes forward to get to where I want to be at the end of the story.

The bad thing is (and I don't think it's really bad, just more ambitious than I had really planned in the beginning), I'm pretty sure that there is going to be more than one book before the whole story gets told. Which means lots more work ahead. Good thing I love the process as much as I do.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Day Eight...

After an unpromising start yesterday, I managed to write 2,083 words, bringing my total through Day 8 to 17,892, which means that if I'm good and keep to my goals, I should top 20,000 words today.

When I signed up for NaNo, I was hesitant. I'm not good with the completion thing when it comes to my writing. Now, if there is a reward at the end - a paycheck or a grade - I'm good. I don't believe I ever missed a deadline for a writing assignment when I was in college, and the only times I've missed deadlines for work, something out of my control has been going on - family emergencies, electricity outages, computer issues. But if I'm working on a project "just because" - just because it sounded like fun, or just because it might pay off someday - very often the work just slows down to a trickle and then stops altogether when something new and shiny comes along.

This is not something I'm proud of, and I'm getting better about it. But NaNo is one of those things that doesn't have enough of a carrot to it to keep me interested just on that basis. I'm finding, however, that it isn't as difficult as I thought it would be to motivate myself to sit and write every day, and to sit long enough to make my word-count goal each day.

Yesterday was a case in point. After I finished work, I had to go do laundry. Because we don't have a washer and dryer here, that means a trip to the laundromat. And laundromats, I've found, are like a box of chocolates. You never know exactly what you're going to get. Well, yesterday what I got was disobedient children and a mother who couldn't control them. They were there when I arrived, and they were still there when I left. I left with a splitting headache. I was so proud of myself that I hadn't yelled at anyone while I was there that I bought myself McDonald's for lunch as a reward.

But, being in a crappy mood after that adventure, and still having a headache by the time I'd gotten home, brought the clean laundry in, and eaten lunch, I really wasn't in any mood to write. I contemplated vegging in front of the television until it was time to go pick my roommate up from work, but there was nothing on TV worth sitting there for. So, I turned the computer on and started to write. With little success. I wrote about 700 words in a little over an hour, but I wasn't especially happy with what I'd written, and thought I'd probably call it a day. I had to leave to pick Pamela up anyway.

The funniest thing happened, though. After I got back home again, I had a couple of hours before time to go to Knit Night, so I thought I'd come back in and at least try to write a little more. I wasn't expecting much. An hour and a half later I had written probably what I like best of all the writing I've done on my NaNo project. I still had the headache. I was still in a crappy mood. But I overcame, and wrote something that might even be good. Goodish. Whatever. I went ahead and I wrote.

So, I'm beginning to think that maybe this is what I'm doing NaNo for: just to prove to myself that I can persevere, can get over the completion issue, and don't have to be "in the mood" to write. I've conquered that in my work writing. Now is the time to conquer it in my writing generally.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A week in...

I'm seven days into NaNoWriMo now, and I'm feeling good about my work and where it's going. New things are happening, and I've introduced a subplot that is meant to merge with the main plot later on. These are good things.

I wrote 2,598 words on Monday, Day 7 of NaNo, and my total is now 15,809 words.

I think one of the best indications that things are going fairly well is that I sat down to write at about 2 p.m. yesterday and came up for air at right around 5 p.m. I had completely lost track of time and had no idea that I had been writing for three hours. It has been my experience that this happens when the writing is going well. If it isn't, I end up glancing at the clock about every five or ten minutes.

I'm not sure when I'm going to find time to write today. I've got some errands to run in awhile, and I should go do the laundry, and then tonight is Knit Night. I could take the laptop with me to Knit Night if I don't get to write before then, but I'd rather knit. One way or another, though, I will get some writing done sometime today.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Sunday writing...

Sunday was Day 6 of NaNoWriMo. I was afraid that by Sunday, I'd be running out of steam/story to tell, or that I'd start to get bored, or that I just wouldn't want to write because Sunday is, well, Sunday, and I take the whole "day of rest" thing very seriously in a secular sort of way.

Turned out I was worried about nothing. I wrote 2,761 words on Sunday, and my total word-count is up to 13,211 so far. I introduced my villain, which was lots of fun. Although it was strange. I found myself writing in a slightly different style in that scene. Oh, well. That's what rewrites are for. But, it will be interesting to see if that continues when I write the villain's scenes.

I'm happy with how Sunday's writing sessions went (I wrote twice, with a sanity break in between scenes). I think I've advanced the story, and that is good. The writing is still probably a little dialogue-heavy, but I like reading dialogue-heavy novels, so I'm not seeing that as a particularly bad thing at the moment. There will be more action to come, however.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

I'm on track with NaNo, but not so much with my updates here...

I didn't get to post yesterday's progress with NaNo here yesterday. When I tried to get on the computer to do that last night, my internet was down. Should have known, I suppose. The cable had just gone down, too, near the end of a movie we were watching OnDemand. Anyway...

I wrote 1,792 words yesterday and was not especially pleased with what I turned out. Today, I wrote 2,173 words in two sessions, and I'm much happier. I've got the plot moving along, with little hints in what I wrote today of things to come that will move the action along more, and will put a little more action into the thing, rather than mostly having people sitting around talking to each other. Which will likely change in later drafts, too. But that's what editing is for, to fix what isn't working and what I don't like about what landed on the paper (or, on the hard drive) in the first draft.

My total for five days is at 10,450 words.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Some days, I feel like a real writer...

It's day three. Things are starting to move, story-wise. My characters haven't tried to do anything too out of character yet. And I can still think of the next thing that has to happen without too much trouble. So, I think I'm doing okay so far.

My word-count for the first three days is 6,485. I've exceeded my target every day, which is a good thing. I'm not really happy with some of the dialogue I'm writing, but I'm still managing to resist going back and editing. I can edit as much as I want after this draft is done. Right now it's all about getting words on the paper. Or on the hard drive. (And yes, I'm backing up. And I'm thinking of e-mailing every day's work to myself, as another backup, just in case.) Just throwing words and seeing what sticks (as Stephen R. Donaldson once wrote about novel writing). Probably some of what I've written so far won't stick. But I think some of it will, too, so I'm making progress.

But, it's midnight now, and I've got to sleep sometime. More updates to come.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Just a quick update...

NaNoWriMo started yesterday, and I wrote 2305 words in two separate writing sessions.

I'm trying very hard not to edit as I write, and so far I've been successful at that, but I can already see things that I want to change in what I've writen. But that's for after the first draft is done, after NaNo is over.

The first local writing meet-up is tonight, and I think I might go over there for awhile. I'm not sure how much writing will get done, but I've been finding that I get more work done if I'm not at home. I went to the library yesterday afternoon and got over a thousand words written in just over an hour. I suspect that if I'd been at home, I would have been staring at my laptop monitor most of that time, or playing Bejewled instead, or something else other than writing.

More updates later.

Friday, October 28, 2011

NaNoWriMo, or I commit to the insanity of writing 50,000 words in a month

Call me insane, but I've signed up to participate in NaNoWriMo this year.

I think I signed up once a few years ago, but if I did, I didn't end up participating. I definitely plan to change that this year and go for the 50,000-word goal. I know I can write that many words in a month. I think it's just a matter of having the will to do it.

I'll be reporting back here periodically on my progress, perhaps not word counts, but more on my adventures as the month, and my novel, progress.

I don't have any illusions about producing a finished, publishable novel in a month. I do hope that I will be well on my way to a first draft that can be molded into something publishable. I say "on my way" because 50,000 words is really kind of short for a novel these days. And because I tend to write long; I can make a novel out of a note. This is not necessarily a good thing. But I'm getting better, thanks to blog posts, posting on forums, and the occasional Tweet.

Well, wish me luck. NaNo officially srarts Tuesday, and I plan to do a lot of writing between then and the deadline on the 30th.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Maybe I'm just homesick?

I'm sitting here at my desk, in Central California, on a warmish-to-hot(ish) day in mid-October. It's midafternoon, and according to the local weather channel, it's 84 degress F with 43 percent humidity.

And the weird thing is, it completely feels like a Southern California day to me. The look of it (there are high, thin clouds in the sky). The feel of it. Even ths sound of it (the windows are open, as I refuse to turn the air conditioner on for mid-80-degree temperatures). The sound of the traffic on the street outside. It just feels like an average afternoon when I was growing up in Simi Valley, and then in Norwalk. Even the quality of the light looks more like Southern than Central California.

I can't explain it any more than that. There is a definite difference between the "feel" (and even that seems a strange term to use in this context) of Southern California and where I live now, in the inland center part of the state. It's partly a state of mind and partly how the air feels on my skin, but it's just different here than there. Except not today, apparently.

The even weirder thing is that this has been happening fairly frequently lately, where I will be sitting reading or watching television or writing or something, and I'll suddenly be overwhelmed by the sensation that it feels like "home" (which is what I consider Southern California to be, despite the fact that I've lived in Central California a decade and a half longer than I lived in Southern California), rather than like Fresno.

This is probably not making a bit of sense. I didn't really expect it to. It's just that I'm wondering if anyone else ever gets this sensation, with the very air around them feeling like it is someplace other than where they are at that moment. It's an odd feeling, comforting in a way, but sometimes kind of creepy, like having an episode of deja vu.

Perhaps it's just sense memory, and something is reminding me of something from when I was growing up, but it's buried so deep in my memory that I only get the sensation and not the specific reference.

Or maybe I'm just homesick for Southern California.

I don't know. It just seemed like something I ought to mention.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Go read a (banned) book today...

Just a's Banned Books Week.

I'm going to give you all an assignment. Go to your local library. Get a library card if you don't already have one (and shame on you if you don't). Check out a book that some person or group has tried, at one time or another, to ban from school or public libraries. This is, after all, where most challenges to books come from.

It doesn't have to be a work of great literature, although people have tried to ban many of those. It can be a children's novel or series of novels...In some years in the recent past, the Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling, was one of the most challenged books, collectively in the year. It can be a fantasy book or series...J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series has not only been banned, according to information on the American Library Association's website, but was actually burned here in the United States in the not-so-distant past.

Speaking of burning books, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, about a future culture where firemen don't put out fires, they go into people's homes and collect all the books they find and burn them. Good book, and one well worth reading or re-reading.

Anyway, go read a book. Go read a banned or challenged book. And talk about it. Let people know that you will not stand for disappearing a book from library or bookstore shelves just because someone else doesn't like what that books says. It's a First Amendment issue.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Utah gets mooned...well, almost

I see on Yahoo! News that about 3,000 people in Salt Lake City stripped down to their underwear on Saturday and ran from downtown to the state Capitol, where they circled the Capitol building, protesting what they characterized as the "uptight" laws of Utah.

Apparently, the organizers of the run said people couldn't run in the nude, but panties and bras, nightgowns, and boxer shorts were perfectly acceptable garb for the protest as the runners showed their frustration over and disapproval of conservative policies in the state.

I like this as a form of protest. It's non-violent. It grabs attention. And, maybe best of all, it was a creative way of making the protesters' point. And, yes, it was underwear, and some people might have been offended, but from the photos I saw no one was wearing anything more revealing that might be worn at a public swimming pool. In other words, nothing any more revealing than might be seen on a typical broadcast of "Dancing With the Stars"

The only thing that would have made it better, as far as I'm concerned, would have been if they'd also run a circuit around Temple Square. Oh, I know. Church security would have had a fit and started detaining people. Still, considering the influence that the Mormons have on Utah politics, it would have been relevant. And with the numbers the protesters had, some might have gotten away with it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

And those WTF moments just keep on coming...

I've been sitting on this for nearly a week.

Can't do it any longer, because I'm still angry about it.

I'm talking writing, of course, about the idiots who cheered and laughed and yelled out "Yes!" when the question of possibily letting an uninsured coma patient die for the lack of health insurance came up at a Republican presidential candidates' debate at the beginning of the week. I'm also writing about the huge, yawning, nearly universal silence regarding the incident from the candidates participating in the debate, the rest of the Republican party, politicians otherwise affiliated, and the media.

Oh, there were a few who mildly criticized the audience members who apparently believe that anyone who lacks health insurance should just die, but as far as I was able to find, there really wasn't much comment at all about the incident. If there was any, I'd love it if you all, dear readers, would point me to the coverage of those comments.

Mostly, the reaction of those people in the debate audience made me sick. But it also brought up some questions.

Aren't those the same Tea Party types who were incensed about so-called "death panels" they said would be instituted if President Obama's health care legislation passed? And how many of the people appearing to think that people without insurance being left to die is something to be celebrated are the same ones who characterize themselves as "pro-life" and would outlaw abortion, even in the case of rape or incest? My question for them is, do they really mean to say that the right to life ends at birth?

Oh, well. I suppose they're just being consistent. They are probably the same people who congregate outside of prisons where executions are being carried out, laughing and celebrating. Certainly, there were also cheers that night when the number of executions presided over by candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry was mentioned.

Except for one problem. The only "crime" committed by the ininsured is being too poor to afford insurance. And that isn't even always the case. Some follks are without insurance because their employers have dropped their coverage to save the business money. And many people are denied insurance coverage that they are able and willing to pay for simply becuase they have a "preexisting condition". So, I guess, what those cheering people in that audience were really saying is that if you're poor, or if you work for a cheap company (or a company that simply can no longer afford to pay outrageous insurance premiums), or even if you've just been sick before, you deserve to die. It isn't a simple case of people not "taking responsibility", as candidate Ron Paul seemed to imply in his comments during the debate.

I thought writing about this would help diffuse my anger about this. Get it out of my system.

Yeah. Not so much.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What?...Just, What???

I'm having one of those seriously WTF moments, so please bear with me.

Today on my Facebook, one of my acquaintances there posted that they had become aware of a bumper sticker that asked those who read it to "pray for Obama" and then offered the Old Testament verse, Psalms 109:8, which reads,

Let his days be few, And let another take his office.

Some might find that innocuous, just asking for prayer that the president be out of office after not being there very much longer.

However, I wonder how many would still be comfortable with that sentiment if they saw that verse in its context. The verse starts out with the Psalmist, traditionally David according to the dedication at the beginning of the chapter, complaining that the "wicked" and the "deceitful" had spoken against him, have "rewarded me evil for good, And hatred for my love", and then launches into quite the tirade:

6 Set a wicked man over him,
And let an accuser stand at his right hand.
7 When he is judged, let him be found guilty,
And let his prayer become sin.
8 Let his days be few,
And let another take his office.
9 Let his children be fatherless,
And his wife a widow.
10 Let his children continually be vagabonds, and beg;
Let them seek their bread also from their desolate places.
11 Let the creditor seize all that he has,
And let strangers plunder his labor.
12 Let there be none to extend mercy to him,
Nor let there be any to favor his fatherless children.
13 Let his posterity be cut off,
And in the generation following let their name be blotted out.

Clearly, the, not even implication, but overt for the death of the "wicked" and "deceitful" person he is complaining about. By implication, that bumper sticker is calling for the death of the president, and for the ruin of his entire family, both now and in the future.

Aside from the violence called down on his family, which seems a bit like overkill to me; isn't it considered treason to call for the death of the president? Certainly, there were those during the time of Bush.2 who considered it treason to even criticize the president, let alone threaten him.

But the Psalmist doesn't stop there; he continues on:

14 Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD,
And let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.
15 Let them be continually before the LORD,
That He may cut off the memory of them from the earth;
16 Because he did not remember to show mercy,
But persecuted the poor and needy man,
That he might even slay the broken in heart.
17 As he loved cursing, so let it come to him;
As he did not delight in blessing, so let it be far from him.
18 As he clothed himself with cursing as with his garment,
So let it enter his body like water,
And like oil into his bones.
19 Let it be to him like the garment which covers him,
And for a belt with which he girds himself continually.
20 Let this be the LORD’s reward to my accusers,
And to those who speak evil against my person.*


I did not vote for George W. Bush as president, and I did not support the majority of his policies. However, I never, ever prayed for his death. I hoped that he would have a nice, long, happy retirement as soon as he could legally be removed from office, and wasn't as hesitant as some to consider that he might have committed an impeachable offense. But I did not wish him harm, nor did I wish harm or unhappiness to his family, to his ancestors or to his descendants.

I find it incredibly disrespectful for people who portray themselves as Christians to call, even in this passive-aggressive way, for the death of the sitting president. I would find it incredibly disrespectful for anyone of any faith, or of no faith at all, to do so. But I was raised to believe that Christians are better than that. I don't believe that most Christians would do that.

So, I guess my question here is, What the hell is wrong with this (hopefully) small subset of people, that they feel entitled to wish, advocate that people actively pray for...the death of someone who they don't agree with? I don't agree with a lot of people, but I don't wish any of them dead.

However, that post is going to be removed from my Facebook feed, because I cannot let such a sentiment remain on my Facebook page. I suppose that, arguably, under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the person who posted that has a right to do so. I, however, do not violate that person's speech rights by not facilitating dissemination of her speech.

Additionally, I'm going to have to seriously consider whether I can keep the individual who posted it on as a Facebook friend.

*This translation, by the way, is the New King James Version, which I found at

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Proving once again that I am, indeed, a geek...

As part of a continuing effort to get a blog centered on history and related topics started, I've been writing some sample posts to try to figure out exactly how I want to approach the new blog.

I started out with the idea that it would be a simple "On this day..." sort of exercise, but I've pretty much decided that the approach is a) too limiting of what I'm aiming to do and b) way too overdone. I'd like to remain open to doing that sort of entry on a regular but not constant basis, but I want it to be more, as well. So, the blog is not ready to go live yet. On the other hand, I've had some interesting experiences in reading and writing the sample posts.

For example, I that today is the fifth anniversary of the demotion of Pluto from planet to dwarf planet. I thought that would be an interesting event to note, and decided to take a quick look to see if I could find out about the story behind the event. What ensued was two-and-a-half or three hours really interesting (to me, anyway) research and the writing of a blog post summarizing what I'd learned.

I had fun with it. I don't want it to go to waste, but since the new blog is not ready to unleash on the world just yet, I thought I'd share it here.

And so, this is what I learned about Pluto, dwarf planets and the International Astronomical Union:

One of the things I most love about history, and about historical events, is that it is possible to start with one event and end up roaming around in any subject area imaginable.

Take the redefinition of the term "planet". On August 24, 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which is the internationally recognized body given the authority to assign designations to astronomical bodies, redefined - or rather, created an official definition of - the term. Apparently, there hadn't been an official definition previous to this time. By codifing a definion, they read Pluto out of the nine planets of our solar system and into the newly designated classification of "dwarf planet".

I intended to take a quick look to see exactly what that definition was, how a planet differs from a dwarf planet, and why they (perhaps that should be "they") decided that Pluto was not one but the other. It should have taken fifteen or twenty minutes, tops, not least because the Internet is a wonderful thing.

Right? Well, not really. I learned in the course of a couple of hours of research that the redefinition is not as universally accepted as the IAU would have the world think. I also found out some things about the outer reaches of the solar system that are just amazing, and that the picture of that part of our galactic neighborhood is much different from that I learned about as a child entranced by the very idea of outer space.

To begin with, while it seems at first glance as if the category of dwarf planet was engineered mostly to have something to call Pluto once it was removed from the list of planets, it turns out that there are other objects in the category, and that Pluto isn't even the most massive of the four largest of its new kind. It turns out that there are a lot of things and a lot more complexity than was thought to the region beyond Neptune, now the outermost planet since the demotion of Pluto, and that small planet-like objects in that region are called Trans-Neptunian objects. There are, according to some sources, up to 1,200 of these objects. I also discovered that this region beyond Neptune is made up of three areas, which overlap to at least a certain degree.

There is the Kuiper belt, which is similar to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter but twenty times as wide and twenty to two hundred times as massive as the asteroid belt. It extends from the orbit of Neptune to about 55 astronomical units (AU). An astronomical unit, in case you missed science class that day, is the rough distance between the Earth and the Sun, more or less 93 million miles. Then there is the scattered disc, which overlaps and lies beyond the Kuiper belt, which stretches from around 30 to 35 AU from the Sun to well beyond 100 AU from the Sun and reaches well above and well below the plane of the ecliptic, the plane on which the planets orbit around the Sun.

Beyond the scattered disc is the Oort Cloud, which is still a hypothetical construct since there have been no confirmed direct observations of it. The Oort cloud probably reaches out to around 50,000 AU from the Sun, nearly a light year out and almost a quarter of the way to Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, although some estimates put its outer edge as far as 100,000 to 200,000 AU out. That's a very long way. The objects in the Oort cloud are only loosely bound to the solar system and can be affected by the gravitational influence of passing stars and of the galaxy itself. The objects in this region are mostly icy and likely came into being much nearer the Sun but were scattered by gravitational interaction with the outer, giant planets. It is believed that most long-period comets originate in either the scattered disc or the Oort Cloud.

All of which is very interesting, but I set out to find out about Pluto and why it is no longer considered a planet. Pluto was discovered, officially speaking, on February 18, 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, from images taken on January 23 and January 29, 1930 at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, although it had been seen in other astronomical images at least sixteen times previously, beginning in 1909 at Yerkes Observatory. It was named for the Greek god of the underworld on March 24, 1930.

Because Pluto is so far away, coming as close as just less than 30 AU but going as far away as just less than 49 AU from the Sun, it is difficult to study. It is known that Pluto has four satellites that orbit very near the planet. In fact, its largest moon, Charon, is so large and close (the two are only 12,200 miles apart, less than the distance between London, in the UK, and Sydney, Australia), that the two have been described as a dwarf double planet. Pluto's diameter is about 66 percent that of Earth's Moon and it has a thin atmosphere of nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide. Some fuzzy photos of Pluto have been taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, but astronomers will have to wait for a clearer view when NASA's New Horzons mission, which was launched on January 19, 2006, makes its closest approach on July 14, 2015. As an intereting aside, some of discoverer Clyde Tombaugh's ashes are aboard the New Horizon probe.

Again, all very interesting. Still, the point, spurred by the notation of the IAU's new definition of "planet" on this day five years ago, was to find out why Pluto is no longer considered a planet. Well, here's the thing. A resolution by the IAU said that in order to be a planet, an astronomical body must be in orbit around the Sun (or, I assume, a sun). It must be massive enough to be a sphere by its own gravitational force. And, it must have cleared the neighborhood around its orbit of other interplanetary debris. The third item in the definition is the sticking point where Pluto is concerned. It is slightly more complicated than that, but this is a history blog, not a science blog, all appearences to the contrary today.

As I mentioned up-post, at the same time that the IAU created its new definition of a planet, it also created a definition of dwarf planets, which is essentially the same thing as a planet, except that a dwarf planet has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit of debris. And so that is what Pluto is considered to be now, a dwarf planet. This despite the fact that another of the four largest dwarf planets in the solar system, Haumea, which was named for the Hawaiian goddess of childbirth, is not spherical (item number one of the definition of a planet or a dwarf planet), but is shapred more like an American football. Which leads me to believe, if I might be allowed an opinion, that there is something wrong with the definitions.

Apparently, not even everyone in the astronomical community agrees that Pluto is not a planet. After a conference at Johns Hopkins University on August 14 - 16, 2008, a report was released stating that scientists could not come to a consensus regarding the definition of a planet. Well, they get to have an opinion, even if you and I don't, but there was also a certain amount of controversy among the public when Pluto was read out of the list of planets. I know, when I heard about it, my reaction was something like, "Hey, wait a minute..." And if asked how many planets there are, I still automatically answer, "Nine."

So, you see, you can attempt to find out about one particular event in history and end up learning about astronomy. Or geology, or mathematics, or biology, or politics, or construction, or business. Or, really, anything. And that is a good thing, I think. Certainly, I learned a few things I didn't know as I researched today's post.

I promise, this blog won't turn into Your Daily Science Lesson. But some things are just too interesting not to follow up on.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

When Dinosarus Walked the Earth (or something)...

Well, that's it. Another birthday come and nearly gone (I've still got an hour and eight minutes until it's over, as I write this).

I suppose I'm of an age when I should really stop celebrating my birthdays, or even acknowledging them. After all, as of today, I can officially order from the Senior menu at Denny's. And some people would probably tell me that I really need to start being secretive about my age, so better not to mention birthdays at all.


I like birthdays, my own and other people's. Any excuse for a party is fine with me. Not that I had a party this year. Which is also fine. I did get a free lunch (again, at Denny's; did you know that if you go in on your birthday and show your ID to prove that it really is your birthday, you can get a free Grand Slam breakfast?). And I knitted with friends. And I got lots of birthday greetings on Facebook, greetings from at least three continents.

And I don't have a problem with admitting my age. (I'm 55 now, for those of you who don't know the Denny's menu.) I got here honestly, and it would be fairly stupid not to admit to it. It also means that I've seen a few things, and that I remember some things that are only history (maybe even ancient history) to younger generations.

So, you know, I don't mind saying that when I was born, Dwight Eisenhower was president, no one had been into outer space, and there were only 48 states. I saw Nikita Khrushchev's train when he visited the United States in the late 1950s. I heard tests of the rocket engines that took astronauts to the moon (the test facility was on a mountain across the valley from where I grew up). I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis and where I was when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

And, damn it, I've earned every gray hair in my head.

So what if I'm now the age my grandmother was when I was born? I'm having much more fun, on the whole, that I ever did when I was in my 20s.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Getting older? Yes. Growing up? Not if I can help it...

I hate those, "Oh, my God, I'm old" moments. Like the one I just had over on Facebook.

Although I suppose it's appropriate, since tomorrow is my birthday.

One of my friends posted on Facebook, talking about a co-worker of hers who made a comment to the effect that Enya shouldn't be called a "New Age" artist becuase she had records come out in the 90s, and that's old.

My response was:

Your co-worker makes the 90s sound like so long ago. Sheesh, I remember the first time the Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan show. I was only 7 years old. Closest thing to a religious experience I've ever had. No, really.

And it's the truth. I was 7 years old in February, 1964, when the Beatles first came to the United States and appeared on the Sullivan show. I had already gone to bed. There was school the next day, and my bedtime at that age was 7:30 p.m. on school nights. But my parents were watching the show, and suddenly I heard this wonderful noise coming from the living room. I had to get up and see what it was.

It was amazing, was what it was. I'd never heard anything like it, and I liked what I heard and what I saw. A lot. Changed my life. I was not kidding when I said it was the closest thing to a religious experience I've ever had. Starting the next day, when my friends were running home after school to watch cartoons, I was running home to watch to local versions of American Bandstand. There were a couple of them in the Los Angeles area that came on every afternoon.

What can I say. I was a precocious kid, anyway, and that music was infectious. That Sunday evening and the days following gave me a love of music that I retain to this day.

So, anyway. Now I feel old. Just because someone on Facebook knowns someone who thinks that something from the 90s is old. Ah, well. You're only as old as you feel, and if its too loud, you're too old. Honestly, I have days where it is too loud, and I am too old.

But there are those other days, the ones where there's no such thing as loud enough if the right song is playing. I may be getting older, but I refuse...simply grow up.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It's that time of year...

I've finally figured out one of the things that has had me in a bad mood recently. Besides the dismal work situation, that is.

It's time for school to start. My roommate goes back to teaching tomorrow; the local CSU campus also goes back tomorrow, the local community college has been in session for a week already, and a good friend starts her first semester of upper division work at Cal on Thursday. And I'm jealous.

I always loved school. Well, I didn't like the homework sometimes, and the tests, and junior high and high school were a rocky time for me (isn't it for everyone?). But the whole school thing? I love it.

Of course, when I was in school, we never started this early. The first day of school was always the Monday closest to the 15th of September, and the last day of school was the Wednesday closest to the 15th of June. But still, every year I get nostalgic about the ritual that surrounds going back to school for another year.

I never liked going shopping for school clothes; I've never been into the fashion thing, not then and not now. But shopping for school supplies? Heaven. Organizing those supplies for classes? In other areas, I've never been that organized a person, but for school, I was always the most organized student in the room.

And the best part? Going down to the school the weekend before classes started was always a highlight. In elementary school, the class lists would be posted on the front doors of the main building on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, and especially when I went to the school just around the corner from my house, I'd start checking at about noon on Friday to see if they were up yet. I just couldn't wait to see who my teacher would be and which of my friends would be in my class that year.

In junior high and high school, it was a little different. Some years we had to wait until the first morning of school to see what our schedules would be; other years, first-period classes would be posted over the weekend, and then we would get our schedules once we got to that class on Monday morning.

Yes. I know. We've established here before that I am a geek. Why would I be any different about school?

So, seems like nearly everyone I know is going back to school but me, and this makes me sad. I'll get over it once the year has progressed far enough that people are complaining about homework and exams...either taking them or making them up...but for now, I miss the excitement of going back to school.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Various and sundry on a Friday afternoon...

Yikes. It's been a month again since I've posted.

After that spate of posts in the middle of July, I thought I was back to writing on a regular basis (or at least on as regular a basis as I've ever posted here). But not so much, apparently.

And, it isn't as if I haven't had the time to post something. I was without transportation except for my feet and the bus for the entire month of July, and then a couple of weeks ago, my work hours were cut back drastically. This is not good news, considering that fact that the unemployment rate in my area is over 16 percent. So, I've been trying to figure out how to get some new revenue streams going, with not much success so far. At least, with school starting, I can get out there in the next couple of weeks and try to drum up some tutoring business.

I think that might be part of why I haven't been posting much. My paying gig involves writing news on the finance markets...stocks, oil, and metals, mostly...and it's just all so depressing that I just haven't felt like doing much of anything much of the time. I don't care what the politicians have been trying to sell, the economy is not getting any better, nor is it likely to for the forseeable future.

I did see, in relation to this, that Michelle Bachmann is out on the campaign trail claiming that if she is elected president, she'll make sure that the price of gasoline goes back down to $2 per gallon. Yeah, right. Anyone who believes that she - or any president - has the power to do that, deserveds her as president. And Rick Perry called Ben Bernanke (he's the head of the Federal Reserve) a traitor for his monetary policy.

Come on, kids. It's over a year until the general election. Can we at least save the character assassination and pie-in-the-sky promises until after Christmas?

This is probably another reason I haven't been writing here much. I tend to get snarky at the least provocation these days. Maybe it's the weather, although we've actually had a milder-than-normal summer here in Central California. It hasn't been cool by any means, but we also haven't had nearly as many as 100-degree plus days as we usually do (something I hope continues for the rest of the summer). So, you know, if this is climate change, it's at least changing for the slightly better around here.

At least I've been doing something productive this summer, hatching plans for some writing ventures that I think might have potential and knitting some things for donation to a local shelter once the weather gets cooler. It might not get as cold here as it does in some parts for the country and the world during the winter, but there are people who will need scarves and stuff to keep them warm. And, when a good friend's yarn shop closed last year (has it been that long?), I took home a lot of the donation yarn people had given her to make things for a local charity. I'd been wondering what to do with it all until I decided one day that scarves are quick and easy to knit, and giving them away would uphold the purpose the people who had donated the yarn had in mind for it.

So. That's my summer so far. Snark and knitting (and you don't know just how well those two things get along until you've spend some time on Ravelry - go Google it if you don't know what it is) and trying not to get to depressed by work and the things I write about there. How's yours been so far?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Borders: all but gone...

Borders is going to bankruptcy court Thursday to ask permission to liquidate and close its stores. If this permission is granted, the liquidation sales could start as early as Friday and all its stores will likely be closed by the end of September. It has already closed a third of its stores and was working to get out of bankruptcy, but that isn't going to happen now.

It's sad to see any bookstore close, ever. I love the Internet, but I still prefer my books physical and in my hands. I'm old-fashioned, I guess. And I don't really like even buying actual books on-line, because I don't really like buying anything online. I like to be able to see what I'm buying before I pay for it. Again, old-fashioned. What do you want? I was born in 1956. You know, back when dinosaurs walked the earth.

That said, however, I'm not as sad to see Borders going. I never liked Borders much. The stores I've been in have never been organized very well, have not always had what I was looking for, and often had uninformed and unhelpful employees.

This was not universally the case, I have to say. I was in one Borders store in Southern California a couple of years ago and was looking for a particular book that was just out in paperback. After looking in all the sections where the book, which was Zoe's Tale, by John Scalzi, could have been and not finding, I asked an employee about it. He looked in all the places I had looked, just to see if I had missed it, but it wasn't there. And then he said he thought he might have seen the boxes still in back and unpacked. He disappeared and then returned a few minutes later with a copy of the book for me.

Still, I had more bad than good experiences in Borders, including one time asking an employee in my local store here in Fresno where the anthropology section was, and being asked in return, "What's anthropology?" I finally found the section on my own, but it would have been helpful to have a magnifying glass. The section was that small.

So, I guess it's goodbye to Borders. I'll continue to shop across the street at Barnes and Noble, where the selection is better and the employees much more knowledgeable and helpful. And where the sales are much much better. Now, if they'd just get their comfy chairs back.

I'll be cross-posting this over at my poor, neglected books and reading blog Reading With [an] Attitude at some point this evening.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The disaster that didn't happen...

Carmageddon...catchy name. And, it turns out, a non-event.

Reports out of Los Angeles say that officials started re-opening the 405 freeway around noon on Sunday, long before the Monday morning goal, with the possibility that it will be fully open by 3 p.m.

I wondered what that noise coming from the south was awhile ago; it was clearly the collective sigh of millions of commuters who have to take the L.A. freeways to work tomorrow morning.

I have to say that I'm proud of my home region. This weekend was a huge opportunity for the inhabitants of the Los Angeles area to live down to the stereotypes they are so often pinned with: selfish, self-absorbed, pursuing their own pleasure and comfort without thought for anyone else.

Instead, they proved what I've known all along, having grown up in Southern California: people there are just like everyone else. They pitch in and help when the need arises, as it did this weekend.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I really don't understand some people...

I need someone to explain this to me, because I just don't get it.

In the wake of the Casey Anthony verdict, from what I've been reading, people have been sending death threats to the jurors who found her not guilty of killing her daughter.

Death threats.

Really? For doing their job?

I get not agreeing with the verdict. It was unexpected, to say the least. Much of the evidence that made it into the media seemed to indicate that she was culpable in some way for her daughter's death, even if the actual death of the child had been accidental. Certainly, she had already long since been convicted in the media, by the media. And, goodness knows, the sudden and appaarently violent death of a child is upsetting.

So, yeah. I get disagreeing with the verdict. I even sort of get being upset about it, especially in light of the frenzy whipped up about the case by certain members of the punditry. I won't mention any names, since some of those people seem to take exception to being criticized for their broadcasts, but most of you probably know who I'm talking about.

But, really.

The jury was simply doing its job, which was to weigh the evidence and decide whether or not the prosecution had proved its case against Casey Anthony beyond a reasonable doubt. Because that's how it works in the United States judicial system. The prosecution has to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant commited whatever crime he or she is accused of.

I understand that there is a sizeable portion of the population that has a problem with this system. Nevertheless, that is the way the legal system in the United States works. I think this is a good thing. The government has many resources to assemble evidence that a person is guilty. Many times, the defendant has no resources at all, excpet an overworked and over-tired public defender. That is not an equal playing field. And sometimes people are not guilty. Not saying that is the case in the Anthony trial; I don't have a clue. I didn't hear all the evidence presented in court. The jury did.

Anyway...the jury's job in a criminal case is to listen to the evidence presented by both sides and decide whether or not the prosecution has proved that the accused committed the crime he or she is charged with. The level of proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt", not "without a doubt". But not, "well it seems like he or she might have done it", either.

From all the accounts I've heard and read, the jurors in the Anthony case felt that the prosecutors did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that she killed her daughter. I saw a couple of interviews with jurors in which it really sounded like they wanted to convict her, at least of manslaughter. But under the rules they had to operate under, they could not.

Which brings us to the question I want answered: What makes someone threaten to kill someone for doing his or her job while following rules that they did not have any hand in making? I mean, really...threaten to kill them?

Yeah. I don't get that at all. I disagree with a lot of things people do and say, a lot of the time. But I've never threatened anyone of any of those disagreements. I've never even thought about it.

I'm really hoping right now that this does not make me the abnormal one.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Cue the jokes about popping some popcorn and sitting back to see what happens.

No, seriously. Am I the only one who thinks that the hysteria over the closing this weekend of the stretch of the 405 freeway between the 101 and the 10 through Sepulveda Pass is just a little overblown?

Now, before you tell me that I don't understand because I'm not in Southern California, let me say this: I grew up in Southern California. I learned to drive on the freeways in L.A. I know how much Southern Californians love their cars and depend on them. Really. I know all that. And I know how common it is to hop in the car and drive across the county to go to dinner or to Disneyland or just to take a drive. I'm sure that still goes on, even with the soaring price of gasoline.

I'm not sure, however, why it seems so difficult for people who don't have to work to just stay in their neighborhoods for the weekend. Shop in a local store. Eat in a local restaurant. Play in a local park. It's not that hard.

Or is it all the media? Are the people fine with this, calm about it, ready to have a relaxing weekend at home? I suspect that's a lot of it, but i worry about the lookyloos, people who are hearing all this hype and will feel compelled to go out looking for the traffic jams and end up creating them. I know people like that, and I know that there are people like that in Southern California. Maybe more than the usual number. Goodness knows, it's kind of a regional passtime to be Where It's Happening

There are some people I feel sorry for. At the top of the list is people who planned their vacation in L.A. before carmageddon started getting so much time in the media and who couldn't cancel either because they coudn't get another time off from work or they'd already paid for tickets and lodging and couldn't get their money back. Especially the ones who have never been to Southern California.

The other folks I feel sorry for are the ones who have to get to LAX during the weekend, either because they are traveling themselves or because they are picking up or dropping someone off at the airport. Offhand, I can't think of a way to get to LAX without driving on the 405 or intersecting it. Getting into the airport isn't always horrible, but it can be and I suspect it will be this weekend.

I hope it all turns out well. It isn't as if there haven't been freeway closures in Los Angeles before. Parts of the 5 at the 14, the 10 and the 118 were all closed for various periods of time (but definitely longer than a weekend) in the aftermath of the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. That wasn't the first closure of the interchange of the 5 and the 14; it collapsed first in the 1971 Sylmar quake.

All in all, as much as I love Southern California, I'm glad I'll be watching this one from a safe distance. Fresno is a safe distance, right? But I'll be honest. I'll be checking the news from time to time, just to check on the number of Sig Alerts issued during the weekend.

Don't know what a Sig Alert is? Go look it up.

And yes, I deliberately didn't leave a link. Do you want me to do all your work for you?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In which I demonstrate one of the reasons for the name of this blog...

I'm trying to write a book. It's non-fiction, so there is a certain amount of research involved. The conventional wisdom is that at some point you need to stop researching and start writing. I'm getting better at that. Well, I'm getting better at writing as I research, which is a start, I suppose.

Anyway, I had to run some errands day before yesterday, and while I was out I needed to have lunch. I had suspected that this might end up being the case, so I took a book along, one that I'm reading, or re-reading, actually, as research. And so as I ate (a pizza, Canadian bacon and pineapple; it was very good), I read.

Well, I tried to read. You see, when I'm reading something really interesting, I tend to read a little and then think a lot about what I've read. I often make marginal notes, and make notes in my current writer's notebook besides. And sometimes, I indulge in a bit of Tangents 101. Which means I read three or four pages and ended up with four pages of my notebook filled with notes that really have very little to do with what I'm writing about. Or, at least, they demonstrate the John Muir saying about how everything in the universe is connected to everything else.

Sometimes the connection is very tenuous. Other times it is clearly identifiable but no especially relevant to what I'm supposed to be doing.

The book in question is Kenneth Miller's Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution (Perennial, 1999). It's a really good book which, as I indicated above, I've read before. A couple of times. I'm reading it this time because I'm writing about anthropology, and evolution is a key concept within the field, especially within biological anthropology. So, it is on-topic in a number of ways. In other ways, not so much.

Today's problem was that I got to page 38, and Miller was writing about the origins and early evolution of life. Specifically, he was discussing the long period of time between the time of the first, prokaryotic cells (cells without nuclei), and the appearance of eukaryotic cells (those are cells that have nuclei), and the long period thereafter between those cells and the appearance of the first multi-celled organisms. Now, all of this is a subject of infinite fascination for me. And so I made some notes about how much I'm interested in this, in beginnings of all kinds. Who knows, I might want to write about it at some point.

Somehow, from the beginnings of life I ended up at the beginning of the universe, and how difficult a subject that is for me for various philosophical reasons. Difficult, but also fascinating. I also ended up at how questions of the beginning of the universe and of life are subjects that tread all over both science and religion.

But that isn't all.

Miller also gets into, on the same page, the questions science has concerning whether or not the earliest multi-cellular organisms there is evidence of (from Australia, in the Ediacaran Hills, he says, although there has probably been further research since he wrote in 1999) are or are not directly related to organisms alive today, or whether all life on earth today is descended from other organisms that came into being separately, somewhere else. This is another idea that really tickles my imagination, and I spent some time on that as well.

Yeah. I was in the restaurant for a full hour after I had finished eating, playing around with these ideas. Didn't really make any progress in the research toward what I'm trying to write. Made myself want to go off and read about the origin of life and the origin of the universe and the geological history of the Earth

All of which also goes to explain why it takes me so long to read a book sometimes.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I'm so confused...or, That's a really stupid attitude

Question for you all: When you're listening to the radio in the car, do you ever get so angry and what you are hearing that you nearly have to pull over and stop?

Happened to me today, on the way to the grocery store and on the way home as well. I was listening to a local "classic rock" (in quotations, because some of what they play isn't especially classic in my opinion, but whatever), and the DJ was on about The (former) Governator (that would be Arnold Schwarzneggar for all of you non-Californians) and his recently-revealed behavior. Was the DJ criticizing Ah-nold for having an affair? No. Was he congratulating him in that way some males have sometimes, for "getting some"? Not that, either.

No. He was raking the former governor over the coals for having had an affair with a woman who was uglier than his wife.

Yeah. You read that correctly. This guy was getting lots of jaw mileage over the fact that Arnold Schwarzneggar had sex, and even conceived a child with, a woman who was not sufficiently beautiful. And, by extension, criticizing the woman for being ugly, and implying that only those who are movie-star beautiful should expect to get to have sex. Or anyway, that sure sounded to me like the subtext of his remarks.

This isn't the only place I've heard comment of one sort or another about the looks of the woman in question. I was half-watching The View yesterday while I was working, and when they showed a photo of this woman, half the audience gasped, as if to say, "He had sex with her?" Whoopi Goldberg offered a critique of that attitude, but the fact remains that a certain (probably fairly high) percentage of the American people have the attitude that a woman who is less than young and beautiful has no business having sex, and that anyone who would have sex with such a woman has something wrong with them, and a big movie star like Arnold S. (because he does have a long-ass last name, and I'm tired of typing it out) has even something more wrong with him if he does so.

This isn't new. We heard the same thing when Bill Clinton's affair, or whatever it was, with Monica Lewinsky was revealed. There were lot of comments such as, "But she's fat" and "She's not very pretty". Clinton was a powerful man; why would he stoop to having sex with a non-beautiful woman?

What it all goes back to is how women are marginalized, and how women who are not-young, not-pretty and not-thin are marginalized even more. I suppose what surprised me was that this guy on the radio was trying to marginalize Arnold for being with an already marginalized woman. And, in the question he was asking his audience, and soliciting comment about, was "Why would a man have an affair with a woman who was uglier than his wife?" Which, of course, was also a comment on Maria Shriver's looks.

I don't know. I guess the question that I'm really trying to get to is, Why does it even matter what a person looks like? I'm not saying that I don't notice good-looking me, and don't trade comments about who's hot and who's not. But, as a practical matter, in interpersonal relationships, why does it even matter to people outside the relationship, what the parties to the relationship look like? It is vastly more important to me what a person is like. Are they nice, are they funny, are they smart? If they're good-looking as well, well, that's bonus. But looks are not the starting point and the stopping point in deciding whether I want to be friends, or lovers, for that matter, with a man.

Ah, well. This has turned into a rant. Sorry. But it is just one of those situations that occasionally makes me wonder if I was sent to the wrong planet when I was born.

Because I just don't understand.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The tirade I've been trying to protect you from, dear readers...

I'm still here.

I've thought to post several times recently, but each time I was so riled up about something or other that I decided I'd spare you all the tirade.

I think I'm going to have to stop watching and reading the news entirely. "Hell in a handbasket" comes to mind whenever I do pay attention, and I find it just all so depressing, whether it's politics or the world situation or the things that the media chooses to focus on.

The idea of not paying attention to the news goes very much against my grain; I'm a news junkie from way, way back. But the more I pay attention, the more cynical I become. News isn't news anymore; it's more like "let's see who can shout the loudest and get the most attention". Facts don't seem to matter any more as politicians (from every part of the spectrum, sad to say) seem to beleive that saying something makes it so, no matter if what they are saying has any basis in reality or not.

There is one example in particular that I'm thinking of right now. I can't recall the politician's name at the moment, but he made a statement recently that government funding to Planned Parenthood because "90 percent" of their money is made through providing abortions. Or somthing like that. Which is, as far as I know, not really the case at all. I'm not taking issue so much with the fact that he said this, but with his staff's behavior afterward. When he was called on his statistic by others, his staff put out a statement that he did not intend for his statement to be factual.

Huh? Did they really come right out and say that he lied deliberately, and that it was really okay that he lied? I'm really not sure what to do with that, other than to suggest that this sort of thing is exactly why people answer the question, "How do you know when a politician is lying?" with, "When his or her lips are moving."'s a nice day, so I really don't want to dwell on this sort of negative. So, I'm going to go read a book or something, and look forward to going out with friends tonight.

Have a nice Easter weekend, everyone.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Time flies (and it's also wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey)...

Okay. Where did the time go?

Oh. That's right. There's work, and knitting, and reading, and SCA and the real world (which keeps interfering with all the fun stuff). You know how it goes.

Also, there's the very real issue that I've just been in a cranky mood, and I really don't want to make this the "LMA only blogs when she's pissed off about something" blog. That just doesn't make for good reading. Once in awhile, yes. Not as a steady thing.

I've also been dealing with the books and reading blog I started just before the beginning of the year. I have been posting over there, so I haven't been completely absent from the blogosphere. You should come over there and visit, and see what a reading geek I am.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I've been knitting...

I've been busy knitting recently. This is one of the projects I completed earlier this month. Just thought I'd share something colorful on this gray Sunday morning.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Violent political rhetoric and the First Amendment

I keep thinking that I need to write something about what happened in Tuscon yesterday, but I'm not sure exactly what to say, except that this sort of thing has to stop.

I think it was interesting that during a news conference late yesterday afternoon, the Sheriff of the county Tuscon is in (sorry, I'm winging this and I don't know the name of the county and I want to get this out before I forget what I want to say, so I'm not going to stop to look it up) called out the "vitriolic rhetoric" of some radio and television broadcasters as contributing to a climate which can inflame those with "mental issues" (which is how he described the young man in custody for the shootings), that they are "more susceptible" to the influence of such things Nevada candidate Sharron Angle's statements about "Second Amendment solutions" and a map posted around the Internet that marked with firearm crosshairs the districts of congressmen and women that some on the right want to see defeated.

Well, this morning on some of the Sunday morning political talk shows, some were taking issue with the Sheriff's comments and suggetion that the nation needs to do some soul-searching about the character of some recent political rhetoric. There were complaints that since we don't know the shooting suspect's motivations, the comments by the Sheriff were premature and inappropriate. They also seemed to be trying to say that to complain about what some candidates and pundits have said that could be construed as promoting violence against some other candidates is tantamount to violating the First Amendment.

First of all, I don't think that what ends up being identified as the shooter's motive has anything to do with the question. Even if he was just a "lone nut" (something the Sheriff said yesterday afternoon that his department was not at all convinced was the case) whose motivation was not so much political as pathological, his obvious target was a member of Congress, one who had been threatened by those on the right before and who had been targeted on the list that accompanied that map with the crosshairs on it. That alone, regardless of motivation, makes the discussion of recent political rhetoric appropriate.

Second, but no less important, I beleive it is settled law that the First Amendment does not cover speech and actions that can be interpreted as incitements to riot or violence. You can't get up in front of a crowd and urge them to run amok. And you can't say things about using "Second Amendment remedies" with a wink and a nod. In saying that, you might well be speaking metaphorically (although sometimes, I don't think those who say those things are being metaphorical at all). The problem is, some of the people who are hearing you say it might believe you mean what you say literally, and take it upon themselves to act on it. What you say might not even be actionable, in terms of being charged as an accomplice in an act like the shootings in Tuscon. But my position is that those who say such things don't have entirely clean hands when such events do occur.

This does not mean that I'm advocating that there should not be discussions in which political differences are aired. Not at all. Those disucssions are fully covered by the First Amendment. You can't stop someone saying that they don't agree with another person or with a government policy. You can't stop someone speculating about events, even about dire conspiracies that are mostly in the minds of those who believe in them. They are protected by the First Amendment. But threatening harm to someone who does not agree with you, or who you think is doing something politically nefarious, is most assuredly not covered by the amendment, just like yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater is not covered by free speech guarantees.

I think the bottom line in all of this is that our society (and I mean that globally) needs to get over the idea of some people that just because they are angry about something, they have the right to go out and kill who they are angry at and maybe a bunch more people, just because they are angry. Because it isn't just political. We see it all the time these days, sadly, in workplace shootings, in school rampages, and in personal relationships gone bad.

It's madness (but not, in most cases, clinical insanity). And it has to stop.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Resolutions, anyone?

I don't usually do New Year's Resolutions.

Having said that, however, here are my resolutions for 2011:

1. Read more. I have always been a reader, ever since I learned to read right about the time I turned three years old. Yes. That's very early. But I was an only child and there were no nearby neighbors to play with, so I had to do something with my time. Anyway, for the past few years, first with taking care of my mother, and then after she died, trying to keep my head above water both emotionally and economically, I just didn't have the time or feel the inclination to read as much. Part of it was that I often just couldn't find books I wanted to read that badly. I probably picked up ten or fifteen books and then didn't finish them for every book I read all the way through. Well, my intention with this resolution is to read more, to finish more of what I start to read, and to tell everyone all about it over on my new reading blog, Reading With (an) Attitude.

2. Write more. I write for a living. I like my job a lot, but I want to do much more with my talent, such as it is, than write about the financial markets. Last year, I got a good start on a novel, but then between running into some issues with how I wanted to frame the story and just plain getting too busy with other things so that writing the novel got lost in the shuffle of daily events, my work on it dwindled down to practically nothing. The goal here is to resume work on the novel, with a more specific goal of having a decent first draft finished by the end of the year. That goal should really probably be to have the draft done by the middle of the year, but I do have other obligations, so I'm attempting to not burn myself out by pushing too hard.

3. Walk more. I've got arthritis. It hurts to walk sometimes. But, since I'm now without car, I've got to get over it and get moving. This is not an effort to lose weight, although that would be good too. It is simply an effort to be able to get around and get the things I need to do, done.

4. Knit more. And learn to crochet. I already knit quite a bit. I should actually be working on finishing a project now, since it needs to be done in the next couple of days. But, it's New Year's Day, it's raining outside and I feel lazy. And, it will get done. But, I need to advance in my knitting this year, so that I can make more, and more complicated projects. Specifically, I need to master enough lace knitting to make a shawl this year, and I need to make a sweater this year, just to prove that I can do it. As for the crochet...I can crochet enough to edge a blanket. I need to be able to do more than that, well, just because I need to.

5. Spend more time on the internet forum where I am a moderator. I've been woefully inadequate in that recently, and I need to get back there for that reason, and just because I miss my friends there. If this involves setting up a time management schedule and specifically scheduling time to be there during the week, I'll do that.

And now, my question to you is, what are your resolutions for the New Year? Or, if you didn't make any, why do you choose not to make resolutions?

Happy New Year!