I enjoyed and am inspired by this article about David Bazan, the singer/songwriter for the Christian rock group, Pedro The Lion. I am encouraged by the fact that someone with as eccentric a take on Christianly as mine (though not identical of course, or where would the eccentricity be?) can still be accepted as a Christian though his message and its presentation is controversial and quite shocking to some. There is hope for me to continue to self-identify as Christian if this is so.
I would like to hear his music now and especially read his lyrics. He said he is inspired by one of my fave writers and early influences on my own artistic vision, Flannery O’Connor. I also took to heart some of his insight into the act of creating his art. He admitted to at times feeling pressured by others to do a certain thing or to do it a certain way, ostensibly because it was more Christian by someone else’s take anyway. But he said he has learned that when he complies with such requests the results are not as good--as inspired or inspiring. He gets his best results when he lets his own unconscious work the material and then speaks from his heart:
“I started to put a lot more stock in the idea of writing being a process of discovery rather than a process of communicating some concrete idea that you have…I believe that if there’s something that I feel strongly [about], that it’ll find its way out in the most appropriate way that I couldn’t hope to manipulate. That stuff tends to come out automatically in a lot more pleasing nature.”
This is something I’ve had to learn the hard way too. It’s not just the voice of Christian nay-sayers I’ve had to learn to ignore in order to write my stories and some of what I write here on Joystory. It is as hard to self-identify as Christian among the liberal-progressive communities online and elsewhere as it is to self-identify as liberal among my fundamentalist Christian family. I don’t fit into anybody’s box. Nor do I want to. Learning to be OK with eccentricity has been a hard path for me but it has informed my writing and my stories in ways that make me grateful that path was given to me.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
I enjoyed and am inspired by this article about David Bazan, the singer/songwriter for the Christian rock group, Pedro The Lion. I am encouraged by the fact that someone with as eccentric a take on Christianly as mine (though not identical of course, or where would the eccentricity be?) can still be accepted as a Christian though his message and its presentation is controversial and quite shocking to some. There is hope for me to continue to self-identify as Christian if this is so.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
I had no sooner posted about the shrinking fonts below when I encountered this website via Blog Advance. I thought the concept sounded interesting and eminently supportable. I still do. But when I arrived at their site I found them to be an egregious example of the very thing I had just finished ranting about. Only in this case they were soliciting questions for initiating dialog in the global community on issues that impact our lives.
At first I thought that my beef with font size was frivolous compared to the questions about poverty, war, education, free speech, tolerance, justice, compassion…. But then I realized that it was relevant because the creators and promoters of this website would be the last ones to want to exclude someone like me from their dialog. And the first ones to want to know how their web design was discouraging me from participating. So I braved the 6pt(?) question form and found a way to ask my question in under 250 characters. This is what I asked:
Why are font sizes shrinking all over the web, thus barring the visually impaired from forums like this? Can't we make better use of the technology to make all feel like valued contributors to community and dialog?
In spite of this impediment for people like me, I am still excited about the concept of this site. I’ve barely scratched the surface of what it is about. They are planning to hold a live round-table discussion in Germany on September 9. Go ask a question and join the dialog.
This is a rant. If it sounds disorganized that’s because it’s reflecting my sense of disorganization and the turmoil of emotions I’m feeling right now. This is something I take personally and something that I’ve been frustrated about for at least two years now. I have avoided writing about it here--at least not more than a few dropped hints--because I felt that it sounded too much like whining. But right now I’m feeling, So what if it is?! And more than that I suspect that it is incorrect for me to feel that talking about this is nothing more than ‘fussy baby’ spluttering. For now I think it is past time to call attention to the trend towards shrinking fonts all over the Internet because they have to be impacting more than just the elderly and those with visual impairments. In fact, I don’t believe it is too much of a reach to believe they could be implicated someday in damage to the eyesight of children those who currently have excellent vision.
I need to clarify that I have a bias here. This whole trend is squelching the hope I had in computer and Internet technology leveling the playing field for those with disabilities. Those like me. I have a visual impairment called RP aka Tunnel Vision. I usually link to something explanatory whenever I mention it but I don’t have time right now to hunt down the links. Besides, I just recently did so in a post not too many below this one. Anyway, RP causes loss of peripheral vision and night vision in the early stages and until the late stages, leaves the central vision fairly intact. The catch is that those stages are different lengths in different people. They can be days, months, years or decades. The strain inherited in my family seems to be the latter. My mother and grandmother both kept their central vision for decades. My mother, in her seventies now, reads the newspaper with a powerful magnifying glass. I can still read 10pt font for short periods if it is high contrast--a high degree in difference of shade between the font and it’s background color--but I prefer 14pt for lengthy encounters. I am content with what used to pass for normal--12pt.
When the trend online for fancy new designer websites featuring the incredible shrinking font began, I wasn’t too alarmed at first because most of them left intact the browser feature that allows you to adjust font size. But lately the trend has been for these designers to override that and I am increasingly finding pages and whole websites that will not allow the fonts to enlarge.
I get why it is happening. Just like in print mediums they need to limit the space the text uses on the screen to accommodate advertisements and/or more headlines. And unlike print mediums they need to give prominent space to site navigation. But in this medium, which could just as easily have used the technology to circumvent the old limitations of physical paper to create a sense of limitless space, is instead heading toward an even narrower definition of what constitutes available space than the average newspaper or magazine. Can you imagine any newspaper surviving for long if it printed all the news and commentary in 8pt font on less than 30% of the page while leaving the rest for a swarm of ads with space devouring photos and fonts the size of headline? And what if they then shrank the size of the page to one-quarter what it is today?
The fear that people won’t stick around long enough to scroll down to see what is there is groundless. Curiosity alone is enough to ensure they will as long as they have been taught to expect there to be something worth seeing and that they won’t be forced to download another page to read beyond the third paragraph. Can you imagine a magazine in which every time you turn the page you have to wait three minutes to see it? And what if then they limited each page to only three paragraphs or worse 100 words? How long would you keep turning the pages?
The current crop of web page designers seem to have decided that the ‘front page’ is defined by the size of the screen and they have to put everything they consider relevant ‘above the fold’ which is the bottom of the screen even though the technology could accommodate a page the size of a bed sheet no matter what size your screen is. Will this trend continue as cell-phones and Blackberries and other shrinking, portable web-accessible devices proliferate and overtake in number the PC and laptops? If so, they will have shut me out of the online community as surely as wheel-chair bound citizens were shut out of active roles in their local communities before the advent of wheel-chair lifts on city-busses, ramps at building entrances and large stalls in public restrooms. The cost of making the web user-friendly for the visually impaired is miniscule compared to the costs of creating wheel-chair accessible public infrastructure.
I wouldn’t mind the development of the crowded page that squeezes the text content into smaller and smaller sections if it wasn’t accompanied by newer trends that are foreclosing all the tricks I learned to finagle around the new limitations. I mentioned already the way they are now preventing you from using the browser’s font adjuster. Another method I’ve used, where it is available, is the printer friendly versions of pages found especially on online newspapers and magazines. These almost always give me a page with a readable font. But lately some of them have started trying to initiate printing either as the page loads or instead of loading a page in the browser window. Now, aside from the fact that I don’t have a printer and trying to make my computer turn it on when it doesn’t exist is likely to cause it to hang and then shut down the browser window and possibly my Internet connection as well, why would I be willing to ‘waste’ ink and paper to print their text before I’ve even read it when I’ve always been too miserly of ink and paper to print hardcopies of my own rough-draft manuscripts?
Another finagle that is being foreclosed on more and more sites is the ability to copy text and paste it into my word processor where I could use zoom. Now, as a writer myself, I do understand the urge to copy-protect one’s ‘intellectual property’ and I don’t really begrudge those that do this but I do wish they would either use a readable font (in both size and color) or else provide an alterative viewing of the content. The developing popularity in some blogs of something called ‘skins’ shows me that this is possible. They seem to be mostly a gimmicky fad that allows the reader of a page to create an ambience to their taste--they let you choose among title banners and graphic décor, text and background color and occasionally layout of the page. But it seems that font size is the last thing on most of their minds for it is the choice least likely to be offered and yet it is the difference that could make the difference for me as to whether I will be a regular visitor.
Well, I’ve gone on too long already and I haven’t even started in on how this problem impacts activities other than reading content on pages. I wanted to talk about online email accounts that make you work with small fonts, blog WYSIWYG platforms that do the same, not to mention the blog comment forms and almost all other forms online that allow input from the user. Even when site designers were still allowing you to adjust font size in the browser for content, the input forms were already limiting font size to 10pt and below. Tell me, who reads 8pt font anyway? Please!
Saturday, August 26, 2006
I’ve been a busy girl this week. Just not here. I’ve been flitting all over the web on little tasks that purport to help promote your site: rings and registries and rolls etc. I also posted another book review over at Blogcritics. The first one in a year. I had barely signed up with them at about this time last year when my world fell apart and it took me a few months to gather the pieces. The story is in my September thru December archives. I don’t feel like dredging it all up again. The current Katrina headlines are dredging up enough of it already. I wasn’t directly affected by Katrina but I was grieving for the victims and the floodwaters were still high and Rita on the way when I was hit with a personal grief whammy, followed by two more in short order. I must have conflated the emotional contents of one with the other for reminders of one will remind me of the other. Our minds work in mysterious ways.
Anyway, I posted a book review of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close here on Joystory last spring that I noticed had been responsible for nearly ten percent of my traffic here all summer. I noticed earlier this week that it was about to drop off the front page of Joystory and I was afraid that would affect its rank in the search engines. And since I was pretty pleased with it for its own sake, I wanted to give it more exposure. I immediately thought of Blogcritics. But it took me several days to find out how to get back onto the posting platform. I was surprised to find that I didn’t have to re-register or something. It took me several hours to get my review posted though as I had to relearn their platform and, as so many of them do, it has the bad habit of not preserving text formatting when you copy/paste across platforms. It also forces me to work with a very tiny font which is not kind to my poor eyes. But I managed to get it done. If you would like to see the result, you can find it here.
I am really pushing the envelope this morning. I’m supposed to be asleep. I have to be awake and alert by two this afternoon to head over to Grandma’s where I spend Saturday nights thru dirt-track racing season so the rest of the family can go enjoy something that would push all my panic-anxiety buttons. I got into a bad habit this week, staying up until late morning and even past noon. It is hard to switch back. Yesterday morning I stayed up to do laundry as the need was dire. Friday was supposed to be my walk to the library day but my husband said before he left that morning that he was anticipating a short day since they wanted him to work Saturday morning. He said not to be in a hurry to leave for the library, especially not to short myself on sleep because if he got home by four he would do it for me and that way my time and energy could be devoted to the laundry without fear of loosing my night computer session. Well he not only got home in time, he woke me at two to ask me to move my books off his side of the bed and to turn off the alarm if it was set as the library books were already taken care of.
I was grateful. And yet, it just doesn’t feel like Friday without the library run. That’s probably why it doesn’t feel like Saturday morning right now either. And because he had no way to know which of the reserve items I had left behind last Friday he didn’t dare leave anything back this time as those items wouldn’t wait for another week. So he brought them all. Problem was I had not been as careful as I thought monitoring the flow of items and my place in line on a number of them and there had been a flood in the last two days. He brought home 29 items, two-thirds of them DVDs, for me plus the nine for himself. Ever since he got the fine paid on his card a month ago I’ve been gradually lowering the number of items checked out to me by making sure to check out fewer than I brought back each week. Now all that progress has been undone in one week. Still, I’m glad I didn’t have to make the walk this week. I’m thinking that maybe I should skip the library altogether next week anyway since I am going to be spending four out of five nights with Grandma because there are a series of big races. Wednesday night and then Friday afternoon thru Monday afternoon next week. Which means I won’t have internet access next weekend. I was planning to get drafts ready that my husband could go up and publish for me each day. I am still hoping to. But that means trying to do double content when just posting once a day is already a challenge.
Friday, August 25, 2006
I spent half of this session doing multimple restarts of my laptop both before and after going online. The fist one before because it was time and because during last night's session the HP update manager got hung and would niether finish nor close but continued to use CPU time as tho it were pedel to the metal. Then, within minutes of getting onine, AOL told me my virus updates were ready and to do a restart. I ignored them only to then be accosted by Acrobat Reader telling me that the updates that it had started downloading several sessions ago, were now ready and that to continue it needed permission to reboot. As if once wasn't enough, it had to do it again as soon as I logged onto my desktop. Apparently the first update had to be installed and a restarted done before the following update could be installed. That's what I get I guess for saying no thanks for months each time it offered.
Another portion of my session was taken up with renewing items on both mine and my husband's library accounts. Today--Friday--is library day for me. It still feels like Thursday to me since I haven't slept since I woke up Thursday afternoon. I am tempted to stay up again like I did yesterday morning and get back online after my mother-in-law leaves for work. But what with the facts of a short sleep yesterday, the library walk coming up this afternoon and needing to do laundry tonight before the week-end with Grandma after that--I better not risk it.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
I spent this session doing promotional and site management chores. You might have noticed that I've started dabbling with my sidebar in the past week for the first time in nearly a year. No fiascos yet so I am getting braver. I have just signed up for several webrings and registries and am waiting for acceptance. I have been wanting to increase the number of my memberships in these community-building and site promtion services for some time but know it would involve fooling with the code in my sidebar has detered me.
I am also preparing to update the list Blogs I Haunt and the other lists of sites helpful to writers, readers and reseachers. I have been collecting the links for some time. I probably should have just been adding them as I found them like most people do. Ah, well.
I have to get offline now as it's almost time for my mother-in-law to get up but I am not one whit ready to sleep so I think I will be back after she leaves for work. Maybe I will be able to get another post in before noon.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Wasn’t sure I was going to be able to have an online session tonight. Was afraid of that when I decided to stay up this morning to work on that book review and make another stab at posting. I was so wound up by the projects I’d worked on and others I was planning that I had a hard time winding back down. Sleep was the last thing I wanted to be doing. It was noon before I lay dwon and I made myself lay there without a book too. But I couldn’t sleep. It was after two the last time I looked at the clock. And it was still a good while before I got to sleep after that because I was willing myself to keep my eyes closed and my head and limbs still so I wouldn’t keep startling myself alert again every time I tried to see the clock or my watch.
My husband called me at five-thirty with the news that his mom wanted to go out to dinner. It took me over an hour to get ready to go. I needed a shower and shampoo. I slept-walked through it, several times almost applying the wrong thing to the wrong place--hair gel to my face, shaving gel to my hair, shampoo to my loufa. There isn’t enough light for me in the bathroom and I need to be organized to compensate. Imagine trying to shower by a nightlight or candle. That is about the effect that anything less than a hundred watt bulb has for me because of my RP. (WOW. I had not heard about this. Found that link on the Wikipedia RP article. I may not be doomed to ‘reading’ audio books for the last decades of my life after all.)
When I had my own home and didn’t have to worry about being called to dinner at six every evening, I didn’t even fight times when sleep wouldn‘t come. I went with it. I stayed up and read or wrote or cleaned house or whatever else struck me. I would stay up way past 24 hours on a regular basis. It was quite common for me to stay awake for 30 to 48 hours and there were more than a few times I was awake for over 70 hours. More common still would be for me to cat nap around and around the clock for weeks at a time--fifteen to fifty minutes asleep followed by six to sixteen hours awake. Four hours of sleep would be enough to carry me through another twenty plus awake. When I went on the anti-anxiety and anti-depressant meds in the late nineties my circadian cycles evened out some. There were fewer two plus days awake, I would sleep longer than a couple hours without waking and be able to drop back to sleep when I did wake. But along with the anxiety and the interminable alertness those meds took away the energy and pizzazz that often accompanied those marathon sessions.
I haven’t been on meds for several years now but they must have reset my body’s chemistry in some fashion because it is rare for me to go beyond 24 hours awake while maintaining real productivity. When I started working seriously on my writing again after the two year hiatus that followed the loss of my manuscripts, my computer and its files, my notes, and my personal library in 2001, I was grateful that I was able to maintain a fairly regular 24 hour circadian rhythm because without that I could not have hung onto my graveyard shift at the computer and for the first two years--January 2004 thru September 2005--those were the only hours my computer files were available. Since I got back from Longview following my father’s death last fall, I was still tied to the graveyard shift for Internet access but I had my laptop and all of my files available around the clock. And yet I seem to use them less now than I did when I could use them only between 9pm and 5am.
I know what to blame too. The online pages that I save by synchronizing, leaving them open in browser windows or saving to file each night are one big factor. Another is the DVDs I’ve been checking out of the library. Another is reading books. Yet another is the fact that I feel I need large blocks of time set aside for serious writing. Two hours and up for anything more than a few paragraphs. And when I don’t anticipate such a block of time, I won’t even open the files. Earlier this summer I made a conscious decision to give up TV for the rest of the summer re-run season. This included Dr. Phil and Oprah. I expected to make that block of time in the afternoon available for writing. Instead, I started stretching out my time in the mornings, visiting with my husband until he went to work, going back online, watching DVDs, doing laundry. A number of times in the last month my husband has had to come wake me up for dinner.
I also gave up eleven prime-time TV series that I’d been watching. That amounted to twenty hours a week freed up. You would have thought I would have found a way to apply at least half of that to writing projects. But instead, I’ve been hanging out on the porch with my husband and mother-in-law or in the back yard with my cats and either visiting, reading, or staring into space through those hours. And my husband and I have taken to spending about an hour give or take visiting one-on-one after his mom heads to bed about nine. This shaves off a large chunck of my work session since it then takes me another hour to get my stuff moved out to the living room and set up and my head back into the projects and plans. The new TV season is fast approaching and I find myself dreading it. Because I know that given a choice between a readymade story acted out on a bright screen and one in which I have to struggle to keep bright in my mind as I search for the right words to realize it on the page--I know that the quick fix is very hard to resist for this story addict.
Another major factor preventing me from writing in the afternoons and evenings is the condition of my writing space in the bedroom. It would take another thousand words to explain. The short version is it is messy, too much stuff, not enough light, no desk for spreading out papers and books, no place to sit but the bed which puts my legs to sleep up to my tailbone. Oh, and two cats on leashes who simply must sit on whatever my eyes are trained on. And in their jockeying for position will twine their leashes together and around my toes and ankles and then blame each other when they can’t get where they want to go--one is a screamer the other a boxer. Yikes. Breaking them up is hard to do even without a lap full of computer and cats in a fisticuff. I had hoped to be able to take my laptop out to the lawn chair or pic-nic table in the back yard during the good weather months. But I can’t see the screen when it is on battery power unless there is less than the equivalent of a sixty watt bulb worth of light. So I don’t even bother.
Once I am online, I don’t write on anything that I can’t knock off in about fifteen minutes because if I let the Internet go inactive for longer than that AOL will sign me off and just the anxiety of that makes it hard to focus on serious writing. Sometimes I’ve made myself stay offline until I have something ready to post. Sometimes I get a whole slew of pages set to synchronize and that will give me upwards of thirty minutes free to write.
This past week I’ve learned a new trick. I can start one of those You Tube videos downloading and that will give me upwards of half an hour. Last Saturday morning it was the one with the cat flushing the toilet. I left a link to the blog post where I found it in one of my three posts that morning. Tonight it is this slide show of Orcas with Orca song on Dave Neiwert’s Orcinus. I am doing it as much for my husband who is besotted by Orcas as I am for myself. I found it just before I had to get offline Monday morning and intended to download it Monday night. But I told in my last post what happened to last night’s session. The cat video took half an hour to download. This one has taken nearly two hours. But it is done now so I had better be wrapping this up soon. Or finding something else to keep the wires hot while I write.
I’ve been putting a lot of effort since April in trying to figure out why I’m not getting more accomplished and applying solutions to the problems I identify. I know that I would be envied by many writers whose impediments to finding time to write is a day job or homemaking for a family. They have a lot less flexibility than I do and must think that I’m just a whiny baby and not serious about my writing if I can’t make time available for it when all but about two hours--6-8pm--are mine to do with what I choose. I keep choosing different for whatever reason. Once again I am reminded of the economic principle of opportunity costs.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Once again, good intentions have proven to be inadequate. I am trying very hard to make regular posts so as to develop trust in my handful of regular readers to increase the amount and variety of content for search engine fodder. My Saturday night away from the web is unavoidable for another couple of months but I am trying to avoid missing more than one day in a row. So I was really, really intent on getting something posted during my Sunday night session. But my niece was once again spending the weekend with her Grandmother--my mother-in-law--and we spent the evening and most of the night chatting about this and that. Mostly about reading and writing. Part of my reason for starting Joystory and her sister sites Joyread and Joywrite (see sidebar for links) was to alleviate my sense of loneliness at not having someone to share my passions for words, story and ideas with. So I guess it is understandable that I found it hard to exchange a face-to-face confab for writing into the mostly unresponsive ether. I had a blast during my Sunday night session showing my niece around my sites, showing her my WYSIWYG so I could show her the HTML that creates the pages she sees online. Basically, just showing off.
As for Monday night’s session…in the words of Snoopy: Arrrrrrgh! I started out early--before ten--with high energy and ambitions. I spent about an hour on the library site, renewing items on both mine and my husband’s accounts, sending for more items, and other tasks. I was just about to get started on my serious business when AOL decided it was imperative to download and install updates and began to hog the computer’s attention. Although I was allowed to continue working while the download progressed, everything was aggravatingly slow. Nor did I trust that anything I worked on inside an online platform--from blog posting and commenting, sidebar editing, file uploading, to email composing--would be safe, so I did not begin anything that involved them. Good thing too. For when the download finished the first thing the installation wizard did was disconnect me and close AOL. Without warning let alone asking for permission! Whenever this happens I feel like throwing a temper tantrum!!! OK, deep breath. Sigh. I have control issues.
The next thing I knew, the installation wizard was demanding that I close all open applications. This included about a dozen browser windows and several word-processor windows. I am a multi-tasker. Or ADD according to my sister. Take your pick. Anyway, I complied and fully expected that once the installation was complete I would be required to restart. When the command to do so did not come though, I considered the fact that it had been more than five days and so did it anyway so I could hope to have more than a couple days to keep projects open on my taskbar. I keep so many windows open at once both because I am constantly moving from one to another and because I suffer from the ‘out of sight is out of mind’ gene.
So, by the time I got back online it was after three and I was starting to feel the pressure of time. While I tried to settle on what I was going to post about, I continued to chase down the various blog and news and views pages that I frequent. I wasn’t taking the time to read more than a few sentences on any one as I was just collecting them for reading later as is my habit. While on Write Stuff though I saw the blogroll that Karen created and is encouraging other writers to take and use on their sidebars. This reminded me that it was on my agenda for this week to get that installed on Joystory’s sidebar. I decided that it was as good a time as any. I ran into some snags in the process and by the time I had it right my mother-in-law was up and I had to clear off line and out of the living room.
I fully intended to get back online as soon as my husband left for work between seven-thirty and eight. Meanwhile, I would work on the book review for Madeleine Albright’s The Mighty & the Almighty, which my husband was going to be dropping off at the library on his way to work along with the other items that did not renew. This part went according to plan. Except that I continued to work on the book review for another hour after the book had departed with my husband. Then I decided that I was obviously not going to get that prepared for posting in good time so I had better start working on something else and I had better get whatever it was ready before I went back online. So I started working on this in my word processor. About an hour and four paragraphs into it, I was trying to use the control-S key combo to save my work when my fingers slipped and something I did closed the file instead. I lost all but the first paragraph and had to rewrite them from memory. That was more than an hour ago. I have a bit more than an hour left before my mother-in-law is due home. So if I’m going to get this posted this morning I had better get it done.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Reading Michael Cunningham’s prose is like eating an exotic designer ice-cream. The creamy texture of it fills you with a sweet comfort that contains chewy metaphors which release startling bursts of flavor and successive ‘Ahs!’ And all of this is just the delivery mechanism for a story that is full of complex characters in complex relationship with each other, their culture, their environment and their own selves. This is only the second of Cunningham’s novels that I’ve read and I can’t get enough. I read The Hours several months ago after watching the DVD of the movie made from it. (I posted a review of the book here at the time.) I am so glad there are at least two more of his novels in my local library.
In A Home at the End of the World, Cunningham he explores the contours of loss and grief and the individual’s often fumbling self-construction out of the rubble and chaos left by life-events out of one’s control. The distinct voices of four major characters in alternating chapters tell their stories and in the process evoke the changing cultural landscape of America as it morphs through the sixties and into the early nineties. Not one of the four narrators are entirely trustworthy as their already naturally limited vision has been distorted by pain, anger and fear. But the layering of their observations--sometimes confirming, sometime contradicting another’s view--creates a world the reader can inhabit like a dream and come away believing that, not only do they have four new acquaintances whom they know as intimately as themselves, they know their own selves better and see their own world through new eyes. And along with the characters, one comes to understand that the elusive sense of safety, acceptance and well-being encompassed by the concept of ‘home’ is not a place but a state of mind.
It irks me to no end to think that, because this novel (as well as The Hours) deals with the issues of gender-identity, sexual-orientation and so-called alternative life-styles, many would turn from it in disgust, denying themselves the enriching experience of knowing these characters. Yet others would deny me and everyone else the right to choose to be exposed to them and their author the right to tell his truth from his center. Fie on them, I say. Fie!
This is just too funny. I wish I knew how to post one of those You Tubes so I could put it in your face. Please go see it at Echidne. It takes about half an hour to download on dial-up. But it is so worth it. More so if you are a cat person.
While I waited, I finished polishing up and link-hunting for the book review I was working on yesterday so I think I will go ahead and post it before I go lay down. It is the first of several I'm working on and one of the 22 books I read for Bubbles In My Head's Read-a-ton contest which left me in third place. Thank's Zoe for the fun time. Now I need to follow through with the reviews I kept promising and putting off so that I could continue to scarf down the books.
I took this quiz twice because I couldn't decide between two choices on one of the questions. The first result came back:
|You Should Be a Science Fiction Writer|
Your ideas are very strange, and people often wonder what planet you're from.
And while you may have some problems being "normal," you'll have no problems writing sci-fi.
Whether it's epic films, important novels, or vivid comics...
Your own little universe could leave an important mark on the world!
The second result came back:
|You Should Be A Poet|
You craft words well, in creative and unexpected ways.
And you have a great talent for evoking beautiful imagery...
Or describing the most intense heartbreak ever.
You're already naturally a poet, even if you've never written a poem.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
I spent hours this session working on the pre-writing tasks for this post and now I've got only minutes to write it before I have to get offline and clear out of the livingroom. So bear with me if I don't wax as profound as this topic deserves.
I signed up with this project over a month ago and kept putting off announcing so because I wanted to put the links in my sidebar and not just in the post. I haven't revised my sidebar since last fall when a kind reader of Joystory helped me fix it after I'd messed it up the first time I added a java script thingie to it. This timidity for working with HTML again has also kept me for doing the plethora of things that are possible in promoting blogs since most require posting links or scripts in the sidebar. But that is another story. Straying off topic is what I tend to do in rough drafts.
This post is supposed to be about this project to sign up enough volunteer bloggers so that each of the 2996 victims of 9/11 will each have a memorial posted on 2996 blogs on the fifth anniversary this year. As you can see in the sidebar graphic which I finaly got working, I am assigned to write a memorial for Frank Mancini.
The project is only halfway to the total of volunteers they need. Please go sign up and pass the word along.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Just dropping in to say sorry for not posting for several days. Last night's session--the first after my week-end with Grandma--was blown out of the water by some problem with the Internet last night. Though I got connected to AOL, for two hours attempts to load pages came back with errors and cannot find server messages. I gave up. I meant to make up for it tonight but I got lost in catching up on nearly a week's worth of news and views reading. I guess I should have been using that Blog this button. Oh, well. I will make this a priority tomorrow night. Or try anyway.
Monday, August 14, 2006
"Ninety eight percent of the adults in this country are decent, hardworking, honest Americans. It's the other lousy two percent that get all the publicity. But then, we elected them." Lily Tomlin
I'm just too tired to come up with anything original of my own to say right now. As always, after returning from Grandma's on Sunday afternoon I am sleep deprived and on edge from being on high alert for twenty-four hours.
I was surfing for links to go with a review I am preparing of Lilly Tomlin's one-woman Broadway play, The Search for Intelligent Life in The Universe, which I just finished reading. I was reading it because I watched it on DVD a couple of months ago. It simply amazes me that one woman can memorize nearly two-hundred pages of script and then get on stage live and move in and out of twelve or more different characters for over two hours. I bet seeing it live would be an awesome experience.
Credit needs to go also to Jane Wagner who wrote it. I am in awe of her word-craft.
I'm sure this won't be the last you hear from me about this play. Something about it just got to me. I can feel it working on me sub-terrainially. Maybe that's way some have called it subversive?.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
I had planned to write a post, maybe even two or three, this session. But instead I spent three hours exploring this site:
manybooks.net - Free eBooks for your PDA
I lost track of how many eBooks I downloaded. The one I'm most excited about is James Joyce's Ulyssus. Now I can stop chasing the library copy. It is the 1920 something edition and not the 1986 edition, which was revised to edit typos and such, which I once owned and had to sell. But I can live with that.
I was excited to find they have all of Jane Austen's novels. And Charles Dickens'. I didn't download any of them just bookmarked the pages with the links. As I did for several other classic authors.
I barely scratched the surface of this site. Go explore.
I'll be back Sunday night. I'm off to get some sleep before I head to Grandma's. I've been up for 25 hours and that included the regular Friday library run in which I walked both ways for the first time in four weeks.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Through no fault of my own, I may have narrowly averted a catastrophic crash of my ten month old laptop Thursday. While I was preparing the previous post in the wee hours of Thursday morning, I was experiencing more of the same irritating slowness of response from pages loading, windows switching etc that I’ve learned to blame on one or both of two issues: two many windows or applications open at once and/or overdue for a restart. But recently there had been a variety of new glitches and restarting or limiting windows had seemed to give little or only very temporary relief. Then several times over the past month my Works word processor froze on me, causing me to loose five to fifty minutes worth of typing. Yeah, I’m bad about remembering to save sometimes when I am in the zone. Well, after loosing an hour’s worth of input into my journal last weekend, I had been more diligent about saving every five minutes or less. Then yesterday morning as I was saving the draft I was preparing to post--in the word processor which where I usually prepare them so that I can use spell check and zoom and keep track of word-count--Works refused to save my work, claiming that either the file was in use by another application or it was corrupted. Luckily it allowed me to copy/paste it into another file and did not just close itself on me. So I was able to salvage what I had written and pasted it into the blogger platform. I had intended to write a paragraph or two more but was getting frustrated by the accumulation of glitches and the slowness of every response so I went ahead an clicked publish. And I’m so glad I did because I no sooner got the Blogger success screen and I got unwillingly kicked offline. The AOL message claimed it was for inactivity. But that hardly applied.
It wasn’t yet three-thirty and I hadn’t yet chased down my news and fav blogs for reading offline later and so I was tempted to go straight back online to do that. But then I thought that maybe I could be do a restart first and still have time to do that before my mother-in-law got up at five. So I commenced the restart and was immediately reminded why I had grown to hate them so much and thus why I avoided them. There seemed to be a plethora of ghost programs that resisted being closed and their numbers had been increasing over the past month or so. They have strange file names that are a mile long. So it took me nearly an hour to get through the restart and back on the desktop. That didn’t leave enough time to go back online and get anything accomplished before five. I decided to wait and do it after my mother-in-law left for work which would also give me a chance to talk to my husband about the issue.
When I described the various glitches I’d been experiencing his first question was, When was the last time you did disk maintenance? I just started at him. I had been accustomed with our past computers for him to take control of system administration. I had made murmurs when I first got this laptop about wanting to learn how to do those things but since we had never gotten together for a tutorial…. Excuses. It just slipped my radar and he, to my surprise has shown little interest in the laptop from the beginning. He performed the first disk maintenance on it the week I got back from Longview last November when it was still less than two months old. I vaguely remember him telling me it needed to be done every four to six weeks. That was the last time I thought about it.
Apparently it is a big deal. And apparently that in combination with my propensity to save my Internet history and temporary files for a month was asking for trouble. Because of my limited time frame for being online I use various methods from synchronizing, to saving to file, to hanging onto temp files so that I can do most of the reading of pages while offline. When I discovered that just opening a page was enough in many cases to make it available while I was offline, I thought that was like a magic trick. I thought it was enough to just adjust the amount of memory set aside and to adjust the settings to give me more time to get to the extra pages. My husband is wordless. I don’t understand the problem but I guess I need to trust him that I just came within a whisker of needing to have my hard drive taken back to factory spec--every application form DOS to Works reinstated from the CD-ROMs that came with the laptop. Which would mean five to ten hours of work for him which he couldn’t do during the work week nor on race day Saturday…. He let me contemplate the implications for a bit. Then he said that if I was unwilling to attempt the maintenance myself, I would have to wait until he got home from work. I asked him to run down the step for me.
First do a full virus scan, then delete Internet history and temporary files, then do a disc cleanup, then a disc scan, then a disc defrag. I proceeded to follow the steps. Only disc scan was not done because I could not find it on the menu. The Virus and Spyware scan took two hours. The deletion of Temporary files took ten minutes. The disc cleanup took fifteen minutes and the defrag took two and a half hours. It finished at fifteen after noon and thus too late for me to go online again before my mother-in-law got off work. Plus I was still awake when my alarm clock went off at eleven after twelve. And thus I was set up to loose my Thursday night online session as well. The three hour nap I got before dinner yesterday was not enough and I thought another two or three hour nap after dinner would help compensate but when I woke up at midnight I could not face staying awake. I tried. I came out and sat on the couch in front of the fan trying to want to be awake but it was no go.
My husband called me when he got up at six and I was still reluctant but I had to get online to renew library books and movies at the very least as Friday was library day. And that is the next step for me this morning which is almost afternoon already. I need to post this and start getting ready for my walk to the library.
Oh, yeah. The laptop seems to be performing much like it did in the first weeks. Fast and smooth and glitchless. Have I learned my lesson? My track record is not good.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Once again, I spent so long leaving a comment on another site that I ran out of time to finish the post I had in mind for my own blog. But, I like what I wrote in that comment better anyway and thought I would share it here and use the opportunity to send you over to Write Stuff again and to introduce you to another talented writer and her blog. Treat it like play. Fiction writing is 90% dreaming of the story. I'm not So my advice is to have a play date with your story. Go on adventures with its
Divine is a regular poster on Write Stuff where I have guest posted a few times and she has her own blog called Divine Calm where she showcases her writing and her photography. In her post ‘Blanked Out’ on Write Stuff today, she talks about adjusting to a new job that involves writing and being frustrated to find herself lacking the energy to work on her personal writing goals. She asks: How do I recharge and write when I don’t feel like it because I have been doing it all day at work?
This is the part of my comment I feel is worth sharing here:
belittling that 10% elbow grease that gets the words onto paper or any other
sharable format but true progress isn't measured only by word count.
characters, becoming intimate with them like best friends or enemies. Go into
the dream of your story as you would into a novel or movie. Do that regularly
enough and the very thought of joining them will energize you and you will begin
to anticipate rather than dread the writing sessions.
Treat it like play. Fiction writing is 90% dreaming of the story. I'm not
So my advice is to have a play date with your story. Go on adventures with its
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Andrew McAllister, Ph.D. from To Love, Honor and Dismay left a comment on my Hoping to be Debugged post yesterday so I moseyed on over to see what his site was about and to return the favor if I was so moved. This fit with two of my goals: To stop being a lurker on other blogs and to start encouraging comments on my posts by at least acknowledging them in some way. Once again I am reminded why I find both so difficult. I spent two hours on Dr. McAllister’s site. Half of it reading posts and comments and the rest in composing a comment that would be more appropriate as a blog post and thus curtailing the time available for composing a new post for Joystory and for the blog reading and research and promotional tasks these precious online hours are dedicated too. There is never enough time.
Which brings me to the theme of the comment I left on this post of Dr. McAllister’s where he turns the table on his readers and asks them a question instead of answering submitted questions regarding relationships. He asks: Does your spouse ever ask a question that makes you groan? He is referring especially to those questions that are ‘no-win’ because every possible answer is loaded with potential trouble. Well I instantly flashed on a recent event that still makes my face burn because I didn’t handle it at all well. This is the verrry long comment I left for Dr McAllister:
The irksome question for me is some version of: Are you ready? Especially when asked upwards of an hour before the target time. Variations are: Are you packed? How much longer before ____? What do you have left to do?
The worst of all is: When can you be ready? because this is usually asked when an outing is sprung on me and the target time is ASAP. I just want to say Never. I'd rather stay home.
He and his family of origin are sticklers for being on time. Even early. I am as irritated by his need to be at work more than 30 minutes before he has to clock in as he is by my procrastination and the perpetual chaos surrounding my preparations for going somewhere.
My family of origin is notorious for being late. My Dad's attitude was similar to my husband's. It was my Mom who had the poor time sense. We were often fifteen to twenty minutes late to Church. I have improved on their track record with an average that is under ten minutes while my brother has been known to be hours late. My Mom almost made us late for my Dad's funeral last October.
There may be some ADD involved as my sister and her son were diagnosed with it several years ago and she thinks she sees all the signs of it in me and our brother and mother. But I'm skeptical as their diagnoses weren't done with brain imaging, just questionnaires and my research on ADD reveals that many professionals believe it to be waaaay over diagnosed.
The most recent occurrence of the dreaded question was last Saturday afternoon when my husband asked, Are you packed yet? This was made worse by the fact that he asked just minutes after I had asked him to clarify the exact time I was supposed to be ready to leave for his Grandmother's where I spend Saturday nights while he and his folks go to the dirt track races. I had just calculated from his answer that I had 2 hours--plenty of time to take a fifteen minute sit-down break from the chores and preparations--when he asked. I didn't want to arrive at Grandma's exhausted.
I forgot his mother was in earshot and I popped off with: I don’t need you to be my Daddy! My face is still burning over that one. It is hard to conduct a relationship while living in the home of one's in-laws!!!
Am continuing to improve in energy and ambition as the after effects of that bug wear off. Now I am hoping the after effects of the avalanche of books etc. that hit my arms and head and laptop Sunday night do not get any worse than they are now. I was surprised to discover my right arm was hurting worse than the left one on which the box of books fell because I didn't remember my right arm being involved. But apparently I had time to throw my right arm over my face after the books hit my left arm and before the big sewing bag hit my head because the worst pain is when I raise my right arm over my head. Which I keep having to do to brush off this darn fly that is dive-bombing my face as I am typing this. If it's not one bug it's another! :)
Sustained typing is also uncomfortable but that is nothing new. And I am so grateful that I was able to fix my 'b' key Monday morning that I am not willing to jinx my luck by whineing about it. At least not overmuch. :)
I am probably overmuch pleased with myself for fixing that key. When I showed the detached key cap to my husband after he woke up, he agreed with me that it didn't appear broken but he would not have time to try to reattach it until after he got home from work. So I hibernated my laptop and with a magnifying glass and halogen lamp to help I examined the naked mechanism of the key and the underside of its cap and saw what looked like the slots that the tabs needed to snap into. I tried but failed half a dozen times and getting discouraged I thought to test the rest of the keys for evidence of trouble before I woke up my laptop to do my daily journal with the ailing b key. I administered several light taps to each key and found no problems. As I tapped along the bottom row, I went ahead and tapped on the loose cap of the b key which I had left laying atop its mechanism. And lo if I didn't feel a 'click' under my finger and then find that it was no longer loose. But nor was it flush with the rest of the keys. So i tapped it again and felt another faint 'click' and now I could not feel or see any difference between it and the rest of the keys.
I was nervous as I powered up the computer again but soon ecstatic as I called up my journal and started typing and found no bugs in the b key. But this whole experience has given me a scare which I probably needed. I am taking my writing tools and resources for granted again and that never augers well. This is a lesson I seem to have to relearn over and over and over and over ad infinitum. I have yet to follow through on many of the insights gleaned from the learning experiences depicted in those essays. Maintaining current backups of my files in multiple locations and formats is probably the most important of the lessons that I continue to flout. I have trouble just remembering to save my work frequently as I type and repeatedly loose an hour or more worth of typing when my word processor or blogger platform take pratfalls on me.
The inconvenience of typing without a cap on the b key reminded me once again how fragile my connection is to my files. Everything that I've done since September 21st last year that isn't posted online is on the hard-drive of my laptop. I have a copy of all my files as they existed on my in-law's computer as of September 20th burned onto a CD which is how I transferred them to the laptop. And they still exist on my in-law's computer. And I still have the hundred or so pages of hard-copy manuscripts that was all I was able to rescue during our sudden move from the Silicon Valley five years ago this month. Contemplating this makes me very very anxious.
Years ago my Dad sent me a clipping about a man who was buried under an avalanche of books in his room and had to be rescued by firemen. He didn't even have cardboard boxes but had stacked the books up the wall of his room. I shudder to think what would have happened if one of those books had hit the monitor and sliced it's fragile skin. Or if one of the larger boxes had fallen on my head! It is the third time that bag has fallen on my head! It is the second time books have fallen but the first time they hit me with enough force to leave a bruise. So on my near-term agenda now must be a reorganizing of my 'office' --that 3x5 foot corner on my side of the bed where all my reading, writing and sewing materials are.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Just checking in. Have plenty to say but not enough time or energy to get it written. That bug I had has left me in a fugue. Low energy. Easy fatigue. It doesn't help that the smoke from a forest fire across the border in Northren California is creating a haze here in the Rogue Valley and degrading air quality. It didn't help that my first walk home from the library in three weeks Friday left me so exhausted I had to skip my night session which through me off my graveyard shift schedule. It doesn't help that just before my online session tonight a shoebox full of books from my rickety cardboard box shelving system next to my bed fell on my left arm just below the wrist leaving a knot and bruise and aching pain exasperated by typing. It really really doesn't help that one of the books hit the keyboard of my open laptop and apparently knocked loose the cap of the 'b' key. I'm panicing about that. I can't afford a repair bill right now. There isn't any obvious sign of breakage so I'm hoping it can be snapped back on. I'm currently typing without it by carefully pressing the tiny button the size of the head of a sewing pen each time I need the 'b' but I'm guessing this can't be good for the long term health of that key. It doesn't help that lack of upkeep in my room while I was sick has left chaos where most of my thinking and writing are done.
Here's hoping that bug has truely decamped and my energy and ambition return soon. Here's hoping my b key is working by tomorrow after my husband takes a look at it. And here's hoping I can find the time and energy to do something about that corner of my room by the bed which I call my office. It is out of control. Large boxes full of books are bending and tilting. The mini collapse last night was triggered by my husband turning over in bed which jostled a box pressed agaist the mattress which was supporting another box which was touching yet another. My very large sewing bag kept on the very top of the stack of boxes , up near the cieling, fell on my head when the books fell on my arm and keyboard. Thank goodness it was full of mostly yarn and cloth as the projects on frames or hoops are being kept at Grandma's over the summer because that is pretty much the only place I work on them. But getting hit on the head by something analogious to a couple of king sized pillows with small hard objects buried in them can still put a kink in ones neck--not to mention ones ambitions.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
It's been almost two weeks now since the first sign of a sore throat and I'm still fighting whatever it is though the trend seems to be toward the mend. I don't think it was 'just' a silly cold anymore. But I can't give a more definitive name either. My Mom always called it a cold as long as your fever stayed below 100 and there was no vomiting. If either of those occured then she called it the Flu. You could hear the capital F in her voice. But then a couple of years ago when I went to a doctor, thinking I had the Flu because my fever went a nudge over 101 and nausea and vomiting had been the opening salvo, he said no it was 'just' a summer cold. Whatever.
My temp seemed to be trying to match the Valley temps last week. On two of the days the temperature here climbed above 100, my fever did also. At least to 101 on two days in a row. I suspect also on the third day--Friday--but couldn't take it because I had broke my themoteter on my cat's head Thursday. She climbed on my lap just as I was shaking it down. I suspect I am still occasionally running low grade fevers in the evenings but can't verify it. The worst of the symptoms left is a wearying cough and fatigue. That is why I've not done much here in over a week.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Have been pleasure surfing for most of this session. Had so much fun, I may have to do it more often. Did some beachcombing along the way and want to share a few of my finds here.
Google Book Search I got lost on here for awhile. And they have a blog too: Inside Google Booksearch. Hat tip to one of their posters for pointing me towards these literary baubles:
The Memoirists Collective
The Litblog Co-op
I would probably have a lot to say about each one of these, if I'd left myself enough time. I hope you'll give each one a look--see anyway.
These links will probably make it into my sidebar if I ever get the courage up to do another update. The first and last time I tried, last summer, I botched it and that was when I was still working semi-regularly with the HTML.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
I've been on a fiction binge and have finished 7 novels in the last two weeks: Son of a Witch by Gregory MaGuire; The Year They Burned the Book by Nancy Garden; The Wig my Father Wore by Anne Enright; Friends, Lovers, Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith; and the first three volumes of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events: Bad Beginnings,The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window.
My twelve-year-old niece loaned me the first six volumes of the Lemony Snicket series, passing them on to me as fast as she finishes them herself this summer. I finaly picked them up last week during the heat wave while I was sick and in need of something fun and easy to read to take my mind off my own feelings that life was picking on me. They are addictive and I am having to resist the temptation to read straight through but I brought home Madeleine Albright's The Mighty and the Almighty from the library Monday which I've been in queue for a couple months and I'll be briniging home Crashing the Gates on Friday and I've been waiting my turn for that one for half a year or more. My neice will be dissappointed in me. She is trying to wean me off of politics and war. She thinks I waaaaaay overdo it. And when I look at the dozens of books on my shelfs through her eyes, I almost agree.
She wants me to read more fiction because she wants me to write more fiction. I let her read one of my stories a couple weeks ago and she enthused over it so much I was almost embarrassed. She said things like: I can't believe I know the person who wrote this! You have to write more because I have to read them!! She stopped short of saying that I didn't have the right not to write more stories if I could write like that. But I think that was what she was groping towards trying to express. I spent a lot of the time while fever-scorched eyes made reading impossible, contemplating her assessment and I think there may be more wisdom than middle-school whimsy in what she said. It fits with the advice of Joseph Campbell to 'follow your bliss' and I've know for decades that my bliss lies in the realm of story.
I'm going to have more to say about this soon I'm sure as I've done so much thinking about it lately. I'll also have more to say about the books I finished recently too, book reviews are in the works.
I keep forgetting to mention it here, but I've been participating in the Read-a-ton contest on Bubbles in my Head: a literature and writing resource for over a month now. Mostly for fun since I don't expect to win the grand prize of 2000 BE credits by finishing the most books by the end, which is now just two weeks away.
I didn't forget on purpose in order to increase my chances either as I really wanted to send you over to check out Zoe's cool resource for readers and writers. No, really. I wouldn't do that. I was just absent-minded. And too busy reading.
In this her essay, Run Bill Moyers For President, Seriously, Molly Ivins is for once not cracking wise but she just might have hit on the solution for creating a crack in the hard, cynical nut which the Democratic Party has become through which integrity and wisdom can be injected.
The point isn't whether he could win but rather to get him into the primary debates where he could stand as a role model for the other contenders, showing them how to take a stand with intact spines; how to speak truth with grace but without waffling for fear of offending; and most importantly how to foreswear their addiction to their crack PR teams whose emphasis on appearence over content has created the party's current contengent of waffle-footed, sinuous-spined candidates.
Bill Moyers has been on my wish-list of potential candidates for several years--ever since I started following his op-ed pieces and transcripts of his speeches in the year or two preceeding the last presidential election. Of course I was familiar with his journalism for decades prior to that. I credit Moyers with introducing me to Joseph Campbell, Houston Smith and Karen Armstrong--three of those whose writings helped me make the transition out of fundamentalism--through the interviews he conducted with them.
I contemplated several times over the last two years mentioning Moyers here as a potential presidential candidate that progressives could get behind. I don't know whether I just lacked the courage of my convictions or was simply unable to articulate why. But now that Molly Ivins has done such a cracking good job of it, I want to be one of the many (though miniscule) ripples her suggestion makes in the Progressive's pond. For, like Molly, I dread another primary in which the primary consideration is about who has the best chance of winning instead of who will stand most solidly with and unapologetically for our progressive values--primary among them, integrity.